‘Clinton Cash’: The Same Old GOP Smoke and Mirrors

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By now you’ve probably heard that a right-wing partisan hack named Peter Schweizer has written a book about the Clinton Foundation titled “Clinton Cash” in which he suggests that Bill and Hillary have been operating their foundation as a giant slush fund, and that Bill has been whoring himself out to moneyed interests who pay him “speaking fees” in exchange for favors delivered by Hillary when she was secretary of state.

You’ve probably also heard about Schweizer’s deep ties to the extreme right. He is a former Bush speechwriter, foreign-affairs adviser to Sarah Palin and blogger for Breitbart.com, the legacy website of the late serial liar and notorious racist, Andrew Breitbart. His work is riddled with mistakes and falsehoods. Fact-checkers and legit reporters have used words like these to describe his work in the past: “incorrect,” “inaccurate,” “bogus,” “a fatal shortcoming in Journalism 101,” “the facts didn’t stand up,” “unfair and inaccurate,” “specious argument,” “there was nothing there,” “suspicious,” “the facts don’t fit,” facts “do not check out,” sources “do not exist or cannot be tracked down,” “confusion and contradiction,” “discrepancies,” “admitted a mistake,” “neither journalism nor history,” “a polemic so unchecked … that we can’t tell the fact from the fiction,” sources “have clearly used him,” and “tacitly conced[ed] he was wrong.”

Despite Schweizer’s shady background, however, “Clinton Cash” has been taken seriously by “liberal media” outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post and others, who have lent it legitimacy by using it as a source for their reporting.

So — where there’s smoke there’s fire. Right?

Well, no. If you were paying attention to politics in the 1990s, you likely recall that, when it comes to accusations from Republicans about Democrats, especially the Clintons, more often than not where there is smoke, what you’re seeing is smoke and mirrors. “Clinton Cash” is just one in a long line of Republican hit pieces on Democrats, and this is hardly the first time the New York Times and other otherwise respectable outlets have carried water for the GOP.

As an example of the way Schweizer and his ilk use unsubstantiated claims to smear their opponents, look at his assertion that Bill Clinton’s speaking gigs are really just a payola scheme.

Schweizer notes that Clinton made 13 speeches between 2001 and 2012, and that 11 of them occurred after Hillary was appointed secretary of state. Assuming that’s true, it ignores the fact that Clinton wrote a bestselling memoir, which took more than two years, and he experienced considerable downtime after heart surgery. He was also in charge of setting up the Clinton Foundation, and he was actively involved in Hillary’s presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008. It’s true that when he hit the speaker’s circuit in 2009, he charged top dollar, between $200,000 and $750,000 per event.

Schweizer ignores all that. In an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox this week, Schweizer — whose former client Sarah Palin openly siphons thousands of donor dollars from SarahPAC into her own personal coffers — said he found Clinton’s fees “extremely troubling,” adding that,”The fact you find it’s a very extensive pattern. There’s not one or two examples. There are 11 instances and I think when you have one or two examples, it’s a coincidence. When you have this many, to me it’s a trend.”

Is Schweizer saying he’s troubled because Clinton’s fees were so high, or is he implying the high fees also bought access and influence with Secretary of State Clinton? It appears to be the latter, even though Schwiezer admits he has no evidence of Secretary Clinton reciprocating with any sort of benefit to the persons or interests who paid for the speeches.

To underscore just how bogus this is, consider the fact that starting in 2009, the same year Clinton hit the hustings, the brother of the likely 2016 Republican presidential nominee also began charging high speaking fees. George W. Bush — a terrible speaker and unpopular figure — made an estimated $15 million on speaking gigs while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

Is that a coincidence or a trend?

Actually, no one really knows how much money Bush has made since he left the White House, because, unlike Bill Clinton, he does not have to disclose how much he earns. In fact, at least one of Bush’s speeches was given in total secrecy. In November 2012, around the time Mitt Romney disinvited him from attending the Republican National Convention, Bush gave an off-the-record, no-media-allowed speech in the Cayman Islands, one of Romney’s infamous tax havens.

No one knows what Bush was paid, or what he said, or whether the wealthy interests who paid him will expect a quid pro quo on tax policy should his brother be elected president in 2016. And should Jeb win, nothing will compel George W. to disclose who pays him or how much.

Conversely, all of Bill Clinton’s post-presidential income is on the record. From the time he left office, he has been the spouse of a public figure — first a U.S. senator, then a presidential candidate, later secretary of state and now candidate again — whose household income had to be reported. Clinton is the only former president whose post-presidential income has been so transparent.(CNN has a fairly detailed report on Clinton’s post-presidential income here.)

The Same Old Playbook

Another example of Republicans masterfully using their lapdogs in the media is their years-long effort to undermine Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness ratings by hammering away at her 50,000 deleted emails. Although most voters have heard about Hillary’s emails, hardly anyone knows that Jeb Bush deleted more than 2 million emails from his time as Florida’s governor. Worse, what Jeb did was clearly illegal, while what Hillary did was not.

This is all part of the same old game, the same smoke and mirrors, Republicans used against the Clintons in 1990s, against John Kerry when he was the 2004 Democratic nominee and that they have used against Barack Obama for eight years and counting.

In the early 1990s, Republican operatives on the payroll of a Koch brothers-like right-wing billionaire, William Mellon Scaife, traveled to Arkansas where they bribed neo-Confederates to supply them with lies and innuendos about the Clintons, whose advocacy for civil rights the old segregationists despised. These GOP operatives, led by uber-attorney Ted Olson — known today as a champion of gay rights — peddled these demonstrably false stories to “liberal media” outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post and others.

Despite the reputed savvy of New York and Beltway political journalists, nearly all of them fell for these tall tales told by Arkansas shysters and conmen. The first of these yarns was Whitewater, a land deal in which the Clintons lost more than $50,000. During the first two years of the Clinton administration, the New York Times gave the Whitewater “scandal” front-section coverage 24 times. By the time Bill Clinton left office, Republicans had spent 70 million taxpayer dollars investigating Whitewater, only to be forced to admit finally that the Clintons had done nothing wrong.

As Bush’s political hatchetman, Karl Rove refined the GOP attack strategy by targeting his opponents’ strengths, rather than perceived weaknesses. In the 2004 presidential campaign, he smeared John Kerry using Kerry’s status as a Vietnam War hero who’d been awarded Silver and Bronze stars as well as Purple Heart. In a despicable move, Rove concocted the Swiftboaters, a group of right-wing vets who appeared attack ads accusing Kerry of lying about his record. Even though they offered no credible evidence to back up their claims, the ads were effective and took a toll.

In Obama’s case, the Republican strategy has been to undercut his status as a historic and transformative figure by attempting to systematically delegitimize him. Their bizarre melange of attacks — that he’s a lazy native Kenyan anti-colonial Muslim socialist dictator — have been shockingly successful, at least in part because it’s dog-whistle code designed to excite the long-simmering racial hatred that animates the American right.

With their relentless, though fruitless, investigations into Benghazi, Republicans began their pivot from attacking Obama to attacking Hillary Clinton and her successful term as secretary of state. Despite the fact that seven GOP-led, multi-million-dollar investigations found no wrongdoing, Republicans have nonetheless launched an eighth inquiry, and plan to release their findings within weeks of the presidential election next year.

The Hunting of Hillary

Despite all the bogus attacks, most Democrats are onboard for the 2016 Clinton campaign. Hillary Clinton has a formidable 81 percent favorable rating among Democrats in the latest NBC poll, for example. There are also Democrats who are not feeling it, of course.

For Democrats who have doubts about Hillary because they remember the 1990s and all the scandals back then (although they may have forgotten that every one of the political scandals turned out to be bogus), or who worry about the supposed shenanigans at the Clinton Foundation and wonder if all the fuss about with Benghazi portends some dark revelation, Joe Conanson, editor-in-chief of The National Memo, and Gene Lyons, columnist for the Arkansas Times, have updated and excerpted their definitive book on Republican dirty tricks in the Clinton era, “The Hunting of the President,” which was published in 2001, and released an ebook that focuses on the history of attacks on Hillary. The ebook, “The Hunting of Hillary,” from The National Memo, is short and free — click here:

“The Hunting of the President” is not a pro-Clinton treatise. Its intent is not to endear the reader to Bill and Hillary. Their mistakes, both political and personal, are covered here, too. Rather, it is rigorous investigative journalism that exposes the inner workings of the Republican attack machine, from its funding sources and money laundering to the way it peddles false narratives to otherwise sophisticated reporters who apparently find them irresistible — and who fall for it, time and time again. “Hunting” will change forever how you view reporting on the Clintons and Democrats in general — whether in the New York Times or on Fox.

Before you buy into what you read and hear about Hillary Clinton, check out this ebook. As the blurb in The National Memo put it, “The names and details may be different, but the same machinery that defamed Hillary Clinton two decades ago is still grinding away. The parallels to the present are stunning — and the stakes are at least as high as in 1996.”


Peter Schweizer, Right-Wing Hack

Here, via MediaMatters, is a round-up of the lowlights of Peter Schweizer’s career:

  • Schweizer Worked For The Bush White House As A Speechwriting Consultant From 2008-2009. [PeterSchweizer.com, accessed 3/26/15]
  • Sarah Palin Hired Schweizer To Advise Her On Foreign Policy. Schweizer received $106,250 from Palin’s Sarah PAC in 2011-2012, according to Federal Election Commission records. [New York Times, 5/25/11; FEC.gov, accessed 3/27/15
  • Schweizer Helped Write Bobby Jindal’s Autobiography. Jindal wrote on the acknowledgements page of his 2010 book that Schweizer was “crucial to this book.” Jindal is a potential Clinton opponent as he is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination. [Times-Picayune2/17/10; Leadership and Crisis, 2010; Politico3/24/15]
  • Schweizer Has Worked For Breitbart.com And The Conservative Hoover Institution. Breitbart.com states that Schweizer is a Breitbart News senior editor-at-large. He “was the William J. Casey Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution.” [Media Matters11/13/11; Breitbart.com, 3/20/15; Hoover.org, accessed 4/9/15]
  • Schweizer Heads The Government Accountability Institute (GAI), A “Free Markets” Organization. [Guidestar.org, accessed 3/26/15]
  • Schweizer Heads Oval Office Writers LLC With Former Bush Aide Marc Thiessen. The firm states it helps prepare speechwriting, keynotes, congressional testimony, and fundraising help, among other services. [OvalOfficeWriters.com, accessed 4/10/15; accessed 4/10/15
  • Schweizer Headlined Republican Party FundraisersAccording to event notices, Schweizer headlined 2012 Republican fundraisers for the Wakulla Republican Committee in Florida and the Republicans of Hoboken in New Jersey. [WakullaCountyChamber.com, accessed 3/25/15The Jersey Journal3/28/12]
  • Schweizer Regularly Speaks To Conservative Groups And Conferences. He has spoken to conservative groups and conferences such as the Charles Koch Institute, the 2012 National Conservative Student Conference, 2015 Conservative Leadership Conference, and Young America’s Foundation’s 2011 West Coast Leadership Conference. [YouTube, 2/10/14; CSPAN, 8/3/12; Sched.org, accessed 3/26/15; YAF.org, 11/3/11]
  • Schweizer Was A Contributor To A Glenn Beck Book. Schweizer is listed as a contributor to former Fox News host Glenn Beck’s book Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure (Threshold Editions, October 2010). [Amazon.com, accessed 3/26/15]
  • Schweizer’s Books Attack Liberal Ideology. His books include Architects of Ruin: How Big Government Liberals Wrecked The Global Economy — And How They Will Do It Again If No One Stops Them; Makers and Takers: Why Conservatives Work Harder, Feel Happier, Have Closer Families, Take Fewer Drugs, Give More Generously, Value Honesty More, Are Less Materialistic And Envious, Whine Less…And Even Hug Their Children More Than Liberals; and Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy. [Amazon.com, accessed 3/26/15]
  • Schweizer Donated To Republican Adam Hasner’s 2012 U.S. Senate Campaign. [FEC.gov, accessed 3/26/15]

3 thoughts on “‘Clinton Cash’: The Same Old GOP Smoke and Mirrors”

  1. Surely you understand that it will not be an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton that would write such a book. The face that the author is “right” leaning isn’t a valid reason to try and discredit work if its credible. Any honest assessment of the Clinton family will include a lot of observations of political cronyism, so it’s not hard to think their Foundation is just another way they’ve played the game of crony power. Dems have an opportunity to try and select a presidential candidate that actually isn’t completely corrupt.

    1. Schweizer has never written a credible book, so what basis is there for giving this one the benefit of the doubt? He himself freely admits he has no evidence of corruption. All he has is innuendo and specious conclusions, ie., smoke and mirrors.

  2. Throw Them All Out wasn’t a good cronyism book highlighting pay to play type corruption at the expense of taxpayers by both political parties? Read it again, or for the first time, if you haven’t. Not that politicians limit themselves thoroughly, but Schweizer’s work at least led to changes in congressional insider trading. Clinton does not offer America a good path forward. She is an untrustworthy elitist even compared to other career politicians, so frankly I think Schweizer is doing the public a real service to scrutinize Hillary and Bill like they should have been many times before.

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