New York voter Greg Palast is troubled by Hillary
Clinton's murky past
Originally printed in The Observer (London), November 5, 2000
I hesitate about Hillary. It all goes back to something Ron Brown,
the late Commerce Secretary, said about our dear First Lady: ‘I'm
not Hillary's mother-f***ing tour guide.'
To know what that's all about, turn back to Arkansas 1976,
when Bill Clinton won election to the powerful state post of Attorney
General. I hunted down Clinton's old ally Zack Polatt, of Little
Rock, to talk about those glory days.
Clinton ran his campaign on fighting the despised local electricity
company, Arkansas Power. Funny thing was, Polatt told me, Arkansas
consumer organisations were defeated in court by the power company's
sharp lawyers, Webster Hubbell and Hillary Rodham of Rose Law.
At the time, Hillary would not use her husband's name. She
strategically switched to ‘Mrs Clinton' only while crying
crocodile tears for the oppressed. The official biography of the
‘Flotus' (government-speak for First Lady of the United
States) lists her six-month stint on a child-protection task force.
Yet nowhere does it mention her six years on the board of Wal-Mart
Corporation, notorious during her directorship for alleged abuses
of child labour. Sam Walton called her ‘My little lady'
and paid her fees equal to 60 per cent of her income as a lawyer.
Fast forward to 1994 and the Brown ‘tour guide' business.
According to Nolanda Hill, the Commerce Secretary's long-time
business partner and love interest, Brown, who died in 1996, endorsed
a Hillary cash-for-access scheme ($10,000 for coffee with the President,
$100,000 for a night in the Lincoln bedroom), but resented the discount
rate the Flotus put on US executives joining his lucrative trade
missions. ‘I'm worth more than $50,000 a pop!'
A reflection of the Brown-Hillary scheme is visible in a document
The Observer obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act,
dated June 1994. In the memo, Jude Kearney, Commerce Department
officer (and Clinton chum from Arkansas) warned someone called ‘JCB'
of power company Entergy that his employer would be locked out of
Brown's upcoming China mission unlessit was ‘politically
By the end of the month, Entergy, whose partner in the China venture
was the Riady family of Indonesia, would connect big time to both
Flotus and ‘Potus' (the President) and get its spot on
the China mission, on which it signed a billion-dollar deal with
On 27 June James Riady paid Webster Hubbell, Hillary's former
law partner, $100,000. How strange. Hubbell was under indictment
for fraudulently inflating his legal bills, a felony. I've
conducted investigations of lawyer overbilling. How can one law
partner to fake detailed time logs without the complicity of another
lawyer in the firm? Hillary's logs were worth close inspection
Funny thing about Hillary's billing records: when requested
for disclosure in an unrelated matter they disappeared. First, her
law firm's computers went ka-blooey. Then the paper printouts
vanished, but not before, during the 1992 Presidential campaign,
they were secretly combed over, line by line, by two of her partners,
Vince Foster and Web Hubbell.
Hubbell knew his own logs were phonied, and he understood the consequences
of exposure. Ultimately, bloated hours on those records caused him
to lose his law licence, his ministerial post (the President had
appointed him Assistant US Attorney General) and his freedom - 21
months in the slammer.
What did Foster and Hubbell see and know about Hillary's logs?
Hubbell won't say, except for a cryptic remark, after seeing
her bills, that ‘every lawyer' fabricates records. Hubbell
pleaded guilty, but refused to answer investigators' questions,
a requirement in any plea bargain, so the judge had to sentence
him to prison.
Why would Hubbell choose to do time on the chain gang over testifying
about the Flotus? His prosecutors did not know at the time of a
$100,000 Riady payment, the first of over half a million dollars
Hubbell would receive from Clinton friends in the weeks up to his
Foster didn't speak either - and now he can't. Hubbell,
a jovial good ol' boy, had the temperament to suffer a brush
with ruin with a grin… and wait for friends of Bill and Hill
to stuff his piggy bank. Foster, whom Clinton made a White House
counsel, had a less flexible personality. On 20 July, 1993, as Rose
Law fake billings were about to become public, Foster committed
Files of the Flotus were removed from Foster's White House
office prior to the arrival of the FBI. Her billing records reappeared
two years later just outside her office, right after Hubbell's
refusal to testify against her.
By overbilling, Hubbell admits he stole from his partners and clients.
Some sued Hubbell, but the Flotus did not. Imagine: Hillary, a supposed
victim of the overbilling scam not only refused to sue the thief
who cheated her, she helped make him wealthy on his way to prison.
The lady's a saint, unless - and I'd never believe this
- she was in on Hubbell's scam.
Maybe the Clintons knew nothing about the big money flowing to
prison-bound Hubbell. Knowledge of the payments would suggest they
were buying Hubbell's silence. In 1996, when the LA Times uncovered
the payments, the President stone-cold denied he knew anything about
Then, in April 2000, in a deposition by the Justice Department
weirdly unreported by the US press, Clinton changed his tune. Investigators
confronted the President with this: on 20 June 1994, Hubbell met
with the Flotus. Two days later, James Riady met with Hubbell for
breakfast, then went to the White House, met again with Hubbell,
then made two more treks to the White House. Two days later, a videotape
shows the beginning of a meeting in the Oval Office between Clinton
and Riady before the tape goes blank. Two days after that, Hubbell
gets his $100,000 through a Riady bank.
Lying to journalists is a venal sin, but lying to the Feds is perjury.
In his deposition, the President's denial transformed into
amnesia. He couldn't remember if Riady mentioned the payment.
Then, the President slyly opened the door to the truth. ‘I
wouldn't be surprised if James told me,' Clinton said.
Neither would I.
Riady said other surprising things to Clinton. According to FBI
debriefing papers, on 14 August 1992 the Indonesian billionaire,
riding with candidate Clinton in a limousine, promised to give $1
million to Clinton's campaign. Riady made good on his promise
through sham donors, a violation of US laws against concealed and
What did Riady get? The Flotus herself, says Nolanda Hill, forced
Brown to accept the appointment of Riady's bag man, John Huang,
as a Commerce Department deputy. Huang's first order of business
was to wheedle his way into confidential CIA briefings on Indonesia
and China, then call Riady and his Entergy partners.
The very day Riady met the President, diaries show he called on
a Clinton crony at the top of the department's Export-Import
Bank. ‘We just came over from the Oval Office,' is a nice
way to provide assurance of the ‘political connection'
required for help. These and other Riady team meetings at Commerce
are marked 'social'. Yet, shortly thereafter, the department
agreed to promote and fund the Riady-Entergy China venture.
Influence is not a victimless crime. Riady and his minions'
visits to the White House (94 times!) included successful requests
for the President to meet Indonesian dictator Suharto and to kill
negative reports on East Timor and working conditions in Indonesia.
Timorese and Indonesians paid for these policy flips with blood.
For years, Hillary Clinton, has been the voodoo doll pieced by
the demonic doyens of the ultra-Right. And, therefore, I will never
accept that the $1m slipped to the Clinton campaign and the cash
for Hillary's tight-lipped partner Hubbell connect in any way
with Clinton administration actions -- no matter what the evidence
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller,
"ARMED MADHOUSE: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf? China Floats Bush
Sinks, the Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left and other
Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War." The winner
of the George Orwell Courage in Journalism Prize, Palast held Orwell's
post as columnist and investigative reporter for The Observer newspaper
of London -- from which this column is re-printed.