PALM BEACH — When protesters stood outside his Mar-a-Lago club Saturday night in Palm Beach, tuxedo-clad President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania were being entertained by the organizers of the Red Cross Ball, one of the town’s big deal charity fundraisers.
And among those cozying up to the world’s most powerful man was a mega-rich convicted felon named J.J. Cafaro.
Bribery of a public official!
We wish this were fake news, but truth is so much stranger than lies!
Mall developer Cafaro’s wife Janet, who lives in a $20 million-mansion down the street from the club, chaired Saturday’s event, officially named The Diamond Centennial Red Cross Ball.
In Palm Beach parlance, chairing a ball includes putting up some crazy money for expenses and/or having to convince a couple hundred socialites to spent $1,000-plus each to attend, and help raise upward of the $1 million for the Red Cross.
In essence, the chair is considered to be the host, and with Trump crashing the ball, the chairwoman and her family received unfiltered access to Trump.
And even by any presidential standards, even Trump’s, or in an arena where perception trumps reality, JJ Cafaro might not be the kind of guy Trump should hang with.
In 2001, Cafaro pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe then-U.S. Rep. James Traficant, a Democrat who eventually served prison times for trading his political influence for money.
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Cafaro admitted to paying for $27,000 in repairs to Traficant’s houseboat then buying the ratty houseboat for another $26,000. At the time, Traficant was quietly trying to get federal agencies to buy a laser guidance system manufactured by one of Cafaro’s companies.
Cafaro was sentenced to 15 months probation and fined $150,000 and the blue-collar Youngstown, Ohio, politician Traficant was expelled from the U.S. Congress and served seven years of an eight-year sentence in a federal prison.
In June 2010, J.J. Cafaro was back in the sights of political ethics authorities in Ohio when he pleaded guilty to a charge of making illegal campaign contributions to his daughter, Capri Cafaro, a member of the Ohio legislature. Again, he wasn’t sentenced to any time behind bars but got three years on probation.
Last year, JJ and his wife gave tens of thousands in contributions to both Hillary Clinton and Trump during the recent presidential campaign.
Red Ball gala coordinator Jennifer Whitaker said even if JJ was listed as a co-chair of the ball in some of the literature, he wasn’t. The invitations, she said, clearly listed Janet as the sole and only chair.
“This ball is traditionally a ladies’ event,” Whitaker said. “The ladies host. The ladies write the checks.
“Why would anyone hold her (Janet) responsible for what her husband (of 40 years) has done? Her philanthropy is independent, and incredibly generous.”
When ask why the Red Cross would place Trump into a potentially uncomfortable situation, the organization’s chapter for Palm Beach and Martin counties re-issued a statement that simply outlines the ball’s 60-year history.