Just as a refresher, foreigners, except those holding “green cards” authorizing permanent residence, are forbidden from taking political donations. The donations come in but politicians, in cases where the last name is not Clinton, return them to the donor. A shadier area are those lobbyist who are registered as “foreign agents” under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Because money is fungible, you can never be quite sure if they are donating personal funds or acting as a pass-through for their client. And, of course, there are the atmospherics. Taking money from someone who represents deranged dictators, or, if you are Donald Trump, bringing them on as your campaign manager, creates its own set of problems. Which brings us to this story courtesy of Wikileaks.
The Clinton campaign had an early ban on taking money from foreign agents. Then reality intervened.
The [email] chain features Dennis Cheng, national finance director for the Clinton campaign, asking, “We really need make a policy decision on this soon – whether we are allowing those lobbying on behalf of foreign governments to raise $ for the campaign. Or case by case.”
Jesse Ferguson, deputy national press secretary and senior spokesman for Clinton, tries to understand just how much money is up in the air. “Is there anyway to ballpark what percent of our donor base this would apply to (aka how much money we’re throwing away) Cost benefits are easier to analyze with the costs. :)”
Later, Cheng seems worried about losing this potential fundraising, writing, “Hi all – we do need to make a decision on this ASAP as our friends who happen to be registered with FARA are already donating and raising. I do want to push back a bit (it’s my job!): I feel like we are leaving a good amount of money on the table (both for primary and general, and then DNC and state parties)… and how do we explain to people that we’ll take money from a corporate lobbyist but not them; that the Foundation takes $ from foreign govts but we now won’t. Either way, we need to make a decision soon.”
Finally, Robby Mook, campaign manager for Clinton, writes, “Marc made a convincing case to me this am that these sorts of restrictions don’t really get you anything…that Obama actually got judged MORE harshly as a result. He convinced me. So…in a complete U-turn, I’m ok just taking the money and dealing with any attacks. Are you guys ok with that?”
Jennifer Palmieri, director of communications for Clinton’s campaign, responds to that email, “Take the money!!”
If “take the money” looks familiar you only have to go back the administration of Bill Clinton. The Clinton White House was awash in foreign money, much of it from Communist Chinese citizens or agents. This was the era of Charlie Trie, Johnny Cheung, John Huang, James Riady, Maria Hsia, Ted Sioeng, and “no controlling legal authority.” No one with an IQ in the right half of a Bell Curve, maybe even the right two-thirds, could possibly be surprised when given the choice between cold cash and principle, Clinton chose the cash.