Beast of the Month - April 2001
Marc Rich, Fugitive Financier and Klinton Pardon Recipient
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
The stock market is crashing. The economy is nose-diving. California can't keep its lights on. The environment appears doomed. And we're not even 100 days into the "presidency" of Shrub Bush, who appears to enjoy fiddling while Rome burns.
Ah, makes you almost appreciate the reign of Bill Klinton.
Lest one begins to have delusions that Klinton was some sort of great man (like the recent bizarre deification of Ronald Reagan), in his final moments, Slick Willie managed to give the public a farewell gift to leave him by that has left a bitter taste in most people's mouths.
The last-minute pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich (The Konformist Beast of the Month) has become the most controversial presidential pardon since Richard Nixon. The controversy is deserved. Along with his partner Pincus Green in the oil business, Rich was indicted in 1983 on 50 felony counts, including charges of racketeering, mail and wire fraud, conspiracy and, most significant, tax evasion of the incredible sum of $48 million. Rather than face the charges, Rich fled to Switzerland, where he couldn't be extradited. He continued to live a luxurious life, wheeling and dealing in international commodities markets, including trades with apartheid South Africa. He hired top-ranking officials from Democratic and Republican administrations to represent him, and relied on his ex-wife to lavish money on Democrats during the Klinton years, including the chief pecker himself. The investments appear to have paid off. Now, eighteens years after his indictment, he has been given a get-out-of-jail card.
What makes the case of Marc Rich so unusual is that many liberals, who usually come rushing to the defense of Klinton every time he becomes a "victim" to another right-wing attack, have been loathe to stand by their man this time. The reason for this may have something to do with the fact that, at even face value, the pardon of Rich appears quite sleazy, a favor done in exchange for campaign contributions. Meanwhile, more progressive elements (who never have been fans of the President) have even greater issues with the pardon. As columnists Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman have pointed out in, Rich played a central role in one of the highest profile union-busting efforts the United States has seen in recent decades. According to Mokhiber and Weissman:
In the early 1990s, Marc Rich was the power-behind-the-scenes at the Ravenswood Aluminum Corporation (RAC) facility in Ravenswood, West Virginia, site of one of the most embittered U.S. labor-management disputes of recent decades... The Ravenswood plant, which had been owned by Kaiser Aluminum for four decades, passed into the ownership of RAC in 1988. The union discovered that, behind a convoluted corporate ownership smokescreen, stood one man with a controlling interest in RAC: Marc Rich.
To break the union, RAC locked out its 1,700 workers and hired scabs. The night of the lockout, the company brought in a goon squad security force equipped with riot gear, clubs, tear gas and video cameras used to constantly monitor the workers' pickets.
Mokhiber and Weissman both believe it was unlikely that Rich initially knew anything about the actions by RAC. But about four months into the conflict, the union had uncovered the Rich connection and called on him to end the lockout. The lockout lasted another 16 months.
With this kind of history, you'd think the right wing would actually embrace the guy. Indeed, the Rich pardon seems another strange example of how Klinton's biggest enemies are those on the right whose agenda Klinton has advanced so well. But since the Rich pardon allows the right to bash Billy again, Rich's image as a swine has been embraced by conservatives out of pure pragmatism.
Pragmatic it may be, but the image is deserved. Indeed, the Rich case merely fits the entire package of last minute pardons, most of which seem to be favors for the politically connected. Consider the following examples, courtesy of Sam Smith and The Progressive Review:
Roger Clinton: conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Bill's half-brother.
Tom Bhakta: tax evasion. His family gave $5,000 to Hillary's campaign.
Almon Glenn Braswell: Vitamin peddler convicted of mail fraud and perjury. Hillary's brother Hugh Rodham lobbied for pardon.
Carlos Vignali: Offense - cocaine trafficking. Hugh Rodham lobbied for him.
Henry Cisneros: lying in independent-counsel probe. Served in Bill Clinton's Cabinet.
John Deutch: security violations. Served Bill Clinton at CIA.
Robert Clinton Fain and James Lowell Manning: tax charges. William Cunningham, Hillary's Senate campaign treasurer, acted as their lawyer.
Susan McDougal: fraud in Whitewater scandal; refusal to testify against Bill Clinton. Longtime friend and Whitewater partner of the Clintons.
Edward R. Downe Jr.: securities fraud. Hillary donor.
Richard Riley Jr.: federal drug charges. Son of Clinton's education secretary.
Stephen A. Smith and Robert Palmer: charges related to Whitewater. Smith was former Clinton aide; Palmer worked as appraiser on Whitewater.
Christopher V. Wade: Whitewater bankruptcy fraud. One of the original developers of Clintons' Whitewater.
Harvey Weinig: Helped launder at least $19 million for drug cartel. A relative, former White House aide David Dreyer, asked Clinton confidants for clemency.
Apparently, it does pay to be a FOB. (Provided you don't "commit suicide.")
Still, is anyone surprised by this? Take the California "electricity crisis", which could end in a second if Shrub would reinstitute price caps. He hasn't, and coincidentally, the main beneficiaries of his decision are a cartel of Houston-based energy companies, which have financed his career. Or take the work on "bankruptcy reform," which will make it harder for people to escape from crippling credit card debts. There is no public support for the initiative, yet it appears ready to sail through Congress. Dubya has promised to sign the bill: coincidentally, the nation's number one credit card issuer, MBNA, was Bush's top contributor.
Of course, there may be even more to the curious case of Marc Rich. In a New York Times article, Klinton, after reminding readers that George Bush gave last minute pardons of six Iran-contra defendants, including former Defense Secretary Weinberger (a sleazy move that oddly caused no outrage or demands for Congressional investigations), claimed that one of the reasons he issued the pardons of Rich and Green is he believed that they were unfairly singled out. As unsympathetic as Marc Rich is, this appears to be true. The fact that his prosecutor was would-be Mussolini Rudy Giuliani raises other questions about fairness. He also added that the pardon was strongly advocated by Israeli officials, including Ehud Barak. This appears to be the case as well, and it appears Rich has done services for the Israeli spy agency Mossad.
Still, if injustice was the only issue, Klinton could've pardoned many other individuals: Leonard Peltier, Michael Milken and Jonathan Pollard are three people who failed to make the final cut. Perhaps there is something else to this. The time of his indictment, 1983, fits very well with the whole Iran-Contra operation: indeed, according to the October Surprise hypothesis, secret deals between the CIA and the fundamentalist Iranian government happened as early as 1980 (and perhaps even earlier.) His dealings in the oil industry and his involvement with Mossad and South Africa fit very well with the operation as well. This leads to some curious speculation: was Marc Rich an early fall guy for Iran-Contra, a man who was left holding the bag because others feared he was a risk? Somehow we think that such questions won't be asked by any official investigation.
In any case, we salute Marc Rich as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Markie!!!
Marc Rich's Hidden History as a Union-Buster
My Reasons for the Pardons
February 18, 2001
Post Office Box 24825
Los Angeles, California 90024-0825
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