Last week, would-be Republican presidential nominee Ted Cruz tore in to Hillary Clinton for having sacrificed America’s national security while the Clinton Foundation was reportedly benefiting from millions in foreign largesse. Yet, Cruz’s stridency belies the fact that Cruz has his own foreign money and transparency problems, and that his campaign has refused to respond to inquiries from The Daily Beast about his business dealings. Like the Bonnie and Clyde of Little Rock, it appears that Cruz too has a penchant for crony capitalism and foreign money, and a disdain for disclosure.
Understandably, Cruz has no interest about talking about his own brushes with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, his own spotty financial, his ties to Caribbean Equity Partners Limited, a Caribbean investment vehicle, or to CEP’s principal, David Panton. You see, as a Senate candidate in 2012, Cruz was required by law to come clean publicly about his holdings and finances—except that, according to a report in Time magazine, he didn’t, or at least not immediately—that is, not until Time forced Cruz’s hand.
For the record, Cruz did not initially own up to the fact that CEP owed him money, and then further messed up by failing to make a complete disclosure about CEP’s indebtedness, according to Time’s review of Cruz’s congressional filings. Indeed, in an October 21, 2013 letter to the Secretary of the Senate, Cruz acknowledged that his 2012 financial disclosures “inadvertently omitted certain financial information.” (PDF)
But for Cruz, all that is just so yesterday. Panton, who was Cruz’s best man at his wedding, is now a driving force of a Cruz super-PAC, named Stand for Principle. Panton described his relationship with Cruz this way to the Jamaica Observer: “I speak with and see Ted frequently as a close friend, but deliberately do not discuss his campaign strategy.” Panton added, “As an active supporter of a super-Pac that supports him, I am not able to discuss campaign strategy with him.”
All this would be interesting enough, except for the fact that Panton is the son of the late Keith Panton, a Jamaican cabinet officer who was also the former head of Alcan Jamaica. And it gets even better. David Panton was a member of the Jamaican Senate until he resigned in 2004 to pursue a career in finance in the United States, and the Panton family was tight with Jamaica’s former Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, and with the Jamaican Labor Party, which had its own issues and ties to drugs and violence. Traditional family values, indeed.
So how did Cruz come to know the Pantons, what exactly was CEP, and how much did Cruz actually profit? Cruz first met David Panton at Princeton, where the pair were roommates and members of the school’s debating team. As Panton told The Daily Beast two years ago, “Unlike what others may say, I consider Ted to be very kind. He is a very, very gentle-hearted person … He took me under his wing and was a mentor to me. He was very kind to me. I am a much smarter and much better person today because of Ted Cruz.”
The two would then move on to Harvard Law School, where Panton would be the second African American to be elected president of the Harvard Law Review. Like Cruz’s father, Panton’s father was also a minister, albeit in the Anglican Church.
As for CEP, it was established in 1998, and Cruz was one of CEP’s founding directors and shareholders, according to Time. Cruz had invested $6,000 in CEP, but watched that sum grow to $100,000 when he cashed out in November 2002 (PDF). For his troubles, Cruz received $25,000 up front, and a $75,000 IOU from Panton’s firm, CEP Investments Holdings Limited, Kingston, Jamaica, which is presently valued by Cruz to be worth between $100,000 and $250,000 (PDF), once a “reasonable rate of interest” is factored in to the equation (PDF), according to Cruz’s congressional financial disclosures, made available at the Open Secrets web site.
Still, for his part, Cruz would like the world to believe that CEP was just another private equity fund. Except CEP wasn’t any old private equity fund. Heck, to the untrained eye, CEP looks awfully like Hillary Clinton’s old cattle futures investment, where she parlayed $1,000 into $99,540, courtesy of James Blair, a Clinton crony and the top lawyer of Arkansas-based Tysons Foods, America’s largest poultry company.
Here’s what I mean. CEP seemed to be about as crony-capitalist an arrangement as it could get. For all intents and purposes, CEP could have been called Jamaica’s version of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. CEP managed an investment fund established by the Jamaican government, which received investment backing from the Caribbean Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, according to The Gleaner, a Jamaican newspaper.
Also according to The Gleaner, in 2000 CEP and “Caribbean Basin Investors Limited (CBIL) … recently formed the Caribbean Investment Fund to make investments in the 14 member countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) … Caribbean Equity Partners will manage the Fund on behalf of CBIL and the Fund’s investors.” Oh, and while CEP was doing its thing in the Caribbean, Cruz was working on the 2000 Bush campaign, and would be rewarded for his troubles with appointments at the Department of Justice as Associate Deputy Attorney General, and then at the Federal Trade Commission.
To be clear, there was nothing illegal about CEP managing the fund. But for Cruz, who was a Bush political appointee at DOJ and the FTC, to simultaneously hold an interest in an offshore semi-sovereign investment vehicle raises questions, especially when he was there at the fund’s genesis. Indeed, when Cruz’s wife, Heidi Nelson Cruz, joined Treasury, both she and Cruz were forced to offload their holdings because they could have given rise to a conflict of interest, and CEP was one of those holdings, according to Time.
Whether Cruz is proud of profiting from a crony capitalist venture is not known, as his campaign has declined to comment to The Daily Beast. But one thing’s for sure, he despises it in others, or at least when the game is played north of Jamaica. At CPAC 2014 Cruz announced, “Washington is corrupt. There is a corrupt and inter-locking system of lobbyists and lawyers and consultants that are suckling off Washington … We need to end the corruption. We need to end corporate welfare and crony capitalism.”
Then just last week, Cruz told Breitbart, “Hillary Clinton embodies the culture of corruption in Washington, where politicians enrich themselves and expand their own power—Washington only gets more and more powerful—and the lives of hardworking Americans get harder and harder and harder. Of course, Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation should return the money they received from foreign nations particularly when she was Secretary of State.”
Cruz is spot-on when he takes Clinton to task. Unfortunately, Cruz, a dual- national until he got caught and then renounced his Canadian citizenship, sees no parallel to Hillary when he looks into the mirror.