Now that's what one might call a heckuva coincidence. A handful of weeks ago, Bill Clinton disentangles his investment partnership with billionaire Ron Burkle, producing an estimated $20 million windfall. And now we learn that the suddenly flush Clintons are loaning Hillary's campaign $5 million from their joint assets to bridge it through a funding rough patch.
Talk about windfalls. This is a veritable bonanza not only for enterprising reporters and snoopy researchers, but also for any Republican candidate that could potentially face Hillary in November -- if she wins the nomination. That is, if she doesn't first drown in a sea of sleaze of her own making.
This newest episode in the Clinton finances opens up a field of questions that could make Whitewater and Hillary's long-forgotten but near-magical touch in commodity trading look like kid's stuff. And with a lot of time to kill between now and November, there's going to plenty of opportunity to rake through it all. Make that, parse through it, as it is the Clintons we're talking about.
It puts front and center the question of just how rich are the Clintons, and how did they get so rich? Current estimates of their joint wealth range from $10 million up to $50 million or more, a long way to come from when they first got married and they struggled to make the $14,000 mortgage on their first modest Arkansas home.
Quite a nice pay-off for a supposed career of 35 years, as Hillary repeats every day, "working to bring positive change to people's lives." While Clinton touts her decision to come out of law school and work not for Wall Street but rather for the Children's Defense Fund, the truth is that she spent only a year there. (And then omitted her mentor Marian Wright Edelman from among the 400 others she mentions in the acknowledgemets of her autobiography because Edelman had broken with her when Bill Clinton abolished the federal welfare saftey net in 1996).
For half of her professional career Clinton really worked not at all for The Little People, but rather for Arkansas'most elite business-connected law firm, representing big corporations and serving on their boards.
In fairness, though, the bulk of the money earned by the Clintons has been acquired since Big Dawg left office and started socking away huge book, speaker and, um, consulting fees. Indeed, their entire fortune has been made since leaving the White House. Renting out the Lincoln Bedroom was but a Ma and Pa operation compared to what came in its wake.
Let's be very clear about this. We're not just talking about Bill cashing in by smoking some cigars and telling some good stories to a bunch of banquet goers. It also means such smelly deals as him serving as an "advisor" to Dubai, when he coached their government on how to swing a port deal with the U.S. (that failed). That's after the oil sheiks shelled out $300,000 in 2002 to have Bill address one of their summits (There was also a direct link between Dubai and the investment fund with which Burkle and Clinton were partnered).
Then there was that revoltingly sleazy little deal revealed by The New York Times in which the former president served as a broker/fixer between a Canadian mining entrepreneur and the dictator of Kazakhstan, greasing through a multi-billion dollar uranium deal. Mr. Clinton's fee? A previously undisclosed "donation" of more than $30 million to his charitable Clinton Foundation from the grateful Canadian capitalist.
A honcho at a Canadian bank specialized in mining said the deal was a result of a "fantastic network" with Bill Clinton at its top.
None of this illegal, we think. And the money given to Clinton's foundation is not supposed to be the same personal funding that was used as a bridge loan to Hillary's campaign. And there's nothing against the law about a former president serving as a high-end errand boy for Arab Sheiks. Nor is it illegitimate to make a stack of dough fronting for dictators, pushing ghost-written books, or serving as hired jester for private corporate banquets. Except with the Clintons, of course, there's always the slippery questions of definition. Whose money is whose? Where does Bill's end and Hillary's begin? What's the line between personal funding and political funding? Charitable versus political donations?
One might also argue that what Bill does is not necessarily what Hillary does. Except that Hillary has based her entire campaign on being a faithful offshoot of his legacy.
What we know for certain is this: When Barack Obama said yesterday that we can expect Republicans to find a "whole dump truck" of dirt on Hillary, he knew what he was talking about. She just pumped $5 million worth of fuel into its tank.
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