By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
Deciphering the inducements offered and rewards received by the presidential coffee sippers is not an arduous task for even the novice investigator. Start with the most frequent single visitor to the klatsches, Alfonso Fanjul, the fanatically anti-Castro resident of Miami. He is the most prominent member of the sugar family that owns Flo-Sun Inc. Flo-Sun operates vast plantations of sugar cane around the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee in Florida. Fanjul maintains a keen interest in aborting any environmental legislation that might inhibit his companies' capacity to discharge phosphorus into the Everglades.
Fanjul showed up at the klatsches five times, including an Oct. 13, 1995, session with Al Gore who, at that very moment, was crafting a another "win-win" compromise protecting the sugar lords while throwing a morsel to the establishment greens by going through the motions of protecting the nation's most famous wetland. The next time Fanjul visited the White House, on Dec. 18, 1995, he was in the company of Jeffrey Leonard, the manager of the Global Environment Fund, a group advocating the virtues of green capitalism.
From December of 1995 through February of 1996, the administration regarded the support the mainstream enviro groups as of crucial importance in the 1996 race. This concern is duly reflected in the klatsches. On Dec. 15, 1995 two corporate executives who sit on the board of the Wilderness Society sipped coffee with Clinton. One of them was real estate baron Richard Blum--husband of Dianne Feinstein--who is also a longtime friend and sometime business partner of Charles Hurwitz, the corporate raider from Houston who wanted the government to purchase from him at an exorbitant price the Headwaters Redwood Forest in Northern California. The other attendee was David Bonderman, a financier and chairman of Continental Airlines. Bonderman is based in Houston and is also a pal of Hurwitz. Six months after this session, Sen. Dianne Feinstein brokered a Headwaters deal for the administration that was highly favorable to Hurwitz. The Wilderness Society was the only national environmental group to praise the bailout.
On Feb. 13, 1996, the president hosted a coffee klatsch attended by Peter Meyers, the director of the supposedly apolitical W. Alton Jones Foundation, one of the largest funders of the environmental movement and itself deriving its money from the Citgo Oil Company. Meyers's presence at a political fundraising event raises serious questions about the role nonprofit groups played in the last election. By law foundations and charitable groups are not permitted to be engaged in political activities. One of Meyers's close friends is Debra Callahan, who had worked at the Jones Foundation from 1990 through 1994. Callahan now runs the League of Conservation Voters, the political action committee of the mainstream environmental groups, which only weeks after this meeting endorsed Clinton as the greatest environmental president in the history of the Republic.
The last coffee klatsch was by no means the least. One of the people in attendance that day (Aug. 23, 1996) was Gary Jacobs, the CEO of the Laredo National Bank of Texas. This institution is now undergoing a criminal probe by the Justice Department, suspected as being an entrepôt for Mexican drug money. Laredo is one of the first U.S. banks to be purchased by a Mexican citizen, billionaire Hank Carlos Rohn. Rohn is one of the wealthiest citizens in Mexico, making hundreds of millions of dollars on the privatization of Mexican industries. It appears that the Laredo Bank may have been one of the ways Raul Salinas, the now-imprisoned brother of former Mexican president Carlos Salinas, diverted more than $170 million out of Mexico. Much of that money is expected to have come from the Mexican drug trade.