Peter Paul

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Peter Franklin Paul is a lawyer who co-founded Stan Lee Media with Spider Man creator Stan Lee and is a convicted felon. In 2000, he became central to a campaign fund-raising scandal involving Senator Hillary Clinton.

The Cuban Coffee Fraud

In late 1977 a scheme was hatched by a German coffee broker, Karl Fessler, to use a phantom shipment of coffee to defraud the Cuban government. The scheme involved persuading the Cuban government to buy 3,000 tonnes of Columbian coffee sight unseen at a price lower than the prevailing world market price. In late October 1978 the deal was finalised. "Companies were set up in the Caribbean and an aging freighter of Panamanian registry was bought for $700,000. The culprits proceeded to pay off anybody who might hinder the swindle. The Justice Department estimates that hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid out," Time reported. While the plan was to sink the empty freighter en route to Havana, the team assigned to scuttle the boat were prevented from boarding the ship by a port official in Santa Domingo. Despite this, the gang managed to persuade the Cuban broker to authorise the payment of $8.7 million without seeing the goods. After protests from the Cuban government, U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies pursued both the participants and sought to recover the funds. [1]

Paul had become involved with Fessler and, the Miami Herald later reported, the two had "enlisted the help of an American woman, a Haitian, two former Miami firemen, a Dutchman and others". [2]

At the same time that the coffee scam was being planned, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was taping the phone calls of several of the conspirators as part of a drugs related investigation. Before the coffee scam was finalised, Paul himself, the Miami Herald reported, "was picked up after he handed an informant a garment bag containing 15 pounds of cocaine." In the court proceedings, which happened before the coffee scam was implemented, it was revealed that the government agencies knew of the coffee plans but took no action. Paul later claimed that both the cocaine and coffee deals were "part of a government operation I was involved in that I can't really talk about" and that they were aimed at exposing a communist spy in the U.S. government. Despite these claims, Paul was arrested after the Cuban government agents discovered the scam. He was charged with fraud and pleaded guilty in U.S. court. He was sentenced to eight years on the cocaine charges and three years to be served concurrently for the Cuban coffee scam. [3]

Violation of parole in 1983 and year as a fugitive

After serving three years of his sentence Paul was paroled but on condition that he not leave the U.S. Despite this, in December 1983, he traveled to Canada "using a dead man's passport". [4] When crossing back into Vermont, a Customs official demanded more identification. "Paul walked to his rented Lincoln and raced away, leaving behind his female companion," the Miami Herald reports. A year later he was caught and then charged with passport offenses. Paul attributed the charges to an unspecified government group he was working with having a dispute with another government agency. He served a further 20 months in prison. [5]

Selling the Bicentennial (1987 - 1993)

In 1987 Paul was the executive vice president of the California Bicentennial Foundation for the U.S. Constitution. The Los Angeles Times commented on some of the gimmicks used by the Bicentennial Commission. "But any celebration with a Disney-designed mascot can't fail, right? We'll see. The California bicentennial has Bisontennial Ben, a grinning little critter who is a combination American bison and Benjamin Franklin. The caricatures include one of Ben in a spacesuit holding an American flag, presumably standing on the moon." [6]

Paul told the Los Anegeles Times that "If you had a reenactment of 39 sweaty old men arguing in Philadelphia, how many of our children would be interested? But put them in space suits and the kids will really go for it."

"We're using the same people who sell soap to sell understanding of the Constitution," Paul explained. [7]

A few years later, The New York Times reported that Paul was the President of the non-profit American Spirit Foundation, which was formed in May 1989. The foundation was linked to the American Spirit Corporation, though the nature of the relationship was unclear. The Securities and Exchange Commission filing of the corporation stated that it paid Paul's salary and the foundation's office space. Paul on the other hand told New York Times reporter Diana B. Henriques that the company was one of the foundation's "sponsors" and "the exclusive supplier" of bronze plaques that the foundation used in one of its projects. [8] A January 1990 media release announcing the takeover of the Hamilton James Venture Fund Inc., a Nevada corporation, by Wellington Group I described the corporation as "the marketing arm of the American Spirit Foundation." [9]

"The plaque project calls for the foundation to enlist donors whose tax-deductible contributions - $6,000 per Constitution - will be used to place these bronze replicas in schools and other public locations. Then the foundation will buy the plaques from the corporation for $4,000 per set, or about $2,300 more than the plaques cost the company to produce. Proceeds from plaque sales are envisioned as the company's chief source of revenue," Henriques reported. [10] In June 1990, the corporation suggested that the marketing of the bronze replicas of the constitution would be aimed at "more than 300,000 schools nationwide" which "should result in first year's annual revenue to the corporation exceeding $4 million." [11] There is little subsequent mention of the corporation or the foundation other than a Washington Post report that "by 1993, the group [the corporation] was out of money". [12]

Related SourceWatch Resources


  1. "The Cuban coffee caper", TIME Magazine, February 12, 1979.
  2. John Dorschener, "Caught Up With Comics and The Clintons", Miami Herald, October 21, 2001.
  3. John Dorschener, "Caught Up With Comics and The Clintons", Miami Herald, October 21, 2001.
  4. John Dorschener, "Caught Up With Comics and The Clintons", Miami Herald, October 21, 2001.
  5. John Dorschener, "Caught Up With Comics and The Clintons", Miami Herald, October 21, 2001.
  6. "Most Unconstitutional: Editorial", Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1987.
  7. Frederick M. Muir, "In 1987, We The People Get a 'User Friendly Constitution', Los Angeles Times, August 24, 1987.
  8. Diana B. Henriques, "Wall Street: The dubious profits in patriotism", New York Times, July 22, 1990, p. A15.
  9. "Wellington Group To Acquire Hamilton James Venture Fund; Merged Companies Renamed American Spirit Corp", PR Newswire, January 2, 1990.
  10. Diana B. Henriques, "Wall Street: The dubious profits in patriotism", New York Times, July 22, 1990, p. A15.
  11. "Contract to Market Nationally First Bronze Replicas Of Constitution and Bill of Rights Signed in Beverly Hills", PR Newswire, June 21, 1990.
  12. Scott Bowles, "A Major Monument To Rules, Red Tape; As a Bicentennial Memorial, This Statue Has Limitations", The Washington Post, August 18, 1996.

External Links




  • "Most Unconstitutional: Editorial", Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1987,
  • "We The People: The Selling of the Bicentennial," ABA Journal, September 1, 1987
  • "Selling the Constitution," Los Angeles Times, September 1, 1987, Metro p.4


  • Diana B. Henriques, "Wall Street: The dubious profits in patriotism", New York Times, July 22, 1990, p. A15.


  • "Stan Lee Media debuts as public company, stock up 41 percent", Bloomberg News, August 16, 1999.