Politics

09.19.13

The Clintons Can’t Shake Their Reputation for Ethical Shadiness

Hillary Clinton is back in the news after charges were filed last week over a 2008 campaign finance scheme, but that’s just the latest in a long list of questionable actions, writes Lloyd Green.

Once again, the carnival that is Bill and Hillary is back in the news. Come to think of it, the underbelly of Clinton & Co. has been on display all summer.

Last week, businessman Troy White pleaded guilty to federal charges arising from a Clinton for President campaign scheme hatched five years ago with the help of key Clinton supporter Jeffrey E. Thompson. The scheme was designed to assist Hillary’s ground game in the run-up to the March 2008 Texas Democratic Primary—which she ultimately won.

According to the underlying legal documents, more than $608,000 was channeled to White to hire “street teams.” But the saga didn’t end with White or Thompson.

Enter Minyon Moore, director of Bill Clinton’s White House political affairs shop, a member of Hillary Clinton’s inner circle, and former right hand to then-Democratic National Committee chair and now Virginia gubernatorial wannabe Terry McAuliffe. In an email to White, Minyon wrote, “I am piping up saying we need your services,” adding “I will fight for it.” Although Moore was the conduit between Thompson and White, she has since proclaimed her innocence.

According to her government relations firm, Moore has been “fully cooperating” with the federal investigation and “was entirely unaware of any inappropriate activities.” Note the wiggle word, “inappropriate.” Note the self-absolving, “fully cooperating.”

Moore is no stranger to Hillary’s cravings for cash. After Hillary lost her presidential bid, Moore negotiated with the Obama campaign on the details of Clinton’s departure from the race, including her role at the convention and resolution of her debt. According to the Associated Press, Team Clinton had argued, “Clinton can spend more time helping Obama if she isn’t raising money to pay her bills.” Fittingly, as their negotiations proceeded, Barack Obama and his future Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker each cut $4,600 contributions to Hillary’s war chest.

Put kindly, the Clintons have a tropism towards other people’s money. Put more bluntly, Hill and Bill are the Bonnie and Clyde of campaign fundraising.

Who can forget Clinton’s final-days pardon of fugitive oil trader and Scooter Libby client, the now late Marc Rich, or those Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers? In the incredulous words of DreamWorks' David Geffen, a big-time Democratic donor and former fan of the Clintons, “Marc Rich getting pardoned? An oil-profiteer expatriate who left the country rather than pay taxes or face justice?”

Put bluntly, Hill and Bill are the Bonnie and Clyde of campaign fundraising.

But no need to dwell on the past. Although New Yorkers gave Anthony Weiner a loud NO last Tuesday, his wife Huma Abedin is still with us, courtesy of Hillary. According to reports, Abedin was the beneficiary of an unusual arrangement by which she was permitted to be a part-time State Department employee, while juggling three consulting jobs, each being connected to the Clintons.

Hillary and Abedin have not offered an explanation for this scam—this seemingly legal scam. Apparently, not much has really changed since Bill took a $2 tax deduction for each pair of underwear that he donated to charity.

But it’s not just about Huma or Minyon. There are McAuliffe and Tony Rodham, Hillary’s brother. Although McAuliffe leads in the Virginia governor’s race, he has yet to give a complete accounting of his relationship with Rodham, and Rodham’s role in the scandal surrounding McAuliffe’s company, Green Tech Automotive. You see, Rodham was GreenTech’s money guy.

True to form, Bill and Hillary are slated to headline McAuliffe fundraisers. Thompson, who stands at the center of the criminal charges leveled against White, was a McAuliffe donor, and the McAuliffe campaign has refused to return or donate away Thompson’s $2,500 contribution.

Oh, then there’s Moore, again. In late 2000 and early 2001, Moore was among those who scripted McAuliffe’s ascent to the DNC chairmanship, and was then tapped to be the DNC’s chief operating officer.

Finally, there’s The New York Times and its exposé of the ever-needy Clinton Foundation. Despite blue-chip corporate sponsorships going for $250,000 a pop and up, and revenue of more than $214 million, the foundation has “piled up a $40 million deficit.” By comparison, Uncle Sam almost looks responsible. In the words of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, “Clintonworld is a galaxy where personal enrichment and political advancement blend seamlessly, and where a cast of jarringly familiar characters pad their pockets every which way to Sunday.”

Hillary may or may not speak to her party’s base, its aspirations, or to history. She may not even be the eventual 2016 nominee, although senior Obama campaign hand David Plouffe thinks that Clinton is the frontrunner, and the early polls tell the same story. But one thing remains likely if she runs—the continuation of Clintonian ethical flexibility.

For all of her pseudo-Midwestern morality, Hillary has repeatedly shown a blind spot when it comes to herself—as opposed to others. Unlike Bill—who rarely pretended to be anything that he wasn’t, Hillary has always fancied herself as untainted by Original Sin.

With her past stained by the pardon of Marc Rich, her siblings’ repeated attempts to cash in on her position, and her use of the government as a piggy bank and a political adjunct, Hillary is not beyond scrutiny. As Clinton seeks to cocoon herself in the veneer of eminence grise while laying the groundwork for her anticipated run, she will be sorely tested.

Perhaps White’s guilty plea last week will be the final episode of Clinton’s ethical myopia. Just don’t bet on it. Thompson has lawyered up with Brendan Sullivan, who served as Marine Lt. Colonel Oliver North’s attorney during the 1987 congressional Iran-Contra hearings.

North, in full uniform, together with Sullivan, cut their inquisitors down to size and salvaged a piece of North’s reputation. For his part, Sullivan, a former Army officer, reminded the committee:  “I’m not a potted plant. I’m here as the lawyer. That’s my job.”

Don’t expect Thompson to go quietly into the night and take the fall. With Sullivan at his side, it’s safe to say that Thompson is no Susan McDougal, who went to jail over Whitewater, rather than talk, and that just may keep Hillary lying awake.