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)…
“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.”
1) David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser who was President Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, accepted a $100,000 speaking fee in 2010 from an affiliate of a company doing business with Iran’s government.
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.
If you want to argue that the Obama administration’s policies towards Iran are soft because of a speech that David Plouffe gave in 2010 to a South African company, you can go ahead and do that. I think the simpler explanation is that President Obama is the man who declared in a Democratic presidential debate that he was willing to meet with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions. This is not a man with gut-level revulsion for the Iranian regime, which announced its worldview and intent to the world by taking Americans hostage and parading them before television cameras, which spent the following decades becoming the preeminent state sponsor of terror and blew up 19 U.S. Airmen in Khobar Towers in 1996. President Obama is a man who really does believe, or did believe, that America and Iran could “get past” previous acts of mass murder and come to a peaceful agreement.
No, the bigger story out of the Plouffe speeches is that President Obama, who campaigned so passionately against what he called the “revolving door” between the highest levels of government and the lobbying/influence business, has absolutely no problem with it when his friends do it.
The White House assures us that Plouffe merely went to speak to the company about “mobile technology and digital communications.” It was merely his technical expertise, and not his connection to the president, that spurred MTN Group to spend $100,000, and probably about $5,000-$10,000 on air fare (how likely is it that Plouffe flew coach, or had many layovers?) and more on lodging.
Now, how many speeches are worth $110,000 to a company? What could President Obama’s 2008 campaign manager have to say about “mobile technology and digital communications” that would create $110,000 in value to a telecommunications company?
Government work and campaign work often don’t pay very well. But those who choose that path can develop relationships with powerful people – and thus, once a campaign or government worker has built up enough solid relationships with powerful lawmakers, they can cash in on the decades of effort with highly-compensated “totally not a lobbyist” jobs like Daschle’s, or through extremely well-compensated speaking gigs like Plouffe. Again, both sides do it.
But as a candidate, Obama explicitly and loudly denounced this phenomenon, and he ran ads on it: “The chairman of the committee who pushed the law through went to work for the pharmaceutical industry, making $2 million a year. Imagine that! That’s an example of the same-old game playing in Washington. I don’t want to play the game better, I want to put an end to the game-playing.”
Obama’s ethics proposals specifically spelled out that former lobbyists would not be allowed to “work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years.” On his first full day in office, Obama signed an executive order to that effect. But the order has a loophole — a “waiver” clause that allows former lobbyists to serve. That waiver clause has been used at least three times, and in some cases, the administration allows former lobbyists to serve without a waiver. After examining the administration’s actions for the past two months, we have concluded that Obama has broken this promise.
Obama adviser David Plouffe, speaking on Good Morning America today, offered a strangely contradictory message: that Congress has to pass Obama’s jobs bill to improve the economy, and that the Obama campaign is preparing for a tough race because the economy won’t improve anytime soon.
Stephanopolous: Last week Vice President Biden said that the Republican Party is actually strong enough to win. Is he right?
Plouffe: We’re going to have a close election. Some things aren’t going to change between now and next November. We’re obviously in a tough economy. We’re going to have a very close election as most presidential elections are. So we’re going to have to fight for every vote, and that’s what we intend to do. What the president’s focused on is how do we get people back to work in the short term and how do we rebuild an economy in the long term that makes sure hard work and responsibility is rewarded and that the middle class feels more secure?
By the way, if the Obama team is wondering why no one seems all that enthused about their latest big-spending bill designed to lower the unemployment rate, this chart from the Washington Post from a few days ago seems pretty illustrative:
According to the White House’s projections, the stimulus bill was supposed to bring down the unemployment rate to about 6.5 percent or so by now.
Obama and his team have given skeptics absolutely no reason to believe that this grab-bag of Democratic spending proposals will impact the unemployment rate any differently than the last one — except that this one is smaller.
A few things to keep in mind as you peruse all the bad news below the headline that unemployment went up to 9.2 percent.
First, I wonder if Obama adviser David Plouffe still believes what he said yesterday.
“The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers,” Plouffe said. “People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate, they’re going to vote based on: ‘How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?’”
“Their decision next year will be based upon two things,” Plouffe said. “How do I feel about things right now and then, ultimately, campaigns are always much more about the future and who do I think has got the best idea, the best vision for where to take the country?”
Secondly, I wonder if President Obama still believes that Speaker Boehner’s “Where are the jobs?” query is a “skewed question,” as he stated earlier this week.
Thirdly, I suspect Mitt Romney will get more use out of this ad:
Fourthly, I expect we’ll hear a lot of talk about this quote from February 2009.
Obama set, perhaps inadvertently, a three-year deadline when he declared:
I will be held accountable. I’ve got four years. A year from now, people are going to see that we’re starting to make some progress, but there’s still going to be some pain out there. If I don’t have this done in three years, then this is going to be a one-term proposition.
Three years from that statement would be February 2012. Obama has seven months to demonstrate a significant improvement in the economy he inherited.