DONORGATE

BEHIND THE BLUNDER, A BID FOR INFLUENCE?

When historians hunt for telling moments in the 1996 Donorgate scandal, they may point to a White House coffee in December 1995 when would-be giver RUBEN VELEZ, apparently unaware of the law against contributing in the Executive Mansion, tried to hand over five checks. Velez, Puerto Rico's biggest builder, may have had more than protocol on his mind.

According to interviews and documents obtained by TIME, Velez was angling to buy prime real estate in downtown San Juan, a sale that required approval of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Velez denies that the checks, written by friends and business...

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