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“Already Waist-Deep In Stench”: The Most Corrupt Candidate Ever Is Donald Trump

Before his message was overshadowed by a scandal about his use of a white-supremacist image — a mistake that could happen to any candidate, really, so long as that candidate had inspired a massive following among neo-Nazis — Donald Trump was trying to make a point about Hillary Clinton’s corruption. She is the “most corrupt candidate ever,” he claims. Corruption is indeed a plausible line of attack against Clinton — or, at least, it would be, if the opposing candidate was anybody other than Donald Trump, who may actually be the most corrupt presidential candidate ever.

It should be conceded that the evidence against Clinton is fairly damning. After Bill Clinton left the presidency, the former First Couple intermingled career and personal interests in ways that, at minimum, exposed them to a high risk of contamination. The Clinton Foundation was not only a charitable endeavor but a vehicle for Bill Clinton to enjoy the comforts and exercise the quasi-official power of an active figure on the world stage. Donors to the foundation included many of the same businesses and individuals who paid the Clintons for private speeches, and who had an interest in cultivating close ties with a secretary of State and potential future president. Some of those figures had business interests that aligned with Russian strategic goals rather than American ones. The Clintons failed to promptly disclose all of their foundation donors and, on at least one occasion, appointed an apparently unqualified donor to a State Department board.

The evidence of Clinton corruption is circumstantial rather than direct. If they wanted to stay above reproach, they could have rigorously disclosed every dollar that passed through their personal and professional accounts, and made it plain that neither donating to their foundation nor hiring them for speeches would purchase any special treatment whatsoever — indeed, they bent over backward to demonstrate that they could not be bought. Instead, they profited from the ambiguity.

The case against Hillary Clinton is that her administration might be corrupted around the margins — in its minor appointments or pardons and in the relative ease in which some donors get their calls returned — but that the basic contours of her administration would be a continuation of the non-corrupt center-left program of the Obama administration. The case against Trump is qualitatively different. Trump is flamboyantly corrupt in ways that run to the very core of his identity and prospective governing choices.

This is all the more remarkable given that Trump’s complete lack of experience in public office ought to provide him with the opportunity, which most novice candidates have, for a clean-slate résumé. Instead, he is already waist-deep in stench. Trump has not merely intermingled campaigning with his business interests; the two are one and the same. His entire political career seems to be an outgrowth of his efforts to build his personal brand, which Trump has endlessly used the campaign as a platform to promote. He has devoted speeches to attacking the judge in the fraud suit against his “university,” instructed surrogates to do the same, and promised to relaunch the enterprise if elected. He celebrated the Brexit vote, which drove down the value of the pound, as helpful for driving visitors to his Scottish golf course. This sort of behavior is not an appearance of a conflict of interest but the definition of one.

Trump appears to be genuinely unaware, even at the conceptual level, that his business interests might complicate his ability to govern in the public interest. During the primary, when a debate moderator asked if he would put his holdings in a blind trust, Trump comically replied that he would, while defining a “blind trust” to mean his children would run his business for him, which is the opposite of a blind trust. Even if Trump wanted to distance himself from his business interests, the nature of his holdings would make it virtually impossible, as The Wall Street Journal explains today. A traditionally rich person could place their wealth in third-party hands without knowing what they were invested in; Trump’s business is his personal brand, making divestment impossible. “Trump’s empire would pose unprecedented conflicts of interest due to the size of its holdings, privately held nature of the family-run business, and concentration in one industry,” Richard Painter, the Bush administration’s ethics lawyer, tells the Journal.

Trump’s entire business career reeks, beginning with his early associations with organized crime and proceeding through a career of swindling. “No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks,” reports David Cay Johnston. Trump is not merely comfortable doing business with criminals and thugs — his habits of manipulating bankruptcy laws and swindling his partners have left him reliant upon, let us say, unconventional sources of investment, many of whom are the scum of the Earth. Franklin Foer lays out impressive circumstantial evidence that Trump may well be a puppet of Vladimir Putin, with whom Trump shares a web of financial ties that help explain their shared worldview. Whatever we might think of Clinton, we can be confident she is not controlled by the Kremlin. And the failures of disclosure or record-keeping in her operations pale beside Trump’s defiant refusal to disclose his tax returns.

It is altogether fair to condemn Clinton as a corrupt practitioner of the Washington cash-for-access culture. She and her husband are careless, susceptible to greed — normal politicians, in other words. Trump is the figure whose corruption stands out on a historic scale, and the notion that disdain for corruption would supply a rationale to elect him is nothing short of bizarre.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 5, 2016

July 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Organized Crime | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Big Trouble In Sheldon Adelson’s Little China”: Sometimes It’s Best To Just Shut Up, Unless You’re Arrogant And Rich

Sheldon Adelson has rarely been shy about sharing his opinion. Whether the topic is Israeli politics, online gambling, or the next GOP presidential nominee, the multibillionaire casino man and Republican Party mega-donor has put his mouth wherever his money is.

But after four days of at times bruising testimony in a volatile wrongful-termination lawsuit that threatens his gambling empire and reputation, the 81-year-old Adelson has talked his way into trouble.

At a time he might have preferred to be jetting off to monitor his Macau casino interests or relaxing at his Las Vegas home with a lapful of panting GOP presidential hopefuls, Adelson found himself giving sworn testimony in a district court hearing designed to establish jurisdiction in the wrongful-termination suit brought against him by former Sands China Ltd. CEO Steve Jacobs. And on Friday, the court ruled that the suit would be heard in the U.S., not Macau, where Adelson wanted the trial to take place.

Adelson is the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, which owns 70 percent of Sands China Ltd. He is the chairman of the board of Sands China, a company registered in the Cayman Islands and traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Sands China operates the Macau casinos that have helped make Las Vegas resident Adelson one of the world’s richest men.

Among other things, Jacobs accuses Adelson and the company of unethical business practices, bribing public officials, maintaining a relationship with a company tied to a Chinese triad crime boss, and facilitating prostitution. Jacobs says Adelson was involved in all these shady dealings, and that he was fired in part for blowing the whistle on Adelson.

For his part, Adelson calls Jacobs’s accusations the “delusional” fantasies of an incompetent employee bent on revenge and a big payday he didn’t earn. He also accused Jacobs of “squealing like a pig to the government” after his former executive expressed his concerns about the company to the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission.

Any decent litigator will tell his client that on the witness stand brief answers are best. Before Friday’s ruling, it became obvious that Adelson didn’t get that memo. On several occasions last week, Adelson attorney Randall Jones appeared to try to cut his client short, and a few times reminded the loquacious Adelson that no question was pending. But the casino boss insisted on elaborating at most every turn.

In the process, Adelson contradicted the recollections of current and former company executives on pertinent issues, including whether damaging news accounts led to a decision to stop doing business with a casino junket company influenced by triad boss Cheung Chi Tai.

District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez moved the hearing along almost without incident—save for one brief exchange with the defendant to remind him that he was the witness and not the judge.

In a previous deposition, Adelson made it fairly clear that not much of consequence happens in his kingdom without his input. Jacobs’s attorney, James Pisanelli, drew from a September 6, 2012, deposition to remind him of that fact.

“‘Did you perform any duties that would be more typical of a CEO on behalf of SCL?’” Pisanelli asked. In 2012, Adelson had answered, “Look, the responsibilities of different positions, different titles, sometimes get mixed up. It could very well be that I have made recommendations or I’ve given orders for something that—that may have belonged to another title, that for one reason or another the suggestions are not forthcoming or that I see that people make mistakes and they have to be corrected.”

And Adelson was prepared to make those corrections from his Las Vegas headquarters whether it was changing executives or moving the location of a gourmet restaurant inside one of his Macau casinos.

Jacobs says he was let go after he refused to pay a $700,000 fee submitted by well-connected Macau legislator and Sands China outside counsel Leonel Alves, which he worried might break U.S. anti-bribery laws. Adelson overruled his Macau CEO and reinstated the payment, which he said was a bargain considering the exorbitant fees other lawyers were charging to settle casino-licensing issues.

Throughout his testimony, Adelson took swipes at Jacobs, who sat silently in the courtroom, at one point observing, “He was one of the least competent and potentially destructive executives I had in over 50 companies in my 69-year business career. He only worked for the company for one year.”

In that time, however, Jacobs appears to have mightily impressed Adelson’s former No. 2 man, Michael Leven, who cheered in an email, “The Titanic hit the iceberg. [Jacobs] arrived and not only saved the passengers, he saved the ship.”

Clearly nonplussed, Adelson said Leven had been “hypnotized” by Jacobs and then promised, “Mike Leven will come in and say he made a mistake.”

But Jacobs’s attorneys, Pisanelli and Todd Bice, continued to grind away at their argument that, according to a court filing, “Jacobs was not terminated for cause. He was terminated for blowing the whistle on improprieties and placing the interests of shareholders above those of Adelson.”

Adelson, ever pugnacious, countered that he looked forward to the time the merits of the case would be filed, which is intriguing considering how hard his own attorneys have worked to drag out the jurisdiction issue.

Jacobs’s lawsuit contends, “While Sands China publicly holds itself out as being headquartered in Macau, its true headquarters are in Las Vegas, where all principle decisions are made and direction is given by executives acting for Sands China.”

Adelson downplayed that argument and even appeared to shrug off the assertion that his company had been doing business with a major Chinese organized crime figure.

“I keep reading the newspapers that say that Cheung Chi Tai was only a witness in a trial in Hong Kong concerning some wrongdoing,” Adelson said. “He was never accused of any wrongdoing. It’s not—I don’t get involved in those things…We hired the former head of the FBI regulatory division. We hired the former chief operating officer of the U.S. Secret Service. We do everything we can to stay away from the bad guys, and we’re constantly on the lookout for any direct or indirect connection. You’re asking me about documents in languages that I don’t speak or read.”

Pisanelli countered, “So you’re telling us, sir, then that as the chairman of the board you were to learn that a person with whom your company had a business association with was involved in a plot to behead some of your employees, that is not something you would have gotten involved with as the chairman?”

Adelson’s attorney Jones rushed to object.

It’s just such testimony that has helped generate damaging headlines linking Adelson’s company to Chinese organized crime, which could cause a lot of trouble for the casino king now that the case will proceed in a Las Vegas courtroom.

Then again, maybe it’s just the kind of trouble a guy worth nearly $30 billion or so can afford.

 

By: John L. Smith, The Daily Beast, May 27, 2015

May 28, 2015 Posted by | GOP Campaign Donors, Organized Crime, Sheldon Adelson | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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