SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary Clinton’s Life of Crime

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Bill and Hillary Clinton “earned” — can a mortal earn such stratospheric sums? — “at least $30 million over the last 16 months, mainly from giving paid speeches to corporations, banks and other organizations,” The New York Times reports. “They have now earned more than $125 million on the [lecture] circuit since leaving the White House in 2001.”

This is an important issue. But the big story has little to with what actually matters.

Coverage of the Clintons’ spectacularly lucrative speaking career has focused on how it affects Hillary’s 2016 presidential campaign — specifically the political damage caused by the public’s growing perception that Hillary is out of touch with the common man and woman. It is a promising line of inquiry for her detractors (myself included).

Hillary is out of touch. She hasn’t been behind the wheel of an automobile for nearly 20 years, is a multi-multi-millionaire who nevertheless considered herself “dead broke” and still believes that she and her husband are not among “the truly well off.” (Maybe Bill still drives.) Ostentatious wealth coupled with tonedeafness didn’t help Mitt “47%” Romney in 2012, or John “I can’t remember how many houses I own” McCain in 2008 — and they were Republicans, a party that gleefully despises the poor and jobless. For a Democrat under heavy fire from her party’s progressive base — with Elizabeth Warren, Bill di Blasio and Bernie Sanders leading the charge — this stuff could be politically fatal.

But the media ought to focus on the real issue. FDR was wealthy, yet he created the social safety net as we know it (what’s left of it, anyway). JFK and RFK came from money, yet no one doubted their commitment to help the downtrodden. Liberals distrust Hillary due to her and her husband’s long record of kowtowing to Wall Street bankers and transnational corporations, supporting jobs-killing “free trade” agreements, backing the NSA’s intrusions into our privacy, and as an unrepentant militarist. Her progressivism appears to have died with her law career.

Conflict of interest: that’s why we should be concerned about all those $250,000 speeches.

The big question is: why do corporations and banks shell out a quarter of a million dollars for a Hill Talk?

Corporations and banks don’t pay big bucks to Hillary Clinton because they’re dying to hear what she has to say. After having been front and center on the national political scene for a quarter century, she and Bill don’t have new insights to share. And even if I’m wrong — even if you’re a CEO and you’re dying to learn her ultimate (new) recipe for baking cookies — you don’t have to invite her to speak to your company to get the dish. You can ask one of your CEO pals who already had her speak at his firm — or pay to attend one of the zillions of other lectures she gives.

This is not about Hillary’s message.

Corporations and banks bribe the Clintons to buy political favors. The speaking racket is a (flimsy) cover.

Like, there’s the time Goldman Sachs paid $200,000 for a Bill Talk a few months before the financial conglomerate lobbied Hill when she was secretary of state. At least 13 companies paid Bill and Hill at least $2.5 million in similar sleazy deals.

Those are just the brazen quid pro quo deals.

Among the companies that have lined Hillary’s pockets over the last 16 months are “a mix of corporations (GE, Cisco, Deutsche Bank), medical and pharmaceutical groups (the California Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association), and women’s organizations like the Commercial Real Estate Women Network,” the Times says. “Mr. Clinton’s speeches included a number of talks for financial firms, including Bank of America and UBS, as well as technology companies like Microsoft and Oracle.”

GE, Cisco and Deutsche Bank aren’t run by idiots. Nor are lobbying groups like the female realtors. Their boards know that Hillary may well become president. Even if she loses, those bribes — er, speaking fees — are a smart investment in DC influence. The Clintons have strong ties at the highest levels of the Democratic Party establishment and on Wall Street. If you’re GE, it makes sense to make nice with people whose help you might want someday, so they’re likelier to pick up the phone when you call to, say, grease the skids for a merger in danger of getting derailed by antitrust laws.

Laws governing the sale of political access are relatively clear, but rarely enforced. The ethics, however, are simple: honest people don’t take money from people they may be charged with governing or regulating in the future.

“Behind every great fortune,” Balzac maintained, “lies a crime.” If there were any justice, the Clintons would be in prison for a generation of criminal activity that has left America a corrupted, Third Worldified nation, poorer for having been looted by the companies and banks whose criminality they aided and abetted.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

4 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary Clinton’s Life of Crime

  1. Here’s a column I wrote on my blog in 1999. Nowadays, the bribery law requirres proof of a quid pro quo beyond a reasonable doubt, almost impossible to prove. Hillary is probably not subject to the bribery statute cited below because she has not yet been “selected” to be a public official.

    ****************
    Sunday, November 21, 1999, Jackson. Nestled on page 18A of the Clarion-Ledger [Jackson, MS newspaper owned by Gannett] is the article “Critics: Battle against corruption has collapsed,” recounting the welcoming by congressional staffers of Ann Eppard, former legislative chief of staff for Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa. Eppard had beaten a seven count federal indictment alleging that she accepted illegal gratuities, embezzled campaign funds and filed false federal documents. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of taking illegal compensation and received a $5,000 fine.

    Apparently, the feds had plenty of evidence. There was a problem, however, in getting the conviction. Congress, just a few years prior, changed the illegal gratuities statute to eliminate the receiving of gifts by federal officials as a crime unless it was for something specific, a quid pro quo. If somebody gives an official money or gifts in the general expectation of favorable treatment the recipient is no longer guilty of a crime. 18 U.S.C. §201(c)(1)(A). On April 27 of this year, the U. S. Supreme Court held that Sun-Diamond Growers of California was not criminally liable for giving “anything of value” to former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy unless the prosecutors could make a specific connection between the two matters in which Sun-Diamond had an interest in favorable treatment that were pending before Espy and the gratuities conferred. United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers of California, http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/98-131.ZS.html

    Since the 15th Century, the definition of bribery has remained unchanged: 1. money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust; 2 : something that serves to induce or influence. Merriam-Webster Dictionary There is nothing in the definition that requires a quid pro quo, and indeed, the most insidious form of corruption is not the bestowing of gratuities for specific favors to be done, but the unspoken assumption that the official’s real constituent is the giver, rather than the public, which is the legal and moral beneficiary of the trust vested in the official. The change in the statute, unnoticed by most of us, is no more or less than a license to give and receive bribes as long as giver and recipient do not agree on specific favors in return for the bribe. The unanimous Sun-Diamond decision virtually guarantees that officials are now immune from prosecution for taking bribes.

    In the case of Eppard, there’s no question that she’s a crook. There is strong evidence that while she was Shuster’s chief of staff, she accepted gratuities, embezzled campaign funds and filed false federal documents. After Shuster became chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure in 1995, she opened Ann Eppard Associates and did extremely well as a transportation lobbyist.

    What’s scary is that she was welcomed back into the halls of Congress like a heroine, as though she had done nothing wrong, by the representatives of the people of the United States. The fact of this reception, rather than the severity of her crimes, or the fact that she merely received a slap on the wrist, indicates not only a serious moral and ethical problem among members of the House of Representatives and their employees, but a serious moral and ethical problem among the voters who elected them. Apparently Schuster wasn’t worried about retribution from the electorate.

    When The Jackson Progressive first came on line, our philosophy emphasized our responsibility as citizens. Where is our responsibility in all this? What should we do? Here are our initial suggestions: 1. Write your congressman and senators and tell them that you are outraged over this matter — that public servants, as a condition of holding their position, have no business receiving one nickel, for whatever reason, from anyone except the taxpayers; 2. Convince your friends to do the same. Unless the power of big money over our elected officials is reduced, our democratic republic will, in only a few years, exist only as a pleasant memory.

  2. Warren has said she strongly supports Hillary. So it looks like Hillary has a 50/50 chance of being our next president. As Whimsical would say, ‘Better Hillary than a Republican.’ Even though Hillary has shown the distance between her and the Republicans is less than 0.01 mm.

    • So tell me, who thinks we’re getting a better deal from BarryHO than we got from Dubya? Dumb crooks are bad, smart crooks are evil. Obama’s going to war-crime locations that Bush would have found beyond the pale.

      DanD

  3. I can honestly say, I have no idea why Hillary polls so well. Are there that many people who either have no idea who she is or are so desperate to have any woman president at all? Or even worse, do they actually find her LIKEABLE?

    I admit I never thought much about the exorbitant speaking fees. It is obvious corruption though.

    As an aside, I can’t help but think of those elite types who claim to be Ayn Rand devotees but have no problems with paying or being paid for access and favors. I can only assume they have never read Atlas Shrugged or are just cynical. Likely both. Another example of ideas and figures who are misappropriated and convoluted for propaganda reasons.

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