As first reported by New Times staff writer Jim DeFede, Herrera, whose company is represented by Greenberg Traurig, contributed generously to the Democratic Party and managed to secure a private audience last spring with Transportation Secretary Federico Pena. His money also bought him access to President Clinton himself, with whom he discussed HABDI's plans.
On January 11 the Miami Herald published a severely truncated version of the Times article. Then on January 16 there appeared a story by Herald political editor Tom Fiedler titled "Fund-Raiser Downplays Role in Controversy." In what can charitably be described as an apologia, Fiedler wrote, "The capper came when [Rosen] picked up the New York Times and saw his picture on the front page, attached to an article that not only put him at the center of the party's scandal, but that also alleged unethical dealings in his law practice, past and present.... 'I saw that article and I just couldn't believe I was reading about me,' Rosen said."
Three days later Fiedler again rose to Rosen's defense in a "Viewpoint" essay: "Many of those caught in the [fundraising scandal] spotlight seem to me to be more victim than perpetrator. Rosen, for example, was hammered in a New York Times report over his role in the collapse of the Royal Palm Savings and Loan more than a decade ago -- a gratuitous slap not relevant to his role in the Democratic Party."
When Jane Mayer took aim at the scandal last week in a New Yorker article titled "Inside the Money Machine: How the Democrats Went Wild," Rosen and his knight in Herald armor could not have been pleased. "For Rosen," Mayer wrote, "government-bond work depended on his relationships with government officials and, not surprisingly, he had nourished those relationships over the years with sizable cash contributions. At the time that he put himself forward for the D.N.C. job, Rosen's Miami law firm, Greenberg Traurig, had just opened a Washington office and was looking to expand its lobbying business in town.... D.N.C. colleagues soon suspected that Rosen hoped to use the access given to him by his Party post as a business boon.
"According to several witnesses, Rosen would attend top-dollar Clinton fundraising events and solicit business for his own firm when the President was out of the room. Edward Faberman, a lawyer who at the time was American Airlines' vice president for government affairs, recalls one such event when Rosen, who had done some legal work the for carrier, circulated through the room a number of times, saying, 'Hey -- I can help you with So-and-So in Washington.' Then, according to others, he'd pass out his business cards. Both Party officials and donors were discomfited enough by Rosen's pitches that they complained to the White House. Counsellor to the President Doug Sosnik acknowledges that he received 'a couple of complaints' about Rosen's conduct, but he prefers not to comment.
"One big Democratic donor asserts that Rosen offered to set up a meeting with a Cabinet member and boasted that the Secretary and he socialized all the time. 'Have you been invited to watch a movie at the White House?' the donor recalls Rosen asking him and other businessmen at a $10,000-a-plate Presidential dinner. 'No problem. I can get you in.' Then, says the donor, came the business card."
At the article's conclusion, Rosen denied soliciting clients at Democratic Party functions, and then was suddenly overcome with a bad case of attorney memory loss: "[H]e said he had 'no recollection' of ever having told any client that he could help him gain access to Administration figures, although he did acknowledge that at least one Cabinet officer -- Federico Pena, the Transportation Secretary -- 'is someone I know and I'm friendly with.'