Tuesday, July 15, 2008

PAYING THE PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY FINE TO WIELD POLITICAL INFLUENCE

Progress Report In February, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX announced that the university will be home to President Bush's $200 million library. The announcement has been met with widespread protests from faculty, administrators, staff, and even Methodist ministers. The library will sponsor programs designed to "promote the vision of the president" and "celebrate" Bush's presidency, while minimizing the involvement of historians. Former Bush adviser Karl Rove is reportedly advising the project in "an informal capacity." On Sunday, the Times of London reported that Stephen Payne, a major Bush-Cheney campaign fundraiser, was caught on tape offering access to key members of the Bush administration inner circle in exchange for "six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush's presidency." As the Times notes, "The revelation confirms long-held suspicions that favors are being offered in return for donations to the libraries which outgoing presidents set up to house their archives and safeguard their political legacies." Asked about the report, White House spokesman Tony Fratto simply responded, "There's no connection between any official administration actions and the library."

In the Times' video, Payne is seen promising to arrange a meeting for an exiled Kyrgyzstan leader with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, or Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, in return for a payment of $250,000 towards the Bush library. When asked whether he could arrange a meeting for the former central Asian president, Payne solicited a bribe. "The exact budget I will come up with," he said. "But it will be somewhere between $600,000 and $750,000, with about a third of it going directly to the Bush library." Payne said the remainder of the $750,000 would go to his lobbying firm, Worldwide Strategic Partners, which has worked closely with several Bush administration agencies, including the White House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, and Treasury, and the FBI. Payne is a political appointee to the Homeland Security Advisory Council and was George W. Bush's "personal travel aide" during his father's 1988 presidential campaign. In a lengthy statement alleging that "that the Times attempted to entrap me," Payne responded that "isolated comments can be taken out of context."

Payne told the Times' undercover investigators that publicly, the donation would be made in the politician's name "unless he wants to be anonymous for some reason." In February, Bush said he was considering keeping foreign donors' names to the library confidential. "There's some people who like to give and don't particularly want their names disclosed," Bush said. In November 2006, the New York Daily News reported that Bush hoped to get roughly $250 million in "megadonations" from some key allies, including "wealthy heiresses, Arab nations and captains of industry." The Bush administration has also given special favors to some library donors. Dallas billionaire Ray Hunt was listed as a Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign "Pioneer" and previously served on the board of Halliburton. Hunt donated $35 million to SMU to help build the library. When Bush announced he would extend the U.S.-Mexico border fence by 700 miles in 2006, he apparently granted a favor to Hunt: the border fence would "abruptly end" at Hunt's property in the small town of Granjeno, TX.

Of course, Bush is not alone. . .

NY Sun, 2004 President Clinton's new $165 million library here was funded in part by gifts of $1 million or more each from the Saudi royal family and three Saudi businessmen. The governments of Dubai, Kuwait, and Qatar and the deputy prime minister of Lebanon all also appear to have donated $1 million or more for the archive and museum that opened last week. . .

Information about the donors is available to the public on a single touch-screen computer mounted on a wall on the third floor of the recently opened library. Eventually, most who have contributed $100,000 or more will be listed on a wall in the museum's lobby, Mr. Kessel said. However, some donors have asked that their names not be released. "We don't have many," Mr. Kessel said, adding, "It doesn't involve anyone controversial."

The computer lists donors by categories that correspond to the size of the gift. But there are no dollar figures provided for each of the funding levels. Asked why the donor categories were not publicly defined, Mr. Kessel said,"It was a decision we made.We really don't need to at this point."

As a charitable organization, the Clinton Foundation is not required to make the names of its donors or the amounts of their gifts public. However, some of the other foundations that contributed to the library have disclosed their gifts on financial reports that are available from the Internal Revenue Service. By comparing those reports with the donor categories on the third-floor computer screen in the library, The New York Sun was able to match donor categories with approximate dollar amounts.

The highest tier,"Trustees," includes donations from 57 individuals, couples, or other entities. IRS reports reviewed by the Sun show that the foundations at this level have generally given or pledged $1 million or more. The Wasserman Foundation of Los Angeles, founded by movie mogul Lew Wasserman, gave the Clinton library $3 million. The Roy and Christine Sturgis Charitable Trust pledged $4 million. The Anheuser-Busch Foundation has given $200,000 annually for the last several years as part of what appears to be a $1 million pledge.The Annenberg Foundation also gave $1 million.

The Saudi royal family and the governments of Dubai, Kuwait, and Qatar donated at this "Trustee" level, as did the governments of Brunei and Taiwan. Also listed as trustees are three Saudi businessmen - Abdullah Al-Dabbagh, Nasser Al-Rashid, and Walid Juffali.

Other notables at the "Trustee" level include the deputy prime minister of Lebanon, Issam Fares; Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, and an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune, Alice Walton.

The next tier down is labeled "Philanthropists." A major New York labor organization, Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, donated at this level, which appears to correspond to gifts of $500,000 to $1 million. Also donating in this range was the editor of the Las Vegas Sun, Brian Greenspun, who was one of Mr. Clinton's roommates at Yale.

On the level below that are the "Humanitarians." Based on benchmarks available from other sources, the "Humanitarians" seem to have given between $100,000 and $500,000. In their ranks are the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, as well as a Pakistani-American businessman from California, Farooq Bajwa. Several perennial Clinton donors are on this list, such as the Big Apple Supermarkets chief, John Catsimatidis, and a San Diego class action lawyer, William Lerach. The U.S.-Islamic World Conference gave at the Humanitarian level, as did several Jewish groups, the Jewish Communal Fund, the Jewish Community Foundation, and the University of Judaism, according to the information available on the computer screen in the Clinton Library here.

The most controversial known donation to Mr. Clinton's library is also recorded at this level: a gift from a Manhattan socialite and singer, Denise Rich. Ms. Rich gave the foundation $450,000 while her fugitive ex-husband, Marc Rich, was seeking a pardon on tax-evasion and racketeering charges. Mr. Clinton granted the pardon hours before he left office, triggering a federal criminal investigation, as well as congressional inquiries.

As a result of that flap, a House committee voted in 2001 to require public disclosure of all large donations to presidential libraries. But the legislation stalled. . .

President George H.W. Bush's library, which opened in 1997 in College Station,Texas, also received significant financial support from overseas. The governments of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Japan each gave $1 million or more, while the People's Republic of China donated between $50,000 and $100,000.

The Chinese communist government may also have chipped in for Mr. Clinton's library. The Chinese Overseas Real Estate Development company gave at the $100,000 or higher level. So did the National Opera of Paris.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home