The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Plouffe’s Perfectly Legal Work with Iran’s Cellular Service Provider


The RNC argues that Obama adviser David Plouffe and his lawyer either missed or ignored plenty of evidence that he was speaking for a company with a lot of business ties to the Iranian regime:

Plouffe’s Fluff: We Vetted The Company Before In December 2010 Going To MTN, Which Is Linked To The Iranian Regime…

White House officials said in an e-mail that Plouffe referred the proposed speech to his lawyer for review before accepting the invitation. The e-mail said Plouffe’s lawyer advised that MTN’s business dealings did not raise any issues “that would weigh against acceptance of the proposed speaking engagement.” (The Washington Post, 8/6/12)

What Plouffe Apparently Found Acceptable (Simple Google Search At The Time Would Have Shown)…

6/24/09: Reuters: “S.Africa’s MTN Denies Report Iran Network Blocked”

“MTN network is running in Iran and there is nothing wrong with it,” MTN Group spokeswoman Nozipho Januray-Bardill said. Local media reported on Wednesday that MTN may lose at least a month’s revenue in Iran, its third largest market, after the government blocked cellular network signals following a disputed June 12 election. The Iranian government blocked SMS text messages during polling after opposition candidates used them to galvanise key young voters during a fiercely contested election campaign, and Internet and mobile phone communications have been severely disrupted since. Domestic and international media have also been restricted. MTN Group owns 49 percent of MTN Irancell, which was launched in late 2006 as Iran’s No. 2 cellular operator. Some investors deemed the expansion risky, given the country’s nuclear stand-off with the West. MTN, which operates mobile phone networks across Africa and the Middle East, has more than 16 million customers in Iran and says the country has major growth potential.

8/3/09: Los Angeles Times: “Iran Court Warns Against Criticizing Proceedings”

The nation is bracing for further confrontations between security forces and supporters of Mousavi this week as supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s parliament confirm Ahmadinejad for a second term. One of the country’s main cellphone operators, Irancell, co-owned by South Africa’s MTN, warned customers Sunday that it would be suffering unspecified “technical” problems over the next three days, which coincide with the anticipated unrest.

5/26/08: New York Times: “MTN Search For Partner Could Face Obstacles From U.S.”

Having broken off talks with one suitor and quickly found another, the South African mobile phone operator MTN Group could still face obstacles to any deal from an unlikely corner: U.S. regulators, who prevent American companies from facilitating business in Iran, one of MTN’s fastest growing markets. … MTN’s business in Iran is new but growing quickly. At the end of 2007, MTN had six million subscribers in Iran, about 9 percent of its total customers, up from just 154,000 at the end of 2006. Revenue from Iran increased 1,642 percent in the 12 months ended December and now represents 2 percent of overall revenue. MTN also had 2.1 million customers in Sudan at the end of 2007, where the United States and the European Union have imposed some restrictions, and 3.1 customers million in Syria, where the United States has some financial restrictions. Sudan contributed 2 percent of 2007 revenues, and Syria 6 percent.

Eh… look, the lawyer’s job is probably to find things that will get Plouffe arrested. There is no law that bans former campaign managers and soon-to-be White House staffers from accepting large speaking fees from companies that do a lot of business in Iran, with the approval of the regime. Of course, “legal” is not the same as “a good idea.”

The bigger lesson from this is that in between his campaign work and his White House work, David Plouffe wasn’t that worried about the business ties or the moral character of who paid him. That’s perfectly legal – and completely against the message and professed ideals of the campaign that he managed in 2008.

Tags: Barack Obama , David Plouffe , Iran


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