Tag: Corruption

Don’t Get Distracted

The current spat over Pence’s attendance to Hamilton is a perfect Trump distraction. In the last few days, two stories have broken that are more important.

First, Trump settled the Trump University lawsuits for $25 million. There’s no admission of guilt, which is standard for settlements.

Second, there are indications that Trump will not, in fact, put his assets in a blind trust but will enrich himself as much as possible from his presidency. Trump has said he will forgo a salary. But diplomats are lining up to get rooms at the Trump hotel. When foreigners donated money to Clinton’s Foundation to get an audience with her, we called it corruption. What do you call this?

(This is aside from some of his appointments, which have included some troubling names, to say the least.)

Let’s not get distracted by Trump’s twitter tantrums. There’s already a lot going on here. Some of it matters; some of it doesn’t. Let’s stay focused.

The Clinton Foundation

This week, AP ran a story alleging that about half of the people outside government who met with Clinton when she was Secretary of State had donated to the Clinton Foundation. This is on top of reports that donors to the Clinton Foundation mysteriously mysteriously earned lucrative contracts from the State Department under Clinton’s tenure. There is no smoking gun at this point; no proof of an explicit quid pro quo. But there is an awful lot of smoke.

The response of the Left Wing has been … astonishing. They have basically been writing pieces all week that are little more than wrappers for the Clinton campaign’s press release. Their claims are basically:

  • The AP deceptively focused on only 154 of Clinton’s thousands of meetings during her tenure. This talking point is garbage. AP deliberately excluded people with whom Clinton would have met anyway as Secretary of State (some of whom, incidentally, were also big Foundation donors). Moreover, the State Department has refused to release large parts of Clinton’s schedule. The AP worked with what they had.
  • There is no explicit proof of a quid-pro-quo.. True enough. But the Left Wing knows perfectly God-damned well that this is not how corruption works. Government corruption does not work like it does in movies with smoke-filled rooms, cackling fat men and suitcases full of cash. What the Foundation donors are alleged to have been buying is access. And a group of people who have spent the last six years screaming and wringing their hands over Citizens United should understand that.
  • The Clinton Foundation is an A-rated charity and puts 88% of its money into good causes. I’m a bit dubious of the charity rater they are citing, who seems a bit too enthusiastic. But even assuming this, that’s kind of beside the point. I’m sure the Clinton Foundation does do a lot of good — $2 billion will do that. That does not mean that donating to it isn’t the best way to get the Clintons’ time and attention. It does not mean that its money can’t be directed toward certain organizations and causes. That the Foundation does good and the Clintons are corrupt are not mutually exclusive possibilities.
  • Republicans don’t face this level of scrutiny.. As the Intercept points out, this is bullshit. Non-profits associated with John McCain, Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush have come under fire for similar incidents. Just because you haven’t been paying attention doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Honestly, it’s pathetic. So pathetic that Vox had to run an article where four experts carefully explained to them why these allegations are so troubling.

Clinton Derangement Syndrome is a thing. There are certainly people who are driven to madness by the Clintons and see everything they do in the worst possible light. But Clinton Defense Derangement Syndrome is also a thing. There are people who continually insist that all the allegations about the Clintons are baseless right-wing smears. Hell, there are people who still insist that Whitewater — which resulted in forty felony convictions — was a whole lot of nothing. To these people, the Clintons are wonderful do-gooders who have endured 25 years of baseless persecution.

(Left unanswered by the Clinton defenders is this: if the Clinton scandals are all Republican dementia and invented nonsense, why have we seen nothing like this with Obama? The Republican hatred of Obama is arguably deeper than their hatred of Clinton. And they’ve tried to pin some stuff on him sure. But they’ve never gotten anywhere with it. The IRS scandal fizzled and ended up focusing on Lois Lerner. The gunwalking scandal fizzled. Benghazi ended up focusing on Clinton (and fizzled). Even the VA scandal fizzled. The most they could come up with from his pre-Presidency days was Jeremiah Wright/Bill Ayers which no one outside of Fox News cared about. They’ve made a lot of noise and tried to get something going, but we’ve not seen them gain the kind of traction they did with Whitewater or Lewinski. And while the media arguably runs interference for Obama, it’s peanuts compared to the interference they run for Clinton. Obama’s been in office for eight years without any felony convictions, impeachment proceedings or perjury. The vast majority of criticism is focused on his policies, not his ethics. Doesn’t this suggest that there may be at least something to the idea that the Clintons are a bit slimy?)

Now I wouldn’t go as far as some pundits have in describing the Clinton Foundation as a criminal organization. The money it dispenses actually goes to good causes, such as providing anti-malarial drugs in Africa and disaster relief in Haiti and Indonesia. It’s also burned money on a lot of dubious liberal initiatives like “sustainability” and patting do-gooders on the back. Overall, I suspect it’s fine … on its terms.

But I also think it’s highly likely that it’s become a nexus of Clinton influence, with donations to the Foundation catching the attention of the Clintons and occasionally largesse from the government. It’s not nothing. And I wish the media would quit pretending that it is.

FIFA Under Fire

About damned time:

Hours after Swiss authorities arrived unannounced at a Zurich hotel and arrested top FIFA officials early Wednesday morning, the Justice Department and prosecutors for the Eastern District of New York forcefully declared that their investigation had only just begun and pledged to rid the international soccer organization of systemic corruption.

“These individuals and organizations engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held, and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, who supervised the investigation from its earliest stages, when she was the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.”

Soccer officials treated FIFA business decisions as chits to be traded for personal wealth, United States officials said. Whether through convoluted financial deals or old-fashioned briefcases full of cash, people were expected to pay for access to FIFA’s river of money and publicity. The federal indictment lists 47 counts, including bribery, fraud and money laundering.

FIFA is one of the most corrupt organizations in the world. It’s not just the bribery, which has amounted to tens of millions of dollars. It’s the way they persuaded Brazil to burn billions of dollars building stadiums that are now useless (FIFA made an estimated $4 billion off the 2014 World Cup. Brazil invested over $15 billion in hosting it). It’s the way they look the other way as Qatar builds a World Cup on bribery, slavery and thousands of dead workers. If you missed it, here is John Oliver on the subject:

I’m going to make a confession: I really like international soccer. Last year’s World Cup was thrilling for the United States and I’m looking forward to 2018. But the organization that controls this sport is horrifying. They make American sports leagues — who extract billions in free stadiums from bankrupt cities based on economic nonsense — look like angels.

This is just beginning. This organization is thoroughly corrupt. I’m glad to see some justice may finally be done to them.

Clinton Cash

In about a week, a book called Clinton Cash is going to drop on bookstores. Already a top-seller, it details a lot of the corruption we’ve been hearing about. Glenn Reynolds:

It was a bad week for Hillary Clinton. So bad, in fact, that The Washington Post declared she had “the worst week in Washington.” From The New York Times, there were reports of shady uranium deals with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakhstan. From The Post, it was reporting on how the Clintons’ foundation seems more like a personal piggy bank. And from Politico, it was a report that “Clinton struggles to contain media barrage on foreign cash.” (If you haven’t kept up, here’s a bullet-point summary of the key bits). And the book that led to all these stories isn’t even out yet.

The responses from Clintonworld have been unconvincing — my favorite was when their supporters denied that a meeting between Bill Clinton and shadowy Kazakh nuclear officials had taken place, only to have a The Times reporter produce photo evidence. But, hey, the Clintons have survived even more concrete evidence of scandal — remember Monica Lewinsky’s semen-stained dress? — so why should this time be any different?

Well, one big difference is that three major news organizations — The Times, The Post and Fox News — are all working on the story. If it were just Fox, the Clintons might be able to spin it as a product of, in Hillary’s famous phrase, the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” But that’s unlikely to fly this time. Even the liberal group Common Cause has called for an audit of the Clinton Foundation’s finances.

Even so, don’t count the Clintons out yet. Even if these scandals ultimately kill Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential candidacy, she’ll be inclined to keep it staggering along as long as possible. So long as it looks as if she might be president, the money will keep coming in, and many people will be afraid to challenge her. As soon as her candidacy falls off the table, so will the money, and the influence.

Reynolds goes through the winners and losers from Clinton’s “bad week”, but I would agree with Nick Gillespie that the real losers are the American people who have yet another reason to doubt their government.

I have obviously not read Schweizer’s book but we don’t need it to know that the Clintons have been wallowing in largesse for years. The Foundation is frantically refiling its taxes and admitting that most of its money gets spent … on itself:

According to the Post, it took in more than $140 million in grants and pledges in 2013 but spent just $9 million on direct aid.

Much of the Foundation’s money goes to travel ($8.5 million in 2013); conferences, conventions and meetings ($9.2 million); and payroll and employee benefits ($30 million). Ten executives received salaries of more than $100,000 in 2013. Eric Braverman, a friend of Chelsea Clinton, was paid nearly $275,000 in salary, benefits, and a housing allowance for just five months’ work as CEO that year.

Bill Allison is a senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group once run by prominent leftist Zephyr Teachout. In Allison’s view, “it seems like the Clinton Foundation operates as a slush fund for the Clintons.”

It’s important to note that the Clinton Foundation’s status as a problematic charity is distinct from the “Clinton cash” issue that Peter Schweizer and others have highlighted. “Clinton cash” focuses on the fundraising methods used by the Clintons. Specifically, there are substantial allegations that they raise money in part because nations and wealthy individuals hope to influence U.S. policy through their donations, and very possibly have succeeded in doing so.

The problem flagged by Charity Navigator and other watchdogs focuses on what the Clinton Foundation does with the money it raises (whether ethically or not). The Foundation’s profligacy and failure to spend a significant percentage of its funds on its alleged mission would be of concern even if there were no ethical problems associated with the Clintons’ fundraising.

I have a sinking feeling that none of this is going to matter in the end. As I said in a previous post, we’ve known who the Clinton are for over two decades and people still love them. But it’s going to be fun watching the cockroaches scatter as the sunlight is finally turned on the Clintons. And how knows? Maybe the Democrats will wake up and realize they’re about to nominate a corrupt surveillance-state supporter, drug warrior and Wall Street darling.

And if that happens … oh my goodness will this election suddenly become unpredictable and fun.

Kitzhaber Out

The governor of Oregon, John Kitzhaber, has reportedly resigned. The reason is that his fiance, a member of his energy task force, was getting tens of thousands of dollar of undisclosed consulting fees from energy interests. You can read the details here. This is all from “clean energy” concerns, by the way, including the involvement of liberal billionaire Tom Steyer.

Keep this in mind the next time someone starts ranting about the Koch Brothers and evil oil money.