The New York Times reports in a front-page story today that Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) successfully pressed Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department, to grant a visa to an Ecuadoran woman whose family made significant donations to his campaign and other Democratic campaign groups, including the Obama Victory Fund.
The woman, Estefania Isaias, is the daughter of Roberto Isaias, a wealthy Ecuadoran who is wanted along with his brother, William Isaias, for allegedly looting a bank in their home country. Estefania was barred from entering the United State because she previously had illegally brought her maids into this country.
In January, a New York TV station first reported that the criminal investigation of Menendez had been widened to include his relationship with the brothers, who are seeking to stay in the United States in the face of extradition requests by Ecuador.
According to Times reporter Frances Robles, Menendez efforts were successful when the State Department gave Estefania a waiver “just as tens of thousands of dollars poured into Mr. Obama’s campaign coffers.”
From the article:
“In my old profession as a prosecutor, timelines mean a lot,” said Ken Boehm, a former Pennsylvania prosecutor who is chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog. “When a donation happens and then something else happens, like the favor, as long as they are very, very close, that really paints a story.”
Most of the donations were routed through Estefania’s mother, a U.S. citizen. Neither Estefania nor her father are American citizens. The family resides in the Miami area.
Also from the article:
Mr. Boehm, the former Pennsylvania prosecutor, said Senate ethics rules allowed members of Congress to reach out to the administration on behalf of a constituent. “Members of Congress do a lot for their constituents,” Mr. Boehm said.
“These folks are not his constituents,” he added, referring to Mr. Menendez.