It's baaack! Just when you thought it was safe, we are back at Whitewater. If Hillary and her attack pack want to play the Rezko card, let's all strap on some waders, because now we're forced to wade through the Whitewater mud again.
Clinton claimed Obama represented Tony Rezko. Obama never represented Rezko. Never. Ever.According to the Washington Post:
"William Miceli, Obama's supervisor at the law firm, said the firm represented the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp., a nonprofit group that redeveloped a run-down property on Chicago's South Side with Rezko. He called Clinton's assertion that Obama represented Rezko in a slum landlord business 'categorically untrue. He was a very junior lawyer at the time, who was given responsibility for basic due diligence, document review,' said Miceli, adding that Obama did what he was told by the firm. According to Miceli, that was the only time Obama worked on a Rezko-related project while at the law firm...But investigations by Chicago newspapers have not produced evidence that he represented Rezko in a slum landlord business. What has been demonstrated so far is that he did some due diligence legal work for a joint venture between Rezko and a Chicago nonprofit. Two Pinocchios for Clinton."
FactCheck.org says "Obama was associated with a law firm that represented the community groups working with Rezko on several deals. There's no evidence that Obama spent much time on them, and he never represented Rezko directly. So it was wrong for Clinton to say he was 'representing ... Rezko.' That's untrue."Obama did work for non-profit community groups associated with Rezko's firm. The Chicago Tribune says:
"Obama angrily rejected Clinton's accusation at Monday's Democratic debate. And a Tribune review of land and court documents and law firm files as well as correspondence and other records related to Obama's eight years as an Illinois state lawmaker supports his contention that he did not directly represent Rezko's development firm. Instead, the records show, he represented non-profit community groups that partnered with Rezko's firm." (Registration Required)
In fact, Obama had "unusually frank ethics disclosure reports" and Obama represented the non-profit partner:
"At the Tribune's request, Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans produced a list of all 260 civil and criminal cases in which the firm filed appearances, and the Tribune separately examined 1990s lawsuits that Rezmar Corp. listed in applications for government grants. The paper also examined files from the Illinois Housing Development Authority and the city housing department, as well as the hundreds of clients Obama listed in the unusually frank ethics disclosure reports he filed as a state senator from December 1995 through April 2004. Those and other records disclosed five instances in which Obama did legal work for ventures that included Rezmar Corp. The case of City of Chicago vs. Central Woodlawn Limited Partnership is one example. In 1992, that community group partnered with Rezmar Corp. to rehab the former slum apartment building at 6107-6115 S. Ellis Ave. As work was ongoing, city officials sued the developers, alleging 16 serious code violations at the property, including a dangerously dilapidated porch. Obama and a co-counsel filed appearances in February 1994, but the court records show they appeared on behalf of Central Woodlawn, Rezko's non-profit partner, not Rezko or his company."
Guess what? According to billing records, Obama worked for the non-profit for 5 - 7 hours mainly filling out incorporation papers for the group. Oh, the humanity! That's a little less than one day of "billable" work for many law firms for associates. Less than one day!
Speaking of billing records! Billing records bring us back to Whitewater and the Rose Law Firm. While Obama spent less than one day working for a non-profit, let's take a look at Hillary "The Inevitable" Esq.'s legal career. What's good for the gander is good for the goose.
Let's just look at her law firm "experience".
"The ultimate establishment law firm" the Rose law firm is oldest law firm west of the Mississippi River and the third-oldest in the United States.
The Rose firm hired Hillary after Bill Clinton became the attorney general of Arkansas, then she made partner after he became governor. What a coinkydink, huh? Along with the coinkydink that the State of Arkansas was one the Rose Law firm's biggest clients.
Putting aside her infamous "Let Them Eat Rat" case:
It didn't hurt that Hillary was the wife of a sitting state attorney general. Hillary insisted that "steps have been taken" to ensure that no conflict of interest would take place, but the fact remained that Rose represented the most powerful interests in the region - from real estate and retail to banking and manufacturing. Rose counted legislators, congressmen, state supreme court justices -- not to mention a former member of the United States Senate - among its partners. Yet partner Herb Rule had to concede that, as the influential wife of a future governor and President, Hillary stood out as "a prize catch."
Plus she was a real rainmaker!
Hillary, for one, thought the arrangement was just fine. In 1977, President Carter rewarded Hillary for her help in Indiana [where she had worked on his campaign] with an appointment to the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a federally funded nonprofit organization established by Congress. When she was asked during her Senate confirmation hearings whether the Rose Law Firm would recuse itself from cases involving organizations that received money from the LSC, Hillary waffled. In the end, she would not say yes.
While she continued to rack up hefty fees at her Arkansas law firm, Hillary oversaw an LSC budget that swelled from $90 million to $321 million--money that was used, among other things, to try to defeat California's tax-cutting Proposition 9, get Medicare to pay for a welfare recipient's sex-change operation, and support legal efforts in Michigan to give standing to "Black English" (Ebonics) as a separate language. In the final days of the Carter administration, the LSC would frantically dole out $260 million in taxpayer funds to various liberal causes in an effort to keep the money out of the hands of incoming Reagan appointees.
The General Accounting Office would issue a report on the LSC under Hillary Rodham and conclude that "many of the people associated with it are uniquely reprehensible."
I guess it takes a President to sign an Ebonics bill into law!
But back to the Hillary's billing records. According to the "vast-right wing conspiracy" group PBS, here's what her billing records reveal:
Ms. Clinton and her attorney have stated publicly that the billing records confirm that, as an attorney at the Rose Firm in the mid-80's, she was not significantly involved in the representation of Jim McDougal's savings and loan, Madison Guaranty.
According to the Rose records, Hillary Clinton billed Madison for 60 hours of work over a 15 month period. Ms. Clinton's attorney argues that this represents a de minimus amount of work and includes billings for work performed by Rose Finn lawyers working for Hillary Clinton at the time.
Got that? Hillary's own lawyer says 60 hours over 15 months is a de minimus amount of work. De minimus is lawyer speak for bupkis. Makes you wonder how he'd describe 5 - 7 hours?
But Whitewater investigators believe that the billing records show significant representation. They argue that the records prove that Ms. Clinton was not only directly involved in the representation of Madison, but more specifically, in providing legal work on the fraudulent Castle Grande land deal.
In particular, investigators zeroed in on the individual billings, including a dozen calls and meetings with Seth Ward, the individual whom regulators determined was a "straw man" in the Castle Grande deal. These contacts occurred during a period of time, including early 1986, that Ward was engaged in efforts to obtain sales commissions from McDougal that would later tip regulators to illegalities at Castle Grande.
Of particular interest to investigators has been Ms. Clinton's work on an option agreement drafted to provide Seth Ward with some $300,000 in commissions on the re-sale of his holdings at Castle Grande. Regulators determined that the option agreement was principally designed to further obfuscate and hide the fraudulent nature of the underlying Castle Grande transactions.
The records also identified what investigators believe was a significant phone call on April 7, 1986 between Ms. Clinton and then-Madison loan officer Don Denton. When questioned by investigators about the call, Denton remembered speaking with Ms. Clinton about efforts to provide Ward with his commissions. According to their conversation, Denton believes that Ms.Clinton was familiar with the nature of the transaction -- again, a transaction that investigators believe was intended to deceive financial regulators.
And just where were those now infamous billing records?! Wait for it.
Investigators have examined the Rose billing records not only to determine the role Hillary Clinton may have played in the Castle Grande transactions, but more significantly to ascertain her role in their mysterious disappearance and subsequent reappearance.
If someone had knowledge or possession of the billing records and knew that they were the subject of Federal investigative subpoenas, their failure to divulge or turn over the records could be the basis for criminal charges -- the obstruction of justice.
The billing records found in Hillary Clinton's book room were a copy of an original version printed out from the Rose Firm computer in 1992, when the computer file itself was deleted. Webb Hubbell has testified that he recalls reviewing a copy of the billing records in response to press inquiries during the 1992 Presidential campaign. Hubbell says that he then passed the records on to Vince Foster who was, as far as Hubbell knows, the last person to have the records.
Investigators believe the book room copy was indeed Vince Foster's. The copy contains notations, in red ink, that are Vince Foster's handwriting. These notations appear to be directed toward Hillary Clinton, including questions about some of the individual billings. Investigators believe this suggests that, at some point, this copy was passed from Vince Foster to Hillary Clinton for her review.
In addition, investigators had the FBI conduct fingerprint analysis of the billing records. Of significance, the prints of Vince Foster and Hillary Clinton were found.
The Senate Whitewater Committee concluded that Hillary Clinton was the person most likely to have put the billing records in her book room, or know how they got there. The Independent Counsel continues to investigate Ms. Clinton's involvement in handling the records.
For her part, Hillary Clinton has said that she has no idea how the billing records came to be in her book room.
Remember the old adage that when pointing one finger at someone, you're pointing three back at yourself?
Do we really want to go back to the future? Personally, I'd like to go Barack to the future.
Follow Karen Russell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Karen_Russell