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Monday, August 06, 2012

Obama's '08 campaign manager got $100K from Iranian affiliate

A senior adviser to President Obama, who was also his 2008 campaign manager, received a $100,000 speaking fee in 2010 from an affiliate of a company that does business with the government of Iran.
A subsidiary of MTN Group, a South Africa-based telecommunications company, paid [David] Plouffe for two speeches he made in Nigeria in December 2010, about a month before he joined the White House staff.

Since Plouffe’s speeches, MTN Group has come under intensified scrutiny from U.S. authorities because of its activities in Iran and Syria, which are under international sanctions intended to limit the countries’ access to sensitive technology. At the time of Plouffe’s speeches, MTN had been in a widely reported partnership for five years with a state-
owned Iranian telecommunications firm.

There were no legal or ethical restrictions on Plouffe being paid to speak to the MTN subsidiary as a private citizen. But for a close Obama aide to have accepted payment from a company involved in Iran could prove troublesome for the president as the White House toughens its stance toward the Islamic republic. In recent weeks, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has accused the administration of being soft on Iran.

The White House declined to make Plouffe available for an interview. Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, said Sunday that criticizing Plouffe would be unfair because MTN Group’s role in Iran was not a high-profile issue when he was invited to speak to the affiliate.
In other words, the White House is trying to argue that since this should have been below the radar screen, it was okay. This administration is reminding me more and more of the Clinton administration, which made legalistic arguments to avoid the spirit of US laws and regulations.

And then the White House falls back on its other argument: Blame Bush.
White House officials said it is not unusual for Washington figures to receive similar fees for speeches. They note that senior officials in the George W. Bush administration had been paid for speeches by companies doing business in Iran.
I guess the days of a Democrat saying 'the buck stops here' are long since gone. This administration is completely incapable of acknowledging any wrongdoing or apologizing for it. Perhaps they really believe that Obama is God.

But what's worse is that avoiding MTN is nowhere near as insignificant as the administration is making it out to be, and the administration knew this long before 2010:
In 2005, MTN Group entered the Iranian market by forming a joint venture, Irancell, with an Iranian government-backed consortium. Headquartered in Johannesburg, MTN Group has rapidly expanded its businesses in Iran, Nigeria and other developing economies.

In 2006, Stuart Levey, then undersecretary of the Treasury and the point man on Iran sanction enforcement in the Bush administration — a job he also held for two years under Obama — told Turkish officials that Irancell was “fully owned” by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to a State Department cable made public by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
Plouffe is no minor official.
With a broad portfolio mixing politics and policy, Plouffe is a key member of Obama’s inner circle, a confidant whose desk is just steps from the Oval Office. There is no evidence that he has been involved in policy discussions about Iran sanctions, though he has spoken publicly about the need to restrain Iran’s nuclear program.
And the White House is trying to cover up the fact that MTN has been a target for sanctions for a long time.
The White House on Sunday hinged its response in part on the activities of a prominent watchdog group, United Against Nuclear Iran. White House officials noted that the group did not start a public campaign against MTN Group until this year. “Seems like if MTN was a notable public problem in 2010, they might have started their campaign then,” the White House said in an e-mail to The Post.

Mark Wallace, the chief executive of United Against Nuclear Iran, said Sunday: “MTN was a charter member of UANI’s target list — the Iran Business Registry — launched in 2009. We hope Mr. Plouffe will use his considerable influence to urge President Obama to enact a full economic blockade of Iran so that companies like MTN will no longer be able to operate there.”
And you wonder why no one here believes that Obama is serious about stopping Iran?

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