I'm talking about the campaign financing scandal swirling around Hillary Clinton. First it was Norman Hsu, and Chinese mail carriers contributing truly astonishing amounts of money. Now it is dishwashers and cooks in Chinatown making $1000 contributions to the Clinton campaign. The October 19, 2007 Los Angeles Times (hardly a conservative rag) points to some very suspicious behavior:
NEW YORK -- Something remarkable happened at 44 Henry St., a grimy Chinatown tenement with peeling walls. It also happened nearby at a dimly lighted apartment building with trash bins clustered by the front door.The October 22, 2007 Washington Post (again, a Democratic newspaper) editorial is a lot more forceful:
And again not too far away, at 88 E. Broadway beneath the Manhattan bridge, where vendors chatter in Mandarin and Fujianese as they hawk rubber sandals and bargain-basement clothes.
All three locations, along with scores of others scattered throughout some of the poorest Chinese neighborhoods in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, have been swept by an extraordinary impulse to shower money on one particular presidential candidate -- Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Dishwashers, waiters and others whose jobs and dilapidated home addresses seem to make them unpromising targets for political fundraisers are pouring $1,000 and $2,000 contributions into Clinton's campaign treasury. In April, a single fundraiser in an area long known for its gritty urban poverty yielded a whopping $380,000. When Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) ran for president in 2004, he received $24,000 from Chinatown.
At this point in the presidential campaign cycle, Clinton has raised more money than any candidate in history. Those dishwashers, waiters and street stall hawkers are part of the reason. And Clinton's success in gathering money from Chinatown's least-affluent residents stems from a two-pronged strategy: mutually beneficial alliances with powerful groups, and appeals to the hopes and dreams of people now consigned to the margins.
Clinton has enlisted the aid of Chinese neighborhood associations, especially those representing recent immigrants from Fujian province. The organizations, at least one of which is a descendant of Chinatown criminal enterprises that engaged in gambling and human trafficking, exert enormous influence over immigrants. The associations help them with everything from protection against crime to obtaining green cards.
Many of Clinton's Chinatown donors said they had contributed because leaders in neighborhood associations told them to. In some cases, donors said they felt pressure to give.
DONORS WHOSE addresses turn out to be tenements. Dishwashers and waiters who write $1,000 checks. Immigrants who ante up because they have been instructed to by powerful neighborhood associations, or, as one said, "They informed us to go, so I went." Others who say they never made the contributions listed in their names or who were not eligible to give because they are not legal residents of the United States. This is the disturbingly familiar picture of Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign presented last week in a report by the Los Angeles Times about questionable fundraising by the New York senator in New York City's Chinese community. Out of 150 donors examined, one-third "could not be found using property, telephone or business records," the Times reported. "Most have not registered to vote, according to public records."Gee, do you suppose that this money might have started out in Beijing? Or is that just paranoid?
This appears to be another instance in which a Clinton campaign's zeal for campaign cash overwhelms its judgment. After the fundraising scandals of President Bill Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign, the dangers of vacuuming cash from a politically inexperienced immigrant community should have been obvious. But Ms. Clinton's money machine seized on a new source of cash in Chinatown and environs. As the Times reported, a single Chinatown fundraiser in April brought in $380,000. By contrast, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry raised $24,000 from Chinatown in the course of his entire campaign.
The Clintons have a long history of incredibly dirty (even by the standards of Democrats) fundraising practices, much of it clearly illegal, and some of it that has the fingerprints of being from foreign governments. Even when the money is clearly American in origin, the violations of law seem to be taking a long time to catch up to them, as this October 16, 2007 Los Angeles Times article points out:
LOS ANGELES -- A state appeals court denied a bid Tuesday to reinstate Sen. Hillary Clinton as a defendant in a lawsuit that claims she, former President Clinton and others induced a former supporter to finance a 2000 fundraising gala.And then there's this worrisome piece from the November 5, 2007 The Nation (about as far left as you can get in print without ending up in 9/11 Truther land):
The 2nd District Court of Appeal upheld a lower court's decision to remove the New York senator and Democratic presidential candidate from a lawsuit filed by Peter Paul. It also said Clinton can recoup legal costs.
Clinton's attorney, David Kendall, praised the ruling as one that found "no evidence of misconduct by Sen. Clinton in regard to the 2000 fundraiser."
Paul said he will consider appealing to the California Supreme Court.
Paul claims he spent more than $1.9 million to underwrite the lavish Hollywood fundraising gala in August 2000 that attracted Brad Pitt, Diana Ross and Cher.
Paul said he financed the event and other fundraisers for Hillary Clinton because Bill Clinton agreed to join the board of his company, Stan Lee Media, after he left the White House. Paul has said the event cost nearly $2 million, but campaign reports at the time estimate it was about $500,000. Clinton didn't end up working with Paul.
The Hollywood fundraiser was the subject of a criminal trial of Clinton's former national finance director, David Rosen, who was acquitted in May 2005 of lying to the Federal Election Commission about the event.
In the Clintons' pursuit of power, there is no such thing as a strange bedfellow. One recently exposed inamorata was Norman Hsu, the mysterious businessman from Hong Kong who brought in $850,000 to Hillary Clinton's campaign before being unmasked as a fugitive. Her campaign dismissed Hsu as someone who'd slipped through the cracks of an otherwise unimpeachable system for vetting donors, and perhaps he was. The same cannot be said for the notorious financier Alan Quasha, whose involvement with Clinton is at least as substantial--and still under wraps.You think Dick Cheney's ties to Halliburton are suspicious? Compared to the Clintons, his ties to Halliburton are positively harps and halos territory.
Political junkies will recall Quasha as the controversial figure who bailed out George W. Bush's failing oil company in 1986, folding Bush into his company, Harken Energy, thus setting him on the path to a lucrative and high-profile position as an owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and the presidency. The persistently unprofitable Harken--many of whose board members, connected to powerful foreign interests and the intelligence community, nevertheless profited enormously--faced intense scrutiny in the early 1990s and again during Bush's first term.
Now Quasha is back--on the other side of the aisle. Operating below the radar, he entered Hillary Clinton's circle even before she declared her candidacy by quietly arranging for the hire of Clinton confidant and longtime Democratic Party money man Terry McAuliffe at one of his companies. During the interregnum between McAuliffe's chairmanship of the Democratic Party and the time he officially joined Clinton's campaign, Quasha's firm set McAuliffe up with a salary and opened a Washington office for him.
Just a few years earlier, McAuliffe had publicly criticized Bush for his financial dealings with Harken, disparaging the company's Enron-like accounting. Yet in 2005 McAuliffe accepted this cushy perch with Quasha's newly acquired investment firm, Carret Asset Management, and even brought along former Clinton White House business liaison Peter O'Keefe, who had been his senior aide at the Democratic National Committee. McAuliffe remained with the company until he became national chair of Hillary's presidential bid, and O'Keefe never left. McAuliffe's connection to Quasha has, until now, never been noted.
Another strong link between Quasha and Clinton is Quasha's business partner, Hassan Nemazee, a top Hillary fundraiser who was trotted out to defend her during the Hsu episode--in which the clothing manufacturer was unmasked as a swindler who seemingly funneled illegal contributions through "donors" of modest means.
In June, by liquidating a blind trust, the Clintons sought to distance themselves from any financial entanglements that might embarrass the campaign. Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson argued that the couple had gone "above and beyond" what was legally required "in order to avoid even the hint of a conflict of interest." But throughout their political careers, Bill and Hillary Clinton have repeatedly associated with people whose objectives seemed a million miles from "a place called Hope." Among these Alan Quasha and his menagerie--including Saudi frontmen, a foreign dictator, figures with intelligence ties and a maze of companies and offshore funds--stand out.
"That Hillary Clinton's campaign is involved with this particular cast of characters should give people pause," says John Moscow, a former Manhattan prosecutor. In the late 1980s and early '90s he led the investigation of the corrupt Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) global financial empire--a bank whose prominent shareholders included members of the Harken board. "Too many of the same names from earlier troubling circumstances suggests a lack of control over who she is dealing with," says Moscow, "or a policy of dealing with anyone who can pay."