Friday, October 28, 2016

Cruising the Web

Sure, the news comes from WikiLeaks, probably via the Russians. But that doesn't mean that we should ignore what we find out. People didn't ignore the leaking of Trump's tax returns even thought that was most likely illegal. And what we're finding out tells us how corrupt the whole Clinton Foundation set-up was geared to be. The memo from Doug Band describing his role in putting money in Bill Clinton's pocket lays it all out.
The Band memo reveals exactly what critics of the Clintons have long said: They make little distinction between the private and public aspects of their lives, between the pursuit of personal enrichment, the operation of a nonprofit, and participation in U.S. politics.

Mr. Band writes that he and his colleague Justin Cooper “have, for the past ten years, served as the primary contact and point of management for President Clinton’s activities—which span from political activity (e.g., campaigning on behalf of candidates for elected office), to business activity (e.g., providing advisory services to business entities with which he has a consulting arrangement), to Foundation activity.”

This excerpt and all the potential conflicts it describes, plus Chelsea’s warning about business “hustling” at foundation events, would seem more than ample cause to trigger an IRS audit of the foundation. For that matter, why aren’t the IRS and prosecutors already on the case? Any normal foundation has to keep records to show it is separating its nonprofit activity from any for-profit business.

Mr. Band’s memo confirms that donors were not seeking merely to help the sick and the poor. He explains that the Clinton Foundation had “engaged an array of fundraising consultants” over the past decade but “these engagements have not resulted in significant new dollars for the Foundation.” In other words, it wasn’t working as a conventional charity.

Mr. Band then explains how he and his Teneo partner Declan Kelly had to carry the fundraising load, and did so by packaging foundation solicitations with other services such as a meeting with Bill Clinton, $450,000 speeches or strategic advice. Many of the donations, from U.S. companies like Coca-Cola and Dow Chemical and foreign firms like UBS and Barclays, occurred while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

Why exactly were donors writing checks? The Band memo makes clear that donations untied to additional Clinton or Teneo services weren’t all that appealing to potential supporters. This is significant, because the large grant-making foundations in the U.S. are almost entirely run by Clinton voters. So you know they weren’t turned off by the brand name. They’d contribute more if they thought they were also buying goodwill and influence with a current Secretary of State and a potential future President.
As Kimberley Strassel writes, the Clintons are set to return to the White House as the "Grifters-in-Chief." Mr. Band helpfully lays out the details in his memo justifying his work in drumming up money for the Foundation and the Clintons.
The cross-pollination is flagrant, and Mr. Band gives example after example of how it works. He and his partner Declan Kelly (a Hillary Clinton fundraiser whom Mrs. Clinton rewarded by making him the State Department’s special envoy to Northern Ireland) buttered up their clients with special visits to Bill’s home and tête-à-tête golf rounds with the former president. They then “cultivated” these marks ( Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, UBS) for foundation dollars, and then again for high-dollar Bill Clinton speeches and other business payouts.

Teneo’s incestuous behavior also included Mrs. Clinton’s State Department. The Band memo boasts that Mr. Kelly (while he was Mrs. Clinton’s State envoy) introduced the then-head of UBS Wealth Management, Bob McCann, to Bill Clinton at an American Ireland Fund event in 2009. “Mr. Kelly subsequently asked Mr. Mccann [sic] to support the Foundation, which he did . . . Mr. Kelly also encouraged Mr. Mccann [sic] to invite President Clinton to give several paid speeches, which he has done,” reads Mr. Band’s memo. UBS ultimately paid Bill $2 million.

American Ireland Fund meanwhile became a Teneo client, and made Mr. Kelly (of former State envoy fame) a trustee, where he “ensured that the AIF is a significant donor to the Foundation.” AIF then bestowed upon Mrs. Clinton a major award on her final trip to Northern Ireland in 2012, in an event partly sponsored by . . . Teneo.

Not that this is all one way. Mr. Band let slip just how useful all these arrangements were for Teneo, too, when he backhandedly apologized in the memo for hosting 15 client meetings in a hotel room rented by the Clinton Global Initiative.

The memo removes any doubt that the foundation is little more than an unregistered super PAC working on the Clintons’ behalf. Donors to the charity are simultaneously tapped to give Bill speech requests and other business arrangements, including the $3.5 million he was paid annually to serve as “honorary chairman” of Laureate International Universities. Mr. Band’s memo also notes his success at getting donors to “support candidates running for office that President Clinton was supporting.”

It’s now 2016 and Bill’s most favorite candidate is running for the presidency. There’s no question foundation donors are being “leveraged” for Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Band wants credit in the memo for prodding existing foundation donors to pony up more money, though the donation statistics he provides paint a different picture. By and large, donations to the foundation begin to spike dramatically in 2009 and 2010. Mr. Band didn’t form Teneo until 2011. What was happening in 2009? Mrs. Clinton was sworn in as one of the most powerful politicians on the planet.

The obvious question is where are the prosecutors? (For that matter, where is Lois Lerner when you need her?) Any nonprofit lawyer in America knows the ironclad rule of keeping private enrichment away from tax-exempt activity, for the simple reason that mixing the two involves ripping off taxpayers. Every election lawyer in the country lives in fear of stepping over the lines governing fundraising and election vehicles. The Clintons recognize no lines.
Then there is the way they extracted money from the king of Morocco and otherwise leveraged her position at State to line their pockets.
Beyond policy considerations, voters across the political spectrum should consider what it would mean to ratify Mrs. Clinton’s institutionalization of political corruption. We now know from emails published by WikiLeaks that before Mrs. Clinton formally launched her campaign, she arranged for the king of Morocco to donate $12 million to Clinton Foundation programs.

What’s significant about the Morocco case is that for years the Clintons peddled the fiction that donors write checks simply to support wondrous acts of Clintonian charity. But that cover story isn’t available here. Mrs. Clinton’s trusted aide Huma Abedin put it in writing: The Moroccans agreed to the deal on the condition that Mrs. Clinton would participate at a conference in their country.

Panicked Clinton-campaign aides persuaded Mrs. Clinton to avoid such a trip before launching her candidacy—and the foundation got the king to settle for Bill and Chelsea Clinton. But the record is clear. The king wanted the access, influence and prestige that all strongmen crave from legitimate democracies.

This wasn’t the first time the Clintons satisfied such a desire while collecting megadonations. When it comes to human rights, Kazakhstan’s dictator, Nursultan Nazarbayev, makes Morocco’s king look enlightened. In power since 1991 and never freely elected, Mr. Nazarbayev must have enjoyed the sensation of Mr. Clinton endorsing him to lead an international election-monitoring group in 2005.

The Kazakh strongman knows how to return a favor, and he granted valuable mining concessions to Clinton Foundation donors. The donors then built a global uranium powerhouse that was eventually sold to the Russians in a deal that required the 2010 approval of a U.S. government committee that included Mrs. Clinton’s State Department. To put the cherry on this sundae, the Clintons violated their promise to the Obama administration by failing to publicly identify all the foundation donors.

A cache of emails, recently made public via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Republican National Committee, exposes another fiction at the heart of the Clinton Foundation. Clinton aides have long asserted that nobody received preferential treatment from Secretary Clinton’s State Department as a result of foundation donations. Yet emails show the State Department giving special access to “FOBs” (Friends of Bill Clinton) or “WJC VIPs” (William Jefferson Clinton VIPs) identified by foundation staff.
As Strassel points out, the Clintons just can't seem to stop themselves from such graft. They were exposed for their "endless sleazy financial deals" the first time they were in the White House. Then they established the Foundation and really reaped the big money when Hillary became Secretary of State. And they did all that knowing she was going to be running for president in 2016. And still they couldn't stop all the sleazy, corrupt deals to line their pockets. Why would anyone think they'd stop once she is elected? They didn't stop once Bill got elected and then reelected.

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James Freeman wonders why Democrats aren't denouncing Hillary as quite a few Republicans have denounced Donald Trump. Aren't they embarrassed by her? And why aren't the media drumming Democrats with questions about what has come out about Hillary?
Not that it’s easy for Republicans to appear on a ballot with Mr. Trump, especially since media folk spend days after each controversial remark demanding responses from other GOP candidates. The objective is to force them to endorse or condemn Mr. Trump and suffer the consequences.

Fair enough, but reporters don’t force down-ballot Democrats to take a position on each new Clinton email revelation. The result is wall-to-wall media coverage focused on whether GOP voters can possibly support their candidate. But why should Republicans have all the fun? Democratic voters have every right to be ashamed of their nominee....
Perhaps Democrats are just hoping that Hillary, despite her corruption, will still support leftist policies.
ill Clinton rallied his party and survived an impeachment vote in the 1990s not by disproving the charges against him, but by dedicating himself to partisan goals. Once he agreed to abandon entitlement reform, Democratic support in the Senate was rock solid.

Similarly, at the final debate last week Mrs. Clinton made no effort to embrace centrist policies. She called for higher taxes, expanded entitlements and an activist Supreme Court to impose strict limits on liberties enumerated in the Bill of Rights. Mrs. Clinton is speaking exclusively to the left wing of her party. Mr. Trump, for his part, deviates from many Republicans on trade and immigration but has otherwise embraced a growth agenda of lower taxes and regulatory relief for an economy that sorely needs it.
So, Republicans hoping that a President Hillary Clinton would govern as a moderate should remember the example of Bill Clinton after the Lewinsky scandal. He turned to the left in order to maintain the support of Democrats through the impeachment saga. Hillary may well need to do the same to keep their loyalty as she enters office already exposed as a corrupt grifter. And the media should start doing more of their job and ask Democratic candidates what they think of what we've learned from these documents. And they shouldn't be allowed to get away with saying they won't answer just because the information came from an illegal leak. That didn't stop them from commenting on Trump's taxes. And the Clintons and Podesta haven't denied any of the documents. They could have come out and claimed that all the leaks were fake, but they haven't done so. ANd that is quite telling.

So who is Doug Band? Jonah Goldberg reviews the "transactional" nature of this "thronesnifter."
Band, who touts himself as the founder of "Clinton Inc.," started out as a White House intern. He turned down higher-status jobs to focus on being the "body man" for President Clinton. In politics, a body man is the guy (or gal) whose only job is to make sure the principal is happy, comfortable and treated with the maximum amount of respect. No task is too small or too humiliating for a president's body man. If POTUS wants a bowl of green M&Ms, green M&Ms it is. But it was also Band's job to make sure no one wasted Clinton's time. In short, he was the gatekeeper, the handler, the problem-solver. Like a royal valet, it was his job to anticipate the president's needs before he even articulated them.

Band recognized what throne-sniffers have known for millennia: Proximity to power can be lucrative.

When Clinton's reputation was in tatters at the end of his presidency, thanks mostly to the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Clinton's outrageous midnight pardons of felons and friends, Band turned down a job at Goldman Sachs to stay with Clinton. Equipped with a law degree he earned at night, Band was like Tom Hagen in "The Godfather" -- a lawyer with a "very special practice" handling exactly one client.

It was Band's idea to launch the Clinton Global Initiative, an amorphous pseudo-charity adjunct to the Clinton Foundation whose main purpose was to pull together celebrities, CEOs, government officials and various charitable organizations into one giant confab where Bill Clinton was the star attraction.

The appeal for Clinton was obvious. He loves talking. He loves riffing on wonky solutions -- real and alleged -- to various public-policy problems. He also adores hobnobbing with the rich and famous and being praised by them. And he has a deep-seated need to be relevant.

Band recognized that all of these needs could be monetized, and that he could get his cut. In the memo released by WikiLeaks, he explained how he did it. If you wanted a speech, an endorsement, a meeting with the big guy, you had to go through the little guy and pay the appropriate tribute, not just to Clinton but often to the foundation as well.
It's amazing how the Clintons attract these people. And, as Goldberg points out, this was the entire purpose of the Clinton Foundation.
For years I've been making the point that the Clinton Foundation's charitable efforts are both real and misunderstood. They do good things. But, as with the corporations and corrupt monarchies Doug Band squeezed for donations, the good deeds were always a cost center, an overhead necessity like the light bill.

Charity was the price the Clintons had to pay -- to get Bono and Bill Gates to show up, and pay up. The real mission of the Clinton Foundation, including the Clinton Global Initiative, was to keep Bill a global celebrity and maintain the lifestyle to which he felt entitled.

But there was a second purpose.

"Clinton Inc." is the wrong term. House Clinton -- like House Lannister in "Game of Thrones" -- is closer to the mark.

The Clintons always wanted to get back into power, and for a self-styled royal family in exile, the foundation served as a brilliant way to keep all of the retainers, courtiers and henchmen employed -- and the donors engaged -- as they plotted their return. And, sadly, it appears to have worked.

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Here's an interesting report on what Clarence Thomas said at an event at The Heritage Foundation. He answered questions about his relationship with Justice Scalia, writing opinions, and his judicial philosophy. Here are some examples.
7) On improving the judicial confirmation process: “There’s always hope, but this city is broken in some ways. I’ve been here most of my life now, and I think we’ve become very comfortable with not thinking things through and debating them”—and instead trying to “annihilate” the other side.

“We’re destroying our institutions, and we’re undermining them,” he added.

8) On the loss of public confidence in the presidency, Congress, and even the Supreme Court because of politics: “What have we done to gain their confidence? I don’t think people owe us, reflexively, confidence. … You simply try to live up to the oath you took … to show fidelity to the Constitution.”

10) On his tendency not to be intimidated by “stare decisis,” the legal principle of upholding precedent: “Like that is supposed to stop you, like the boogeyman or something.” He added, to applause: “I think the Constitution is the ultimate stare decisis.”

11) On the criticism he attracts for this approach: “Stare decisis I care about, criticism I don’t.”

Even Stephen Colbert is ridiculing the disaster that is Obamacare.

This is the foreign policy idiocy of Donald Trump.
Donald Trump on Thursday criticized rival Hillary Clinton for being too tough on Vladimir Putin, once again raising eyebrows about the Republican candidate's relationship with the Russian president.

Speaking at a rally in Springfield, Ohio, as he kicked off a daylong swing through the battleground state, Trump took issue with Clinton's criticism of the Russian leader, who has been denounced in the West for his military assertiveness and anti-democratic tendencies.

"She speaks very badly of Putin, and I don't think that's smart," Trump told a crowd of thousands, noting that Russia has nuclear weapons.

"How do you speak so badly of someone?" he asked.
Really? Donald Trump wonders how a presidential candidate can speak badly of someone? It's like bizarro Trump.

And I thought the appeal of Trump was that he would speak truth to power. I guess that's his appeal until it isn't.