In an email to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, a lobbyist working on U.S. relations with Cuba asked for a meeting with Valerie Jarrett and offered $5,000 for a campaign event.
Luke Albee, a Senior Advisor with advocacy group Engage Cuba, wrote in an email to Podesta, “its [sic] time to move on to the next Obama legacy item: Cuba,” according to Wikileaks. “Can you help me and my two partners get an audience with Valerie Jarrett so we can talk through harnessing the business community on this?” Albee asked in the email.
Engage Cuba is “the leading coalition of private companies and organizations working to end the travel and trade embargo on Cuba” and “the only organization whose primary focus is U.S.-Cuba legislative advocacy,” according to their website. The organization also claims that they “have the largest bipartisan lobbying operation working on U.S.-Cuba policy.”
Albee likely asked Podesta to arrange a meeting with Valerie Jarrett because she is Senior Advisor to President Obama and is seen as a member of his inner circle. The June 2015 email goes on to specifically admit that Engage Cuba has “up to 46 co-sponsors on the travel bill — and [is] going to need help getting it over the line.”
At the end of the email, Albee writes, “I am happy to come early and chop for you at the Leahy event.” This is likely a reference to Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont who strongly supports normalizing relations with Cuba. Albee served as Sen. Leahy’s Chief of Staff from 1993 to 2004.
“I think our new pro-engagement pac can contribute $5k to the event,” Albee wrote in the email.
Relations between the U.S. and Cuba have become much warmer since the Obama Administration normalized relations with the communist island in December 2014 via executive order. U.S. tourists can now freely travel to the island and as of Monday will be able to purchase as much rum and as many cigars as they please.
Before joining the Clinton campaign, Podesta was Counselor to the President in the Obama White House. This means that Podesta likely interacted often with Jarrett and probably could have facilitated a meeting with Jarrett if he had wanted to. It is unknown whether or not Podesta did ever reach out on Albee’s behalf.
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