Dirty Money

A former Miami federal prosecutor and Republican, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says Jeb Bush would never take any action on Martinez's behalf and it would be "a cheap shot" and "innuendo" to dredge up the issue of Martinez's contributions to Bush organizations. One shrewd old GOP fund raiser denies knowing Martinez at all. "What did you say his name was?" the man inquired. "Efrain Martinez?"

Tom Cash, the veteran agent in charge of the DEA's Miami office, says he believes there are other Leonel Martinezes at work in the American political system. "Down in Latin America we call it corruption. Up here we call it political action committees. But it's the same thing here or there," Cash says, emphasizing that he is not speaking of any Miami political figure in particular. "At the top of the drug business, the politician-lawyer-banker circle is always seen. That's how you know you're at the top."

Politically speaking, Jeb Bush is already very near the top. He is frequently mentioned as a candidate for Congress or the Senate. Phil Hamersmith, a local Democratic consultant, calls him "a formidable candidate for any office he chooses to seek. He has no negative baggage." But a law enforcement official, who is experienced in drug and organized crime investigations, is less impressed. "When I see the kind of people who Jeb Bush hangs out with," he says, "I can't decide if he is very naive or very cynical."

Maybe Jeb Bush is just realistic about how to make money and friends in America. At a pretrial detention hearing for Leonel Martinez, prosecutor Carol Wilkinson said this about the man she had indicted: "He duped so many people in this community, it's impossible to name [them].... Now, maybe some of those people shouldn't have been fooled. Maybe it's an evil in our community that we live with from day to day.... If you want to make money in the Southern District of Florida, what you do is, you see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil."

When Jeb Bush accepts money from his political allies, he sees no evil.

A different version of this article appears in the March edition of Spin magazine.

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