Roberto and William Isaias are fugitives from Ecuador. Ecuador wants the U.S. to turn them over. The Obama administration said no. Now all we have to do is follow the money to understand why:
The donations kept pouring in: hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to President Obama and more than a dozen members of Congress, carefully routed through the families of two wealthy brothers in Florida.
They had good reason to be generous. The two men, Roberto and William Isaias, are fugitives from Ecuador, which has angrily pressed Washington to turn them over, to no avail. A year after their relatives gave $90,000 to help re-elect Mr. Obama, the administration rejected Ecuador’s extradition request for the men, fueling accusations that such donations were helping to keep the brothers and their families safely on American soil.
“The Isaias brothers fled to Miami not to live off their work, something just, but to buy themselves more mansions and Rolls-Royces and to finance American political campaigns,” President Rafael Correa of Ecuador told reporters last month. “That’s what has given them protection,” he added, an allegation the Obama administration and members of Congress reject.
Admittedly, there’s a bit of a political battle going on between the U.S. and Ecuador over international fugitives, as The New York Times article points out. Ecuador has been harboring Julian Assange in its London embassy, and the country also openly offered asylum to Edward Snowden. If the donations weren’t part of the brothers’ case, it would be much less suspicious, of course. But since they are, we’re seeing yet another way money opens doors in this administration.
But beyond the political hostilities between the two nations, campaign finance experts say, the extensive donations in the Isaias case create the appearance of a financial conflict of interest that hangs over Washington’s decisions on the brothers’ fate. While the contributions were not illegal, analysts say they have opened the already politicized nature of extradition requests to greater scrutiny and raised questions about the access to power the donations provide.
Some analysts have even questioned whether fund-raisers have specifically sought out the two men for contributions because it was clear they were in trouble and would be more likely to give.
Predictably, the White House is saying the donations have nothing to do with decisions made regarding the Isaias case.