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."