by Greg Palast
Palast is the author of Armed Madhouse, released last week in a new, expanded edition, in paperback - the newest addition to the New York Times list of non-fiction bestsellers.
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Before his untimely death in a plane crash, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown said, "I'm not Hillary's mother-f****** tour guide!"
That wasn't a nice thing for a member of the President's cabinet to say about the First Lady, now my Senator, Hillary Clinton.
And it's probably not polite for me to bring it up now. But if I don't, surely the Karl Rovarians will - if Senator Mrs. Clinton nails the Presidential nomination.
Bill Clinton used to say that, once he became president, he finally earned more money than his wife. That was a carefully crafted bit of modesty to show Bill as an aw-shucks regular guy versus Richie Rich-kid George Bush.
But Bill's cute remark raised a question in my mind: How did Hillary get that big ol' salary? And another question arises: how has she stayed out of prison?
The story's a little complicated, involving a New Orleans power company, Indonesian billionaires, a New York nuclear plant and plain old influence peddling. But if we follow the money, we'll get the picture. And it ain't pretty.
But first, let's stop at Wal-Mart. Read an official biography of the Senator and you'll find her six-month stint on a child-protection task force. Yet you won't find her SIX YEARS on the board of directors of Wal-Mart Corporation. She may have earned a Grammy for "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child." But it takes a Governor's wife to provide cover for Wal-Mart's profiteering off systematic wage-enslavement of children in its factories in South America.
Sam Walton called Hillary, "My little lady." Sam paid her an eyebrow raising sum for a director - equal to 60% of her entire not-insubstantial salary as a lawyer. By contrast, Wendy Diaz (her real name), a 13-year-old in Honduras, was paid 25 cents an hour to make shirts for the "little lady's" label.
Hillary's rake-in was made possible by Wal-Mart's 100% union-free operation and out-sourcing of 100% of its manufacturing, some to prison factories in China. Now, you could say that Hillary couldn't hear the screams of the kiddies in Kamp Wal-Mart in Honduras. After all, she relied on the intelligence provided her by the President (of Wal-Mart).
Fast forward to 1994 and the Brown 'mother-f'ing tour guide' business. According to Nolanda Hill, the Commerce Secretary's long-time business partner and love interest, Brown, who died in 1996, endorsed a Hillary cash-for-access scheme ($10,000 for coffee with the President, $100,000 for a night in the Lincoln bedroom). However, Brown resented the discount rate the First Lady put on US executives joining Brown's lucrative trade missions. 'I'm worth more than $50,000 a pop!' he said.
One company more than happy to pony up for a cash joy-ride with Brown was Entergy International. This electric company, based in Little Rock, became one of the world's biggest power system operators on the planet under the Clinton regime. Interestingly, Bill Clinton began his political climb by running for Arkansas Attorney General campaigning on a pledge to fight Entergy's electric price hikes. His pro-consumer plan was defeated in court by Entergy's law firm - which included one Hillary Rodham.
There were more favors for Entergy. In 1998, I discovered, while working under cover for the Guardian and Observer, that Tony Blair was personally fixing the system to let Entergy to violate British policy on coal plants. Why? I picked up in my secret recordings of Blair's cronies that calls to take care of Entergy, rules be damned, had come in from the office of 'the Flotus' - the First Lady of the United States.
It gets creepier. In June of 1994, Entergy's partner in Asia, the Riady family of Indonesia paid recently-resigned Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell a $100,000 consulting fee. Odd that: Hubbell was on his way to prison for the felony crime of inflating his legal bills. Why would Asians pay a lawyer for advice on Asia who was on his way to the pokey?
Maybe it had to do with his partner in crime. I've conducted investigations of lawyer over-billing. It is nearly impossible for a senior lawyer to pad billing records unless the junior partner also fraudulently monkeys with time logs to make sure the records don't give away the game. Who was Hubbell's "little lady" junior partner? Today we call her Madame Senator.
Hillary's logs were worth close inspection by authorities, no? But the funny thing about Hillary's billing records: when requested for disclosure in another suit, they disappeared. First, her law firm's computers went ka-blooey. Then the paper printouts vanished, but not before, during the 1992 Presidential campaign, they were secretly combed over, line by line, by … Web Hubbell.
Hubbell knew his own logs were phonied, and he understood the consequences of exposure. Ultimately, bloated hours on those records caused him to lose his law license, his Associate Attorney General post and his freedom. He got 21 months in the slammer.
What did Hubbell see and know about Hillary's logs? Hubbell won't say, except for a cryptic remark, after seeing her bills, that 'every lawyer' fabricates records. Hubbell pleaded guilty, but refused to answer investigators' questions, a requirement in any plea bargain - so the judge had to sentence him to prison.
Why would Hubbell choose to do time on the chain gang over testifying about the First Lady? His prosecutors did not know at the time of the $100,000 Riady payment, the first of over half a million dollars Hubbell would receive from Clinton friends in the weeks up to his entering jail.
And those Hillary billing records? Hubbell lost them - how convenient. Then they reappeared two years later, just outside Hillary's office, right after Hubbell announced he would refuse to testify against her.
Maybe the Clintons knew nothing about the big money flowing to prison-bound Hubbell. Knowledge of the payments would suggest they were buying Hubbell's silence. In 1996, when the LA Times uncovered the payments, Mrs. Clinton's First Man Bill stone-cold denied he knew anything about it.
Then, in 2000, in a deposition by the Justice Department, the President changed his tune. Investigators confronted the President with this: on June 20, 1994, Hubbell met with Hillary. Two days later, James Riady, the Asian billionaire Entergy partner, met with Hubbell for breakfast. Just a few hours later, Riady returned to the White House, then met again with Hubbell, then made two more treks to the White House. Two days later, a videotape shows the beginning of another meeting in the Oval Office between Clinton and Riady -- but oddly, before they talk, the tape goes blank. Two days after that, Hubbell gets his $100,000 through a Riady bank.
Lying to journalists is a venal sin, but lying to the Feds is perjury. In his deposition, the President's denial transformed into amnesia. He couldn't remember if Riady mentioned the payment. Then, the President slyly opened the door to the truth. "I wouldn't be surprised if James told me," Clinton said. Neither would I.
What did Riady get? The Flotus herself, says Nolanda Hill, forced Brown to accept the appointment of Riady's bag man, John Huang, as a Commerce Department deputy. According to records of calls the Guardian obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, Huang's first order of business was to wheedle his way into confidential CIA briefings on Indonesia and China, then call Riady and his Entergy partners.
The same day Riady met the President, documents show he called on a Clinton crony at the top of the department's Export-Import Bank. "We just came over from the Oval Office," is a nice way to provide assurance of the 'political connection' required for help. These and other Riady team meetings at Commerce are marked 'social'. Yet, shortly thereafter, the department agreed to promote and fund the Riady-Entergy China venture.
Influence is not a victimless crime. Riady and his minions' visits to the White House (94 times!) included successful requests for the President to meet Indonesian dictator Suharto and to kill negative reports on East Timor and working conditions in Indonesia. Timorese and Indonesians paid for these policy flips with blood.
Has Entergy's investment in Hillary's jail-bird partner continued to pay dividends?
Code Pink and New York environmentalists have been pulling out their hair over Senator Clinton's backing of the operation of the creaky old Indian Point nuclear plant just above - and within irradiating distance of - New York City. The owner of the Indian Point nuke? Hillary's old buck buddies, Entergy.
Am I saying Hillary would arrange for a payoff to keep witnesses silent, to poison US foreign policy for the profit of corporate cronies, to vote in Washington loaded down with conflicts of interest? I would never say so. Even if the evidence will.
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, ARMED MADHOUSE: From Baghdad to New Orleans -- Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild. "A masterpiece" (Robert F. Kennedy Jr.). "America's top investigative reporter and the funniest" (Randi Rhodes). "Palast's stories bite - so relevant they threaten to alter history" (Chicago Tribune). "Palast ... is twisted and maniacal" (Katherine Harris). www.GregPalast.com