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    Bush, GOP return felon's funds

    The Texas governor's campaign said it didn't know about Braswell's criminal past.

    By LUCY MORGAN

    © St. Petersburg Times, published September 30, 2000


    TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Republican Party and presidential candidate George W. Bush will return $175,000 in campaign donations from a convicted felon who sells questionable pills and potions that claim to cure a variety of ailments.

    The decision to return the money came the day the St. Petersburg Times published a story outlining the background of A. Glenn Braswell, owner of Gero Vita International, a multimillion dollar mail-order business that sells cures for baldness, prostate cancer, arthritis, heart disease and other ailments.

    In addition to the $175,000 the Republicans have decided to return, the Florida Republican Party disclosed that it recently rejected an additional $100,000 check that Braswell presented at a South Florida fundraiser for George W. Bush.

    "We've had a longstanding policy against taking money from felons," said Dan Bartlett, a spokesman for the George W. Bush campaign. "It was news to us. We learned of it today from your story."

    Over the past two years, Braswell has given $150,000 to the Florida GOP and $25,000 to George W. Bush.

    In July, with the help of Republican fundraiser Ann Herberger, Braswell got Gov. Jeb Bush to write an article for his alternative health magazine, Journal of Longevity. Bush says he met Braswell at a couple of fundraisers in South Florida, but did not know much about him.

    The article published in the July issue of Braswell's magazine was significantly altered to make it appear that Bush was endorsing alternative medications like the ones Braswell sells.

    When the Times questioned the article, Bush's staff complained to officials at the magazine and its editor issued a letter of apology.

    Jamie Wilson, executive director of the state GOP, said he and Party Chairman Al Cardenas conferred Friday after learning more details about Braswell and decided to return all of his past contributions.

    Earlier this month Cardenas told the Times that he had not seen any information that would justify returning the contributions that had already been accepted.

    Cardenas said the party has no investigative unit that looks at who's who when it accepts contributions.

    Wilson said the party had already decided not to accept additional money from Braswell after the Times questioned the contributions earlier this month.

    "A determination was made to return his $100,000 check at a recent fundraiser in Miami," Wilson said.

    Braswell was invited along with many others, Wilson said.

    "Once this came to light, we decided not to deposit the check," Wilson added.

    Wilson said Gov. Jeb Bush was "extremely supportive" of the decision to return Braswell's money.

    "The governor was extremely disappointed by the addition to his article," Wilson said.

    Braswell served time in federal prison in the 1980s for mail fraud and perjury connected with the sale of a phoney cure for baldness and other drugs. Since then he and his companies have been repeatedly investigated by federal agencies that have attempted to block the sale of his products.

    Braswell's companies remain under scrutiny by the Food & Drug Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.

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    Lucy Morgan


    From the Times state desk