OK, so last week Paul Manafort was indicted in the RussiaGate investigation, which I wrote about here in these pages and for Politico. But as it turns out, though you probably already knew or sensed this, there is at least one other other prominent political figure who has problems with foreign lobbyists and corruption: you guessed it, Hillary Clinton.
Manafort, as I have written about previously, is accused of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which is a complete joke. The law was enacted in 1938, but it’s been under-enforced or not enforced at all for ages. But guess who else might have a few issues — and far worse ones, it seems — in terms of foreign lobbyists, according to this under-appreciated Wikileaks email. That’s right: Hillary.
Before going further, a big hat tip to Charles Ortel, the brilliant researcher who has done more than anyone to expose the Clinton Foundation pay-to-play scam and who brought the Wikileaks email to my attention.
Here’s my complete, slightly edited email interview/exchange I had with him on the topic:
Charles: Worth considering this [Wikileaks email and link] in context of the campaign evolution as well as Manafort/Gates indictments.
Me: What specifically? What’s key takeaway?
Charles: This is thinking of top Clinton people about risks posed taking campaign money from bundlers who also worked with foreign principals — foreign principals (governments, parties, and companies) who likely overpay “legitimate” recipients for services who then can route portions from U.S. pockets to campaigns.
[Director of Communications for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign] Jen Palmieri responds “Take the money.”
Imagine how awful life would be had that team won….jeepers!
So what exactly do these Wikileaks email say? Give me a few minutes….
OK, this is pretty interesting. The 2015 email chain — between a few officials, including Palmieri, laughingstock Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and Hillary’s long-suffering top aide and Anthony Weiner spouse Huma Abedin — had a subject line of “Foreign Registered Agents.” Here’s part of it:
Following up on the call from 9:30. The policy would be to not allow any currently registered foreign agents (those who register with FARA) to contribute or raise for the campaign. If someone terminates their registration, they would be allowed to contribute or raise for the campaign.
From: Dennis Cheng
Hi all – we do need to make a decision on this ASAP as our friends who happen to be registered with FARA are already donating and raising. I do want to push back a bit (it’s my job!): I feel like we are leaving a good amount of money on the table (both for primary and general, and then DNC and state parties)… and how do we explain to people that we’ll take money from a corporate lobbyist but not them; that the Foundation takes $ from foreign govts but we now won’t. Either way, we need to make a decision soon.
From: Robby Mook
Where do we draw the line though?
From: Marc Elias
Responding to all on this. I was not on the call this morning, but I lean away from a bright line rule here. It seems odd to say that someone who represents Alberta, Canada can’t give, but a lobbyist for Phillip Morris can. Just as we vet lobbyists case by case, I would do the same with FARA. While this may lead to a large number of FARA registrants being denied, it would not be a flat our ban. A total ban feels arbitrary and will engender the same eye-rolling and ill will that it did for Obama.
From: Marc Elias
If we do it case by case, then it will be subjective. We would look at who the donor is and what foreign entity they are registered for. In judging whether to take the money, we would consider the relationship between that country and the United States, its relationship to the State Department during Hillary’s time as Secretary, and its relationship, if any, to the Foundation. In judging the individual, we would look at their history of support for political candidates generally and Hillary’s past campaigns specifically. Put simply, we would use the same criteria we use for lobbyists, except with a somewhat more stringent screen. As a legal matter, I am not saying we have to do this – we can decide to simply ban foreign registrants entirely. I’m just offering this up as a middle ground.
Hi all – we really need to make a final decision on this. We’re getting to the point of no return…
Marc made a convincing case to me this am that these sorts of restrictions don’t really get you anything…that Obama actually got judged MORE harshly as a result. He convinced me. So…in a complete U-turn, I’m ok just taking the money and dealing with any attacks. Are you guys ok with that?
From: Jennifer Palmieri
Take the money!!