Obama's inner circle and Iranian influence
David Plouffe (rhymes with 'fluff") is one of the most powerful unelected officials in the United States, "a key member of Obama's inner circle, a confidant whose desk is just steps from the Oval Office," according to the liberal Washington Post. Plouffe is also a rich man, who got that way as a result of his political activities, including accepting a cool hundred grand for 2 speeches to a company deeply in bed with the Iranian government, a company which supplied technology to the mullahs quite useful in repressing the Green Revolution in 2009.
This looks very, very bad. And it is the tip of the iceberg on the (so far) unreported story of how the Obama inner circle of Chicago political operatives have managed to become rich in politics.
Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post have uncovered some of the details of how Plouffe enriched himself between stints electing Obama in 2008, and joining the White House staff in 2010.
The company that funneled $100,000 to Plouffe a month before he formally joined the White House staff (get it while you can!) is MTN Group, a South African telecom company that operates in Nigeria and has a joint venture in Iran with a company said to be owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the storm troopers of the mullahs.
That did not concern Plouffe at all during the feeding frenzy between stints working for Obama. The Post reports:
Plouffe's role in the 2008 Obama campaign made him a sought-after speaker for political insiders and corporate conferences around the world. In 2009 and 2010, he delivered dozens of paid speeches and signed a book deal reportedly worth seven figures.
At 50 grand per speech, "dozens" of speeches would make him a multi-millionaire, not to mention the million dollars-plus from a book deal. Having heard Plouffe speak on television a number of times, I can safely say that he is far from a electrifying speaker. So, a company or interest group offering him fifty large for an hour or so of hot air is buying something other than a mesmerizing experience for its guests.
Anyone seriously concerned with serving American national security interests would have plenty of reasons to avoid the payroll of a company like MTN. The Post reports:
In 2006, Stuart Levey, then undersecretary of the Treasury and the point man on Iran sanction enforcement in the Bush administration - a job he also held for two years under Obama - told Turkish officials that Irancell was "fully owned" by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to a State Department cable made public by the anti-secrecy groupWikiLeaks.
The corps led a crackdown on protesters after the June 2009 presidential election in Iran and has long been accused of playing a central role in the country's nuclear program. Some of its officers and business interests have been targeted by U.S. and U.N. sanctions intended to curb Iran's nuclear program dating back to 2006.
There was no doubt that MTN had plenty of red flags:
MTN Group's operations in Iran had been documented in the U.S. and foreign news media. For instance, in November 2005, Reuters reported that MTN and Irancell had won a license from the Iranian government to run the cellular service there. A May 2008 New York Times articlequoted financial analysts suggesting that a proposed merger between MTN Group and another company could face obstacles from U.S. regulators because of MTN's business in Iran. An August 2009 article in the Los Angeles Times said Irancell had warned customers about "technical" problems during days of expected unrest; the article identified MTN as a co-owner of the cellular operator.
The big clue that this is something serious can be found in the White House's pathetic response:
The White House on Sunday hinged its response in part on the activities of a prominent watchdog group, United Against Nuclear Iran. White House officials noted that the group did not start a public campaign against MTN Group until this year. "Seems like if MTN was a notable public problem in 2010, they might have started their campaign then," the White House said in an e-mail to The Post.
Mark Wallace, the chief executive of United Against Nuclear Iran, said Sunday: "MTN was a charter member of UANI's target list - the Iran Business Registry - launched in 2009. We hope Mr. Plouffe will use his considerable influence to urge President Obama to enact a full economic blockade of Iran so that companies like MTN will no longer be able to operate there."
The best they can come up with is a false claim that some private group did not raise a stink.
The hard fact is that Obama and the people aroudn him have cashed in on their political positions bigtime. When Barack and Michelle wanted to buy a mansion in Hyde Park that they could not afford, in stepped Tony Rezko (now a convicted felon serving time) to buy the yard (in a separate transaction for a big price), enabling thre Obamas to buy a big mansion on a spacious lot for hundreds of thousands of dollars less than the original asking price. Only when a public stink was raised was a fence constructed to separate the house from the yard itself, now called a "vacant lot." At the time of the purchase, it was a manicured side lawn of a majestic recently-renovated mansion.
The Chicago Gang around Obama has not hesitated to cash in. If the Romney campaign is doing its homework, there are other scandals yet to be uncovered regarding the Obama inner circle getting suspiciously rich while ostensibly devoting themselves to "public service."
One great virtue of Mitt Romney is that he doesn't have to politically prostitute himself for cash. He made his money by building businesses like Staples. I am old enough to remember when JFK ran for president, and Democrats assured the public that the fact that his father was rich meant that Kennedy could afford to be honest. That is an argument that could be made for Mitt in spades, because his fortune was not based on bootlegging and securities fraud, the way the Kennedy fortune was made.