Monday, November 19, 2007
The Clinton Library- Built on Bribes?
I recall a time either in the last days of the Clinton Administration or shortly afterward when Bill Clinton was being interviewed. (I don't remember who the interviewer was.) Mr Clinton was asked how he envisioned the Clinton Library (not yet built). His answer was (I am paraphrasing) that he envisioned the library as a "beacon of hope" for the poor and dispossessed of the world. My immediate, sarcastic reaction was to imagine a poor homeless beggar on the streets of Calcutta looking into the sky, seeing the shining beacon of the Clinton Library and thinking that a better day was coming. ("Look, Bob! It's the Clinton Library! We're saved!")Yeah, right. Now that the (165 million dollar) library has been built, and certain information has leaked out, the question begs to be asked: How was this library built and on whose money? Consider the following.
The Marc Rich Pardon
In the last days of the Clinton presidency, one of the beneficiaries of a Clinton pardon was the fugitive financier, Marc Rich, subject of an international arrest warrant, but living in Switzerland. The pardon was arranged by Rich's ex-wife, Denise Rich, a comely lady who dropped some $450,000 dollars for the Clinton Library into Bill's lap (and who knows what else).
The pardon was especially controversial since the Justice Department (which was actively trying to capture Rich) had not signed on to the pardon, as is normal procedure. In fact, the pardon caught them completely by surprise. According to an article by the BBC dated 2-10-01, Mrs Rich made 3 donations from July 1998 to May 2000. Mr Rich was pardoned on Clinton's last day in office. Mrs Rich subsequently took the 5th Amendment before Congress. Also taking the 5th was the finance chair of the Democratic Party, Beth Dozoretz, who was involved in brokering the pardon.
Pardon of Rick Hendrick
An article in the Charlotte Observer dated 2-27-2001 by Peter Wallsten reported on Rick Hendrick, a Charlotte car dealer, who had pleaded guilty in a bribery case and was later pardoned by Clinton and the possible connection to a donation made to the Clinton Library by Hendrick. In his pardon application, Hendrick reportedly included a reference from his longtime friend and Bank of America CEO, Hugh McCall Jr., also a political ally of Clinton. Hendrick's pardon was issued on December 22, less than 3 weeks after the Bank of America Foundation made a $500,000 donation to the Clinton Library. According to the story, Hendrick's lawyer denied any connection between the donation and the pardon.
This venture group was founded by Gary Winnick and three other associates in 1997. In spite of its rapid rise worldwide, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankrupcy in January, 2002, one of the biggest bankruptcies in American history (see Wikipedia). In the aftermath, Winnick's profligate spending habits came under scrutiny. It has been reported that Winnick was instrumental in helping former DNC chairman and Clinton crony, Terry McAuliffe of turning a $100,000 investment into a $18,000,000 profit. McAuliffe sold his shares of Globing Crossing shortly before the company went bankrupt. Along the way, Winnick reportedly contributed $1,000,000 to the Clinton Library.
Lerach was involved with an unscrupulous securities firm called Milberg Weiss, which has been indicted as a "racketeering enterprise", and which engaged in perjury, bribery, fraud and obstruction of justice while representing phony clients who claimed to have been cheated as investors (see syndicated column by George Will dated 11-19 07). Lerach has recently pleaded guilty and is facing jail time, according to Will's column. (He was, until his plea, a fundraiser for John Edwards.) More importantly to this article, Lerach was another one of those famous Lincoln Bedroom guests during the Clinton Administration and contributed $100,000 to the Clinton Library fund. According to Will's article, shortly after Lerach's visit to a White House dinner, Clinton vetoed a bill that would have restricted class action lawsuits.
The Middle East Donations
According to an article in the New York Sun by Josh Gerstein on 11-22-04, the library also received donations in the millions from members of the Saudi royal family, as well as the governments of Dubai, Kuwait and Qatar. Though Clinton is now out of office, some speculate that these entities are contributing due to the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency beginning in 2009. (Foreign governments are prohibited from giving to a campaign in the US, but there is no such prohibition on giving to a presidential library.)
In spite of all the questions (or perhaps because of the questions), the Clinton Library has, to this point, not opened its records as to the contributors who helped build the library. (Presidential libraries are built by private donations, not public funds, and there is no legal requirement to identify donors.) According to the above-mentioned BBC article, Congress, in its investigation of the pardons, wanted to obtain a donor list for the library, which Clinton attorney lawyer, David Kendall resisted. A compromise was eventually reached, by which a partial donor list was provided.
In an article in the Chicago Tribune by Mike Dorning dated 11-12-07, almost 3 years after its opening, only a few records have been opened for the public's inspection at the Clinton Library. This, of course, also includes any records pertaining to Mrs Clinton's involvement in the Administration that she continually quotes as qualifying experience in her quest for the presidency. According to the article, only 23 requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act have been granted (out of a total of 397 requests). These requests would also help clear up questions of monies paid to Hillary's brothers, Hugh and Tony Rodham by recipients of Clinton pardons.
To be perfectly honest, I don't much care for the idea of presidential libraries to begin with. The idea is good, to be a source of valuable historical research, but it seems that many of these places exist for the primary reason of immortalizing and glorifying the particular president in question. That they would also be a method of accepting money for political favors and pardons is really troubling. I don't doubt that many of the contributions came from people of good intentions. The Clinton Library, however, reminds me of so many of those luxury hotels built in Mexico on drug money.