While the Republican primary blood sports continue, American Crossroads released a new ad trying to touch upon one of the many themes this election, which is that wherever the Clintons walk, a scandal is never too far behind. Scandals and violation of ethical practices seem to be hallmark characteristics of the power couple, and as Cortney noted last week, Crossroads was able to put together a timeline of the most notorious in this ad that features the sound bite of the former first lady saying how she’s the most transparent figure in public life, while Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, the Lincoln Bedroom, Chinagate, Benghazi, and Emailgate are featured in succession.
Let’s give a little more detail to this grocery list of alleged impropriety.
Travelgate involved, of all things, the White House Travel office in which several staffers were fired and replaced with Clinton allies. Many viewed this move as a political act to get more Clintonites into the White House. Filegate involved possible improper disclosure of FBI files on former Reagan and Bush administration officials, which were given to the Clinton White House from the federal law enforcement agency in the early 1990s. The allegation was that this was done for political purposes. Concerning the Lincoln bedroom, the guests who had the high honor of staying overnight were also big donors to the Democratic Party. At the time, CNN found that guests of the Lincoln bedroom had doled out $5.4 million in donations to the Democratic National Committee, with at least 24 of them giving $100,000 or more.
Regarding the cattle futures, Hillary made close to six-figures on an initial $1,000 investment. Not bad until you take into account that at the time, her profit margin for that investment exceeded the couple’s entire combined annual income (via Fiscal Times):
When this story was revealed in the spring of 1994, Hillary Clinton’s press secretary suggested that the enormous profit was the result of the First Lady’s own research — but the Tyson-linked attorney, James Blair, admitted that he advised Clinton when to buy and sell the futures. Further, there was no evidence that Clinton had previously traded in commodity futures or knew much about the market.
Careful readers at the time also learned that Clinton’s initial trading also had a serious irregularity. Unlike stock investments, commodity futures are almost always purchased with high levels of margin, meaning that the investor is using a substantial proportion of money borrowed from the broker to control positions. Exchanges and regulators typically require investors to keep a minimum amount of cash in their futures accounts to avoid getting into a negative position if futures prices move in the wrong direction. In Hillary Clinton’s case, her $1,000 initial investment was well below the $12,000 deposit required by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange for the first trades she executed. So not only did Hillary make an extraordinary profit for a novice investor, she did so without following the rules applied to less well-connected traders.
It also was not much of an issue in 2008 — but that was before the federal government started bailing out banks and other big corporations. In the aftermath of TARP and other widely reported instances of crony capitalism, Clinton’s behavior back in 1978 and 1979 warrants further scrutiny.
The factor that makes the cattle futures scandal relevant is that Hillary Clinton received her trading advice from Tyson Food’s outside counsel. Tyson was a major agricultural producer in Arkansas and had numerous issues that Attorney General and later Governor Bill Clinton could affect.
Chinagate related to evidence from the FBI of illegal campaign contributions from the People’s Republic of China to the Democratic National Committee prior to President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign. China denied the allegations. In some ways, this is a precursor to the ethical quandaries relating to the Clinton Foundation and its foreign donations, which in some cases, had “matters before Mrs. Clinton’s State Department” when she was serving as our top diplomat. It’s only a matter of time before we get deeper into the weeds on that organization.