Saturday, May 31, 2008

THE MARC RICH PARDON: ANOTHER CLINTON ISSUE THE MEDIA IGNORES

JEFFREY ST. CLAIR, COUNTERPUNCH Despite her campaign's ongoing slurs against Bill Richardson, the nation's only Hispanic governor, Hillary Clinton probably feels like she has Puerto Rico, the final primary, in the bank. Those delegates were sown up nine years ago on August 16, 1999, when Bill Clinton issued commutations for 16 members of the FALN Puerto Rican nationalist group serving long sentences for robbery, bombings and sedition. That rare act of humanitarian intervention endeared the Clintons to many Puerto Ricans, obviating the sins committed by the administration at Vieques Island, which had been turned into a toxic bombing ground.

But if Hillary wants to claim credit for the FALN pardons (a strategic decision at the time, geared to helping her win a US senate seat in New York), she should also own up to her role in a much more problematic case, the midnight pardon of billionaire fugitive Marc Rich.

Hillary has never addressed her role in the Rich pardon. In fact, she's rarely been asked her opinion on the free pass given to one of the world's most wanted fugitives, a man who violated embargoes against Iran and South Africa and fled the country rather than face trial in what was billed as "the biggest tax evasion case in history." The senator has variously said that she was "unaware" of the decision and "surprised" by it. When pressed, she merely cackles.

Even though 300 pages of core documents relating to the pardon decision remain under seal at the Clinton Library, a review of the available record tells a much different story. In fact, the Rich legal team viewed Hillary as a secret weapon, and as one door after another closed on their search for a pardon they focused more and more on invoking what Rich lawyer Robert Fink called the "HRC option."

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