Political contributors to campaigns can run, but they can’t hide.
William March, chief political reporter for the Tampa Tribune, can find pinpoint strange political donations in a matter of seconds these days.
“It could take me anywhere from 2 hours to 2 months to find out campaign spending in the past,” said March. “Now it takes me 3 clicks.”
During Bill Clinton’s second presidential term, March investigated campaign donations from individuals who didn’t fit the bill.
March found mounting evidence through public records that cast suspicion on the donations. Some of the charitable individuals had never even voted, much less contributed to a political campaign.
He established one common link between the mysterious donors: Future Tech CEO and founder Mark Jimenez.
Around 1996, Jimenez was recognized as the single largest donor to the Democratic National Party. According to his bio, he occasionally played golf with then President Clinton, and ran in his circle of colleagues. He even paid for renovations to the ancestral Clinton house in Arkansas.
Jimenez abruptly moved to the Philippines in 1998 after meeting Philippine President Joseph Estrada, and became a member of congress. He even helped pass the “landmark” Anti-Laundering Bill of 2001 while in Manila.
But, American authorities demanded his extradition in connection with illegal campaign contributions, and eventually arrested him on charges of tax evasion and election financing offenses. A judge sentenced Jimenez to 27 months in prison.
Recently Jimenez graced the news again, attempting to run for president in the Philippines. There is, however, opposition towards his running in the country due to his checkered past.
March updates also has a blog called “March on Politics,” in which he discusses political moves. Some of his favorite points on the web include opensecrets.org, maplight.org and the Florida Division of Elections website.
March also uses websites like the Sayfie Review, which features University of South Florida political science professor and political commentator Susan MacManus’s own column. The site also updates by the second with political stories and blogs from around the state of Florida.
“It gives you an idea what kind of reporting you can do these days with the internet,” said March.