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Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his staff worked behind the scenes for months to lobby federal agencies on behalf of Bacardi in a trademark dispute while the rum giant funneled thousands of dollars to the state Republican Party and the governor’s re-election campaign. Dozens of e-mails from the governor’s office mark a trail of Bacardi’s efforts to obtain Bush’s help in its longstanding trademark battle with a Cuban-French joint venture over rights to the Havana Club rum label. Most of the e-mail traffic occurred during a five-month period in which Miami-based Bacardi-Martini, the U.S. arm of Bacardi Ltd., contributed $60,000 to the state GOP. The governor and several top staffers worked with Jorge Rodriguez Marquez, the president of Bacardi-Martini, to lobby political appointees of the governor’s brother — President George W. Bush — at the departments of the Treasury, Commerce and State. The objective was to seek a favorable resolution for Bacardi in its trademark dispute with the Cuban government and the French spirits giant Pernod Ricard. The e-mails were disclosed by the governor’s office in the wake of a public records lawsuit filed by the Florida Democratic Party last week. They show the governor’s office attended, arranged or sought to arrange meetings for Rodriguez Marquez with officials at the Treasury Department, which oversees the trademark office, and the departments of Commerce and State. “Thank you for your valuable support regarding our problems at Commerce and Treasury,” Rodriguez Marquez wrote Bush in a Feb. 26 e-mail. “Thank you, Jorge. I hope it all works out,” Bush replied about two hours later. The next day, state election records show, the Republican Party received a $10,000 soft money contribution from Bacardi-Martini. Rodriguez Marquez’s name appears on state records as the person who arranged the contribution. Two days later, on Feb. 28, Rodriguez Marquez and his wife, Marlena, also gave the maximum personal contributions of $500 each to Bush’s re-election campaign. Late Wednesday, the governor’s office said it did not act on Bacardi’s behalf as a result of campaign contributions. “There was no quid pro quo,” said Bush spokeswoman Jill Bratina. “The governor strongly supports the position of Bacardi in this dispute and he is helping a company that has extensive offices and employees in the state.” In an interview Wednesday, Rodriguez Marquez told the Miami Daily Business Review that Bacardi sought Gov. Bush’s help because bureaucrats at the Patent and Trademark Office in Washington had caused “unreasonable delays in our case.” He said Bacardi’s campaign donations were not made with the expectation of getting anything in return, and that he never mentioned the contributions in any discussions with Gov. Bush or his staff members. “Is there anything wrong with a company donating to an organized political party? Is there anything wrong with an organization, a company to seek support from the governor of the state?” he asked. “How many times before did Bacardi make donations to the same Republican Party when we never needed any advice?” According to state records, the Bacardi-Martini subsidiary that Rodriguez Marquez heads has funneled $209,500 in soft money to the Florida GOP since June 1998. Of that sum, Rodriguez Marquez authorized $87,000 in contributions during the last 13 months — including the $50,000 contribution made on May 29. The contribution came two weeks before Gov. Bush wrote a letter to trademark office director James E. Rogan, a political appointee of his brother, the president. Bacardi has a long history of support for Gov. Bush. According to Rodriguez Marquez, Bacardi has contributed to the governor’s campaigns since he ran and lost to then-incumbent Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1994. In the June 13 letter to Rogan, Gov. Bush urges a swift and favorable ruling for Bacardi in quasi-judicial proceedings against Cuba and Pernod before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office director. In his initial e-mail to Gov. Bush on Jan. 8 — headlined “Bacardi Needs Help” — Rodriguez Marquez spells out Bacardi’s situation. He also told the governor that he had contacted Florida Republican Party chairman and Miami attorney Al Cardenas for help. “Al Cardenas also knows of our needs and has talk [sic] to some people,” Rodriguez Marquez wrote. ‘LOOKING FOR ADVICE’ In the interview, Rodriguez Marquez said he asked Cardenas for advice because he’s a “personal friend.” He said he did not know whom Cardenas might have talked to on Bacardi’s behalf. In the Jan. 8 e-mail, and subsequent e-mails, Rodriguez Marquez stated that Bacardi discussed its high-stakes trademark fight privately with officials at the State Department, Vice President Richard Cheney’s office and a White House aide to President George W. Bush’s adviser and chief political strategist, Karl Rove. Rodriguez Marquez told the Daily Business Review that Bacardi has not received any assistance in the trademark dispute from either the White House or the others. “I was looking for advice,” he said. “I never heard a word.” The Florida Democratic Party hopes to make the Bacardi-Bush connection an issue in the final weeks of the governor’s re-election campaign against Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill McBride. On Oct. 11, Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe sued the governor in state court claiming Bush had failed to comply with the party’s lawful requests for public records, including the governor’s office’s contacts with Bacardi and Rodriguez Marquez. On Tuesday, the governor’s office gave the Democrats more than 100 pages of e-mails and attached documents. The Daily Business Review requested and received copies of those documents. A review of the e-mails suggests that some key e-mails were not released by the governor’s office. For example, a Feb. 4 e-mail from a member of the governor’s staff to Bush is a reply to another e-mail that is titled, “Help for a friend.” Previous memos in that message string were not released. Rodriguez Marquez’s first e-mail to Bush cites two issues that are “still unresolved and are damaging to Bacardi.” The first involved Bacardi’s frustration at the lack of action by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control to deny a pending application by Havana Club Holdings — the Cuban government-French joint venture — for the rights to the Havana Club rum brand. The memo indicates Bacardi had lobbied both OFAC and Undersecretary of State Alan Larson about the matter for three years, “but to no avail.” The second “issue” the e-mail raised was Bacardi’s interest in persuading the trademark office to cancel the registration of the Havana Club brand by Havana Club Holdings. “We need your help,” Rodriguez Marquez told Gov. Bush. “Perhaps we should meet with Secretary [Paul] O’Neil [sic] and Secretary [Donald] Evans, or whomever you think might be helpful. I have mentioned the case to Kelley McCullough from Karl Rove’s office last December 8th when they visited Miami and have sent her briefings.” Replied the governor the next morning, “Jorge, I will see what I can do.” It was the first of 12 e-mails the governor wrote to staff or Rodriguez Marquez about the matter through April 25 of this year. ‘ANY NEWS?’ Each of the e-mails from the governor’s office warns the recipients about Florida’s “very broad public records law. Your e-mail communications may therefore be subject to public disclosure.” Also on April 25, the governor forwarded a copy of that exchange to his chief of staff, Kathleen Shanahan. “For our discussion,” Bush wrote. Less than three weeks later, Bush queried Shanahan about the matter. He marked it as a high priority. “Any news on this?” Shanahan indicated she was working on it. On Feb. 1, Shanahan forwarded Rodriguez Marquez’s Jan. 8 e-mail to Bush to Nina Oviedo, the director of the governor’s office in Washington. A meeting was arranged for Feb. 6. On Feb. 17, in another e-mail to Shanahan labeled of “high importance,” Bush wrote, “Any news?” On Feb. 20, Oviedo wrote to Bush directly, and reported on a communication with Eleanor Metzner, a trademark office lawyer. “Obviously, this is a very long and complicated mess — I asked Eleanor whether she could meet with Bacardi and provide some guidance. She has to check with higher ups to see if it’s permissible — patents and trademarks office employees have very serious rules. We also have calls in to Treasury for their role.” Oviedo’s note closes with: “I’ll be in touch with Jorge (on your behalf). Reminder — he’ll be at the Florida House luncheon. Last year, Bacardi contributed over $15K to the Florida House — great supporters of our Florida embassy.” Florida House is a nonprofit facility on Capitol Hill that’s billed as serving as a “home base” for tourists and the business community. It is funded solely by individual and corporate contributions. Gov. Bush is a trustee. Bush replied to Oviedo the same day. “Please contact Jorge and let me know.” MESSAGES IN CAPS But the efforts of the governor and his staff continued to bear to no fruit. Rodriguez Marquez grew restive. On April 9, he wrote to Melissa Freedman, who works for Oviedo in Washington, complaining about the trademark office and “the possible winning card in Pernod’s game.” “The application NEEDS to be denied, but here again Pernod is still receiving help from this other side of our government. I WISH SOMEONE COULD TELL ME WHAT BACARDI IS DOING WRONG??????????????????? Our business is STILL being disturbed by the lack of FAIR actions from our government … Frustrating.” Freedman relayed Rodriguez Marquez’s message to Oviedo in an e-mail later that day. “Mr. Rodriguez is requesting our help to put pressure on these two bureaucracies, where possible.” The message was forwarded to Bush, Shanahan and Bush’s former deputy chief of staff, Frank R. Jimenez. Subsequent e-mails show Rodriguez Marquez growing more agitated. “ANY NEWS FROM YOUR END??????,” says one on April 18 to Oviedo and Freedman. “This administration should be actively opposed to having American businesses unfairly hurt and abused by career bureaucrats who are only defending the interest of those who broke the law. “Bacardi is a standing symbol of doing things the right way and from our beginnings … we have shown our immediate Cuban-American community in Miami and the world in general that when you do things the right way, things fall in place at the end. I hope this case ends according to that principal, although so far Castro and Pernod are winning.” The same day, Rodriguez Marquez also wrote the governor directly, repeating much of that message and asking for help with the Patent and Trademark Office. “Please, someone needs to tell PTO to stop interfering.” The title of the message has now changed slightly to read, “Bacardi Needs Your Help.” Four hours later, at 9:36 p.m., the governor forwarded Rodriguez Marquez’s e-mail to his chief of staff. “This is ridiculous. Let us discuss.” The next morning, at 8:43, Bush shipped a copy of Rodriguez Marquez’s e-mail to Oviedo in Washington with a terse message. He marked it of high importance. “Any thoughts on this?” ‘WE WILL PUSH’ Planning and action to arrange meetings and twist arms followed. On April 23, Oviedo informed the governor that “former Congressman Jim Rogan, R-Calif., was recently confirmed by the Senate as the undersecretary for intellectual property and director of the patent office. Melissa and Jorge previously met with the deputy undersecretary and the deputy director. After another meeting, we might need to come back to you for an additional push.” Later the same day, Gov. Bush wrote back, “What do we need to do?” The next day, the governor personally updated Bacardi’s Rodriguez Marquez: “My Washington office just briefed me on the status of this and we will push to get this resolved.” On April 26, the governor’s chief of staff suggested to the governor, “We may need to move up the food chain.” Rodriguez Marquez’s complaints continued. On May 10, he sent an e-mail to Oviedo about Bacardi’s frustrations with the Office of Foreign Asset Control. “If someone could have the determination and power to stop legal career bureaucrats from fabricating delays, this adverse and unfortunate government intervention into the life of a private business would end for us and for the government. It is costing plenty to both,” Rodriguez Marquez wrote. Meanwhile, a letter to the patent office was drafted and reworked. “After that is done, I will work on the other issue to see how we can help with OFAC,” Freedman wrote to Rodriguez Marquez on May 14. Rodriguez Marquez said, however, that Bush never sent such a letter to OFAC. The first full draft of Bush’s letter to Rogan, which was virtually the same as the letter that was later mailed, is dated May 22. Rodriguez Marquez, who helped draft the letter, was given a final chance to edit it. No letter was sent, however, until after Bacardi made the $50,000 contribution to the Florida Republican Party on May 29. The letter Bush ultimately sent Rogan was dated June 13. “THANK YOU VERY MUCH,” Rodriguez Marquez said to Freedman in a June 16 e-mail. Except for a brief flurry of e-mails on July 12, there were no more on the matter. On July 15, Gregg Reed, a lawyer for Havana Club Holdings, filed a public records request with the governor’s office seeking “all correspondence” about the matter. Still, Rodriguez Marquez continued to write to Freedman and Oviedo. “Anything you can do at PTO’s end will be very helpful. The governor told me recently when we were traveling back from London, ‘I hope we can do more’ after I thanked him again for his letter to Rogan. I hear, over and over again, from sources inside State and the White House as well as from the VP’s office that the OFAC license will be denied any day.” On Aug. 27, after apparently getting no reply, Rodriguez Marquez wrote the last e-mail in the string to the governor’s office. It is addressed to Oviedo, and expressed disappointment that Larson hadn’t intervened on Bacardi’s behalf. “It should not be surprising to me that Larson does not act as Bush doctrine follower. This issue has been preventing Bacardi from creating new business and Larson continues to ignore the damage he is costing our company. Anything you can do to have this illegal pending application denied will be greatly beneficial for Bacardi’s business. Let me know what you think we can do next.” So far, the trademark office has not taken any action on the Havana Club Holdings application.

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