The news is full of stories about how Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich attempted to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder. But media have been hesitant to show the pattern of close Obama associates involved in scandal.
"'Pay to play' means you've got to give something to get something," said Alan Lichtman, professor of history at American University. "So, you want a contract, you want a job, you've got to give something to the decision maker." It is an epidemic amongst FOBs -- friends of Barack.
FOB Bill Richardson recently withdrew his name from nomination for Commerce secretary due to a grand jury investigation. He is accused of taking $100,000 from another FOB, David Rubin, president of the CDR Financial Products, Inc. "I have been an unabashed supporter of Democratic causes and public figures, especially those like Richardson, who support a liberal, inclusive agenda," Rubin said.
The grand jury is looking into Rubin's Beverly Hills, Calif.-based CDR, which received almost $1.5 million in fees from the New Mexico Finance Authority in 2004. This is after donating $100,000 to Richardson's efforts to register Hispanic and Native American voters and pay for expenses at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. The New Mexico probe comes two years after the FBI searched CDR's records as part of a nationwide investigation into whether banks and advisers conspired to overcharge local governments on financing deals.
CDR has also been the target of investigations by the Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice into whether banks and brokers conspired to rig bids on municipal derivatives and profit from deals at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.
What the news has failed to cover is that Obama, too, received big money -- $30,000 -- from Rubin in September. Obama has raked in millions for his presidential campaign from donors with business before the federal government.
Obama's new White House chief of staff, FOB Rahm Emanuel, also has serious ethical shortcomings. Emanuel's voice is on the tapes of Blagojevich and John Harris, Blagojevich's recently departed chief of staff. Emanuel is heard representing Obama in the negotiations to sell the Senate seat. When approached by the governor, Emanuel didn't contact authorities and turn in Harris or Blagojevich for pitching the deal. Remember, at least two players are required for the "pay to play" game. All of those who actively participated in the alleged negotiations to sell a Senate seat are just as guilty as Blagojevich.
Eric Holder, FOB and Obama's nominee for Attorney General, is also guilty of questionable entanglements, making it nearly impossible for him to fulfill his duties as the nation's top law enforcement officer. Holder, on the last day of Bill Clinton's presidency, worked on the controversial pardon of felon Marc Rich and a whole slew of others. Later, when in private practice, Holder represented the Chiquita company, securing them a sweetheart deal in the lawsuit against them for paying protection money to AUC, a Colombian terrorist group. AUC is responsible for horrific massacres in Colombia and plays a large role in the exportation of cocaine from the country. Court records reveal Holder wanted the Chiquita case dismissed, saying, "There is no clearly defined rule of international law prohibiting material support of terrorism." The U.S. government designated the AUC as a foreign terrorist organization on September 10, 2001.
"It's very troubling that the presumptive attorney generally of the United States, the nominee, doesn't know or doesn't believe that there's a legal definition internationally for terrorism or a terrorist," said attorney Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice regarding the Holder nomination. "First of all, he's the person charged with prosecuting terrorists, and of course, since 9/11 the attorney general's role is also to prevent acts of terror, so to say that there's no definition of terrorists or terrorism I think is very, very dangerous."
Obama aides sought to downplay Richardson's departure, saying it would not disrupt the transition. Yet one reason Obama was so quick to abandon Richardson is because the investigation would bring more light into the new president's own involvement with "pay to play."