Miami Money Allegedly Went to DNC
MIAMI (AP) _ In the days around a record-breaking fund-raiser, more than $120,000 in Port of Miami money was secretly funneled to the Democratic National Committee in 1994, The Miami Herald reported today.
Former Port Director Carmen Lunetta, who is now under criminal investigation, asked a private port company owner for the money, according to records and sworn testimony examined by the newspaper.
An executive of a company doing business at the port testified last month that the money was to be repaid through Fiscal Operations, a publicly funded firm that manages the cranes at the Port of Miami, the Herald said.
Fiscal Operations is owned by Calvin Grigsby, a major Democratic donor and central figure in the federal corruption probe of city and Miami-Dade County government.
Before the fund-raiser that honored President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Lunetta allegedly requested the funds from Neal Harrington, part owner of Continental Stevedoring & Terminals, a company that rented cranes from Fiscal Operations.
The request was made with the understanding that the money would be returned to the company, Charles Triana, Continental’s vice president of finance, said in a deposition given in a lawsuit filed by Miami-Dade County against Fiscal Operations.
Triana said Fiscal Operations forgave 44 bills for crane rental to reimburse Continental in the summer of 1994, the newspaper said.
Triana said he had issued a $15,000 check to the DNC on March 18, 1994 after talking to Harrington. Three days later, the day of the fund-raiser, Triana issued two checks to Harrington and Co. _ one for $75,000 and one for $30,000, each with notations that the money would go to the DNC.
The Herald traced most of the $105,000 to the DNC, broken up into $15,000 contributions made by Harrington’s companies in March and April of 1994.
``We have not received any information that these contributions are inappropriate or illegal,″ DNC spokesman Rick Hess said. ``If we receive information that shows a contribution is inappropriate or illegal, we will review that contribution and take appropriate action.″
Harrington’s attorney, Kendall Coffey, said the payments were made ``with the knowledge and at the direction of the port director, who made it clear he was speaking for Fiscal Operations.″
Lunetta’s attorney, Theodore Klein, said his client denies having anything to do with the checks.
``They were not made at his direction,″ he said. ``This is the first he’s heard of this.″
After $3.4 million was raised at the Miami fund-raiser, Democrats hailed the dinner as the largest political fund-raiser outside Washington in American history.
Lunetta was invited to a White House coffee in 1995 for his fund-raising efforts.
Lunetta resigned last July amid revelations that he and Fiscal Operations spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in port money on luxuries, political influence and illegal campaign contributions.