By Jaime Ortega.
Wikileaks most recent email release shows Hillary Clinton staff accepted campaign contributions from foreign donors knowing the decision might end in controversy. The email was sent before the democratic nomination between Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Clinton, who took a moral impact on Clinton’s “lobbyist” practices as she claimed to help defend “the middle class” against institutional forces, denying Sander’s allegations that she horned powerful and foreign institutions. Clinton in the past claimed she found lobbying “deeply disturbing”.
However, emails from Dennis Cheng, national finance director for Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign show a starch contrast to Hillary’s public message, and demonstrate that she received campaign contributions from foreign lobbyist.
“We really need to make a policy decision on this soon – whether we are allowing those lobbying on behalf of foreign governments to raise $ for the campaign. Or case by case.” Cheng wrote to his staff.
Karuna Seshasai, whose official role in the campaign is unclear replied to Cheng, that lobbyist for her campaign were also the donors for Clinton’s role as State Secretary.
“I want to add that these folks can also be divided into two categories – those who lobbied while HRC was at State and those who are currently registered,” Seshasai replied to her staff.
Marc. Elias the man in charge of Clinton’s campaign general counsel replied to Cheng and to Seshasai, that lobbying was valid under the conditions of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and implied that it they could case funds from a country like North Korea.
“This is really a straight up political call. One middle option is to take case by case. If, for example, they are FARA registered for Canada, we may not case. If for N. Korea we would,“ Elias replied.
After asking Seshashi to send the full list of email donors, Senshashi used the word “Bundlers” multiple times on her replies.
“Bundlers, who are often corporate CEOs, lobbyists, hedge fund managers or independently wealthy people, are able to funnel far more money to campaigns than they could personally give under campaign finance laws,” according to the definition of Public Citizen, which is a consumer protection non-profit organization based in Washington DC, that targets lobbyist malpractices.
“This is only 23 names of the first 350 prospective bundlers we looked at pre-launch. I anticipate more coming down the pipeline,” Senshahi wrote on her reply.
After a quick lunch break, Senshani immediate follow-up email wrote,” We’re consistently flagging more FARA registrants daily. In terms of # – we’re at 27 out of 370 prospective bundlers – but to Jesse’s question – that does not represent the costs of how much these folks would likely raise. If we were looking at these folks below on a case by case basis, I’d want to specifically raise: Tony Podesta (Iraq, Azerbaijan, Egypt), Ben Barnes (Libya), John Merrigan (UAE), Wyeth Weidman (Libya), and Mike Driver (UAE connections)”
After a 10 minute phone call with the Clinton campaign staff management, Seshasai suggested a loophole for bundlers to evade FARA and be allowed to lobby.
Seshasai proposed the following plan, “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.”
After the loophole suggestion, Cheng adopted a moral stance in the whole foreign lobbyist ordeal and reflects the impact it could have on individual democratic donors that trust in them and Clinton –specially, after Clinton publicly denied lobbying to attract Sander supporters. He also implies that the Clinton Foundation took money from foreign donors when Hillary was in-charge of the State Department.
“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 governments, but we now won’t?” Cheng replied to Seshasai, Elias and the rest of the staff.
Elias replied to Cheng and made a case to why it shouldn’t be an issue to receive money from foreign bundlers, when it is okay to take from national corporations; making FARA an illogical process.
“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,” Elias replied.
After trying to make a final decision in whether or not they should bundle foreign donors, Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager replied to the staff and said “It is okay”, incriminates Obama, and doesn’t care about the repercussions of accepting money would have for Clinton’s campaign as the message ends.
“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?”
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“Clinton Campaign Manager On Foreign Donors, “Take The Money, We Will Deal With It”