Sunday, October 09, 2005

In a land of moral imbeciles...

Once in awhile you read something that shouldn't be inspiring, but in some weird way gives you a major kick in the head. This Sunday's WaPo Magazine article House of Cards is it.

April Witt’s smartly written expose on the internal workings of the Clintons’ fundraising machine will curl toes in political fundraising circles. It is the story of how a youngish fundraiser, a con man and an ex-con put together the 2000 Hollywood Gala Salute to President William Jefferson Clinton for Hillary's Senate race.

The story has been around, Newsmax had a blip 18 months ago on the Aaron Tonken book published last October, and Peter Paul has plead on other charges unrelated to the event, while David Rosen was acquitted in May for the fundraising violations. What makes Witt’s WaPo piece a good read is her sense of history and the quotes from subjects Rosen, Tonken & Paul.

David Rosen a political fundraiser and former head of Hillary’s 2000 national fundraising effort …

"I mean, I knew he was doing shady [expletive], like saying to Cher, 'Cher, the president just called me and he needs you to perform "If You Could Turn Back Time" in between Diana Ross and before the . . . .' Then he'd call Diana Ross: 'The president just called me, and we need you to go before Cher's "If You Could Turn Back Time."' And he'd mention, like, specific songs that the president was requesting. That's how he got a lot of them . . . It turned out to be some shady [expletive]. But who knew?" (Rosen on an FBI wire commenting on Tonken’s fundraising methods)

"Chum," he said, using the fishermen's term for little pieces of bait thrown in the water to attract bigger fish. "In the fundraising world we call this chum. These presidential cufflinks cost a few dollars to make, and I've seen billionaires do back flips for them." (No need to explain this one)

"He's an incredibly convincing guy," Rosen recalled. "He's kind of a pig. He's a guy who might have bare feet in the Beverly Hills Hotel and order a sundae in the lobby. He is slovenly. He is rude. But there is something endearing about this guy that's hard to put your finger on. He was so good at knowing what you were thinking. If somebody was lonely or needed something, he knew. He was incredible the way he would worm his way into people's lives in a very deep, personal way." (On working with Aaron Tonken then)

"I thought he was my friend," Rosen said. "It was a con." (On Aaron Tonken now)

Aaron Tonken a California fundraising impresario with an interesting mental health history…

"I realized early on that stars are for sale," he wrote. "You could buy them with a watch. And I would . . . I call it taking from the needy to feed the greedy." (On celebrities and charity events)

"In a land of moral imbeciles, I knew I could be king," (On Hollywood culture)

"It was like I was on crack," Tonken said. "The spending was an addiction, just like any other, and I couldn't break the habit because the alternative was far more horrifying to me: losing my relationships with the stars." (On a million dollar Cartier tab)

"It's called buying access," Tonken said. "I was able to get Mrs. Clinton on the phone when I wanted. Mrs. Clinton was wonderful to me, engaging and warm. It all seemed sincere at the time. I'm sure she did it because everyone was whispering in her ear: 'Money! See him!'" (Responding to Rosen’s con charges)

Peter Paul a lawyer, convicted felon and Clinton fundraiser…

"a surrealistic experience, something a little grandiose, on an international scale, which would be a very large practical joke . . ." (Speaking about his first felony conviction on cocaine possession with intent to distribute and defrauding the Cuban government in a coffee scam)

"I could have bought a boat," Paul said in an interview. "I could have bought a plane. Instead, I tried to buy the services of an ex-president as legally as possible." (On hosting the Hollywood Gala for Hillary’s Senate race)
To wrap up: Rosen was acquitted and Hillary called; Tonken is in jail and on Meds gratis, thanks to the California taxpayers; and Peter Paul, after returning from Sao Paulo, finally plead guilty to securities fraud, and is living on Welfare awaiting his Judicial Watch underwritten civil suit against the Clintons.

So how does this inspire? Easy, you’re just supposed to keep workin’ it … no shame. Think Rosen, Abramoff, Clinton(s), DeLay ... you name it, and in politics the word utility is associated with both industry and ethics.

Curious though, reading this WaPo piece & listening to John Kerry’s soft sell on Democrats and “values”.

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