Thursday, November 22, 2007

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

In May this year according to the New York Times, shareholders of InfoUSA, sued the company's founder Vinod Gupta for using the company's money "to ingratiate himself" with high-profile guests. Those high-profile guests turned out to be Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The company, infoUSA, one of the nation’s largest brokers of information on consumers, paid $146,866 to ferry the Clintons, Mr. Gupta and others to Acapulco and back, court records show. During the next four years, infoUSA paid Mr. Clinton more than $2 million for consulting services, and spent almost $900,000 to fly him around the world for his presidential foundation work and to fly Mrs. Clinton to campaign events....

In addition to the shareholder accusations, The New York Times reported last Sunday that an investigation by the authorities in Iowa found that infoUSA sold consumer data several years ago to telemarketing criminals who used it to steal money from elderly Americans. It advertised call lists with titles like “Elderly Opportunity Seekers” or “Suffering Seniors,” a compilation of people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. The company called the episodes an aberration and pledged that it would not happen again.

The incident has made its way back into the news courtesy of an informal SEC probe into whether company officers had used corporate funds to line their own pockets. The Clintons are not being accused of wrongdoing. The Washington Post reports:

Two sources familiar with the company's troubles suggested that investigators would focus their attention on executives' use of company money to feather their own nests. Gupta has been a major financial supporter of the Clintons since he met the president in the mid-1990s. Gupta and his company donated $1 million to help underwrite a lavish year 2000 New Year's Eve celebration at the White House and on the Mall.

He paid the former president $200,000 to deliver a speech to InfoUSA executives in Papillion, Neb., and signed the former president to a $3.3 million consulting deal. For the past four years, both Clintons have used Gupta's corporate plane, flying to Switzerland, Hawaii, Jamaica and Mexico -- about $900,000 worth of travel, The Post reported in May.

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign declined comment last night, referring reporters instead to a Delaware court's ruling in August that allowed the shareholder lawsuit to proceed against InfoUSA on two of the five original allegations. Among the allegations dismissed by the court was one asserting that Clinton's consulting contract was a waste of money.

The chancery court stated in that ruling that while some stock options granted to Bill Clinton may have been approved improperly, the shareholders had failed to prove his consulting arrangement was a waste of money. "Indeed, the company has estimated that the relationship with former President Clinton might be responsible for up to $40 million in sales," the court wrote.

The court, however, said it was possible that shareholders could make a legal issue out of the Clinton flights. Clinton campaign officials said earlier this year that she has reimbursed InfoUSA for flights she took.

The Gateway Pundit has a mini-roundup of commentary throughout the blogosphere.

The suit is against Gupta, not Clinton. Recent scandals involving both Democrat and Republican candidate's supporters have shown that all sorts of moths are attracted to the flame of politics. What people like Vinod Gupta and Norman Hsu hoped to obtain by "ingratiating" themselves with high-profile personalities is a fascinating question. Graham Greene unpersuasively argued that corruption mostly demeaned the corrupter. He wrote, "I have often noticed that a bribe has that effect -- it changes a relation. The man who offers a bribe gives away a little of his own importance; the bribe once accepted, he becomes the inferior, like a man who has paid for a woman."

But I think it would be plausible to argue the reverse: that the superior once corrupted becomes the inferior; a mere hireling. The King, once bought, is no longer the King. And it is to redress this reversal of status that treachery is introduced to square the relationship. Thus both the corrupter and the corrupted must retain the power of denunciation to avoid being completely dominated by the other. The potential to treachery defines a criminal relationship because it is the only way each can keep his self-respect. There are only two virtues in the criminal world: keeping your word and making sure you get even.

Yet despite this, power undoubtedly attracts. Most, if given a choice between flying a corporate jet or becoming one of the targets of crooked telemarketers offering deals for “Elderly Opportunity Seekers” or “Suffering Seniors,” might well choose the corporate jet. As Adlai Stevenson said, "Power corrupts, but lack of power corrupts absolutely."


Blogger rhhardin said...

all sorts of moths are attracted to the flame of politics

Actually I think that moths keep light at a constant bearing, so as to fly straight by moonlight. If the source is close and the bearing is anywhere ahead of abeam, it causes a spiral into the source.

There's no such spiral problem with a distant source.

11/22/2007 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger jamused said...

Still, I think it takes a special kind of person to say "I've taken 900K worth of plane-flights, and 2 million dollars in consulting fees from this person, but he's just a casual acquaintance..."

11/22/2007 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...

One significant thing this implies is that there is a whole side to the life the Clintons have been leading that we never see, because the press never reports it.

If the usual Clinton train wreck occurs, we will be forced to learn many of the sordid details only as they leak in the aftermath of an election victory.

11/22/2007 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Boghie said...

Was a Roman Client 'King' a king or a functionary?

11/22/2007 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

Hillary is in the strange position of having some the disadvantages of incumbency without ever having been elected President before. But that's the Bill effect. New faces, like Barack Obama are open to accusations of inexperience, but they have the advantage of being a vessel for optimism.

We don't know what Obama is. In the case of Hillary and to some extent Rudy, we already know what they are. Obama, like every fresh face, is still a blank page to the voters. And unlike Hillary, he is still among ordinary men. He has not yet entered upon that fabulous world of power which forever changes a person and sets them apart from you and I and everyone else at the supermarket checkout counter.

Everyone is twisted by his experience with power but each is formed according to his hidden inner qualities; the ones embedded so deep that even the candidate doesn't know what they are. In a very few politicians power brings out a quality we later recognize as greatness. And greatness is not always the same as goodness; though goodness must be part of it.

One of the requisites of any successful candidate is the ability to raise money. And we can learn a lot from the quality of the crowd that gathers around with the candidate, waiting to take his place on the stage of high politics. Why have they chosen to support this candidate? What do they see in him or her?

I wish I could put that question to Vinod Gupta or Norman Hsu.

11/22/2007 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

The worst part of the Clintons is not the Clintons themselves, it is the tens of millions of voters in America who are inexplicably but none the less inextractably in their thrall.

Worse than that, with a mildly variant vote in 2004, we would have obviously surrendered in Iraq under a Kerry presidency by now, and we would surrender our economy the way Israel cedes land for peace in this Global Warming panic.

Yeh - it's the Clinton voters that scare me more than the obviously partisan media. We can disregard the media, but not the voters.

If the Clintons were Republicans, they would be portrayed and accepted as the hideously deformed parasites they have been proven to be in the petri dish of recent history.

Instead, Hillary is wildly supported in certain quarters, good for at least 30M unthinking votes.

Scary stuff.

11/22/2007 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

Supporting Tony's assertion: All the voters who continue to enthusiastically support the Clintons despite...

• ...clemency granted to Puerto Rican Terrorists on the eve of the Senatorial election, cynically and successfully calculated to wring the winning margin from Hispanic voters for Hillary in what had been a very close campaign. (The irony of course, is that these were some Terrorists that had actually been successfully prosecuted and imprisoned via the CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM years before Clinton was faced with Terrorism as an international military challenge.)

• ...the clear and unambiguous contempt Bill Clinton has shown for women in decades of personal and vicious abuse of individual women, coercing sex then intimidating them to silence with the authority of the various elected offices he has held. That is, even after he has confessed in U.S. Court to exposing himself to a woman over whose job he had ultimate dispositive authority, after confessing that he subsequently lied under oath and used the power of the presidency to attempt to intimidate and sully the woman's reputation and so stifle her, and after a platoon of other women risked similar intimidation and Cabinet-level insults to tell of similar sexual mistreatment.

11/23/2007 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Mad Fiddler, we're only scuffing the tundra of the Dems' hypocrisy over the Clintons. Imagine how the media and Dems would feel if Nancy Reagan or Laura Bush were granted the duchy of New York as Senator for Life, as Hillary was given, though she had never lived there.

The press and the Dems created a powerful though imaginary scandal over the lawful firing of a few District Attorneys, a scandal far greater than anything caused by the "accidental" immolation of 76 men, women and children at Waco.

Hillary's recent fund-raising with Norman Hsu and Chinese restaurant workers blows over, with barely a whiff of the massive Chicomm penetration of the White House in the '90's, as proven, not just alledged, by the multiple guilty pleas and record fines paid by Lippo Group, Loral, Hughes and dozens of other criminals.

Without the blind devotion of the Clinton followers - voters and media, a screeching liar like Hillary would have been laughed off the national stage years ago like the rebirth of Phyllis Diller as the Gorgon. Instead, there's a better than even chance she's going to be our next President.

11/24/2007 06:54:00 AM  

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