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Public Campaign cites a number of times in which lawmakers changed their position on Cuba-related issues within months of receiving funds from a political action committee that supports the U.S. embargo of the communist island.

Supporters of tough U.S. sanctions against the Cuban government have given more than $10 million to congressional campaigns over the last seven years, according to a study released late Sunday night by a group supporting campaign finance reform.

The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Public Campaign said the study shows how large sums of money from a small group can influence lawmakers.

Meanwhile, recent surveys suggest more Cubans are split on travel restrictions and other sanctions than in the past.

Those who back U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC say they are being unfairly targeted for their passionate views toward their homeland.

They note many other groups channel money to politicians who support their views.

"Perhaps it's the age-old story of money and politics, but 18 members switched their votes on the subject, some in very close proximity to when they got donations," said Public Campaign's David Donnelly.

"When an issue is not in the front view like health care, our campaign finance system sets up a situation in which the members are more interested in the money than deciding a rational, reasoned approach to politics, regardless of what the outcome," he added.

Mauricio Claver-Carone, the Washington-based director to the PAC, says the group is simply exercising its constitutional right to political participation.

"For some of these folks, it's OK for unions to support pro-labor members. It's OK for trial lawyers to help elect pro-litigators. It's OK for the Jewish community to help elect pro-Israel," Claver-Carone said, adding, "But somehow it's not OK for the Cuban community to help elect members and candidates that help and support conditioning business and tourism with the Castro regime with human rights and democratic reforms."

Like many other interest groups, those who support the U.S. embargo of Cuba have long donated heavily to whichever party is in power and spread the funds among legislators across the country.

The report acknowledges the donations are relatively small compared to those given to influence health care or banking regulations. And those who received the biggest donations are members of the Cuban exile community or represent it.

U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., a staunchly pro-embargo Cuban-American, called the report a "low blow" from those who oppose the sanctions.

Source: The Associated Press

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