Campaign Finance Caper? Hillary Clinton and the Ghost of Scandals Past

Brian Birdnow
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Posted: Oct 03, 2015 12:01 AM
Campaign Finance Caper?  Hillary Clinton and the Ghost of Scandals Past

Last week, amid fulsome rhetoric concerning Pope Francis, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Islam and assorted sundry items, the mainstream media generally disregarded the quiet return of a serious potential scandal, one that will be strong enough to shake the foundations of the Hillary Clinton campaign, and, in fact, may topple the Democratic front-runner, and her presidential aspirations for good. This overlooked scandal is not one of the newer variety concerning Benghazi, nor does it concern the e-mail tangle and the shifting rationales, sophistries, and alibis trotted out by Clinton campaign flunkies, desperately trying to explain the problem away, much like Lady Macbeth vainly scrubbing at blood stains. The re-emerging scandal may be much more serious and damaging than the current difficulties, and, judging by Hillary’s new and combative tone, she knows this and is going on the offensive, even though her campaign was retooling last week and trying to convince the public that Hillary, despite all appearances, is actually very “nice”.

What is this re-emerging scandal? Last week the Associated Press reported that Ng Lap Seng, a Chinese billionaire, was arrested and ordered held without bail, as the US authorities try to find out what happened to the millions of dollars that he brought into the USA illegally over the last five years. As the AP story said, “One of the world’s wealthiest people, a Chinese real estate mogul at the center of a Democratic campaign fundraising scandal two decades ago, has been grounded from his fleet of private planes, and stripped of his $200,000 watch after his incarceration without bail as the United States probes what he did with millions of dollars he brought into the country over the past few years”. The story goes on to say that Seng failed to convince U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn that he would return to appear in court if released on bond. Netburn, citing the fact that Seng had skipped bail once before, rejected the legal request that Seng be released, and ordered him held without bond, pending his court appearance.

At this point we must ask all of our readers to step back into time, to the mid-1990s, during the halcyon days of the Bill Clinton administration. Those thrilling days of yesteryear offered most political watchers unforgettable scandals, many of the low comic variety, complete with girls falling out of every closet, and harried Clinton staffers scrambling to contain the damage. Interspersed, however, between bedroom farces were a number of serious transgressions, which sadly, were not given the scrutiny they deserved by a media fixated on Monica Lewinsky. One of these misdeeds was the Clinton-China campaign finance scandal. This problem developed out of a 1996 Democratic National Committee strategy of burying the rival Republicans under a tsunami of cash, regardless of the source. Newspaper accounts of financing irregularities began appearing as early as the summer of 1995, and they began picking up in speed and accuracy in 1996. Briefly put, reports of massive amounts of money supplied by shadowy figures in Communist China, including Ng Lap Seng, funneled through John Huang, and Little Rock, Arkansas restaurateur Charlie Trie circulated through the American press during the 1996 campaign. Huang’s cash payments have been called the most serious breach of government ethics since the Teapot Dome scandal, but the Clinton administration resolutely refused to empower a special prosecutor, or to conduct a serious investigation. With a compliant press on his side, and the important witnesses fleeing the country, Clinton swept this scandal under the rug. The former first family, having dodged this bullet, probably never expected it to trouble them again, but they may have been wrong.

We will look at this situation and its perils for Hillary Clinton in a moment, but first we might ask a question. Why is this happening now? Some might simply dismiss it as a case of stupendously bad timing, or bad luck, for which Hillary is becoming known. Yet, at the time when the Clinton campaign is already playing the prevent defense game due to the corrosive effect of the continuing e-mail affair, this is the last thing that the tottering campaign needs. Certainly the candidate knows this, as she lashed out at her critics Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press”. She brought up the 1990s without prompting from questioners, likening the e-mail investigation to Whitewater, Filegate, the theft of government property from the White House, and the pardon scandal, among other things. Of course, Mrs. Clinton admitted to no wrongdoing in these dust-ups, she simply blamed the GOP for being unsporting enough to pursue them. She stopped just short on Sunday of warning about a new “…vast right-wing conspiracy.”

Now, the main question is simple. What does this mean for the Hillary campaign? She and her acolytes will attempt to characterize this as another example of Republican dirty tricks and skullduggery. It is fairly clear, however, that GOP operatives did not order the arrest of Ng Lap Seng, nor did a Republican Justice Department order him held without bail. On the contrary, this new scandal will bring back all of the memories of the 1990s and the Clinton Scandals. The old questions about the Clintons’ lack of ethics, conscience and morality will once again rear their ugly heads. The Hillary spin machine will no doubt try to disassociate her from her husband’s sordid administrations, but, as those who studied the 90s know, Hillary was at the center of all of the Clinton scandals, including attempting to cover up her spouse’s relentless amours. This was all done in the pursuit of power and shows that Hillary is as obsessed with status as her husband was obsessed with girls. The central question of Hillary’s slippery and untrustworthy nature will once again reassert itself, despite her campaign’s efforts to lay this to rest.

It is difficult to predict what the immediate future holds. Mr. Seng won’t talk for a little while. This may be good for the Clintons, or it may be bad. Certainly, nothing incriminating will come out immediately, and the Clinton spin machine can go about the business of character assassination and ruining Mr. Seng with no pushback for the next few months. Still, the story stays alive and if Seng agrees to testify in exchange for a plea, we may see this issue pop up next year, in the heat of another general election campaign. It is hard to predict where scandal will go, but it does not seem that this will be easy for Team Hillary to sweep under the rug.

Undoubtedly there are many nervous Democrats out there who are now more than a little worried about Hillary and her ever growing baggage list, and the possibility that this will drag down the entire party next year. Does anyone really think that the Obama people are not behind the current push for Joe Biden to enter the race? There are also rumors that former Vice-President Al Gore is considering throwing his hat in the ring, if the stars should align properly. Circumstances will surely change between now and the primary election season, but for the moment this new scandal portends nothing but more trouble for the smartest woman in the world, the inevitable Hillary Clinton.