Thursday, April 07, 2016

The Panama Papers leak: The hidden Americans

Some readers laughed at my contention that one great purpose of the Panama Papers leak was to knock Hillary Clinton out of the race. Those readers may soon stop laughing.

Although the scandal is real, the coverage has more to do with propaganda than with honest journalism. In the initial round of stories, mainstream reporters targeted primarily the Designated Enemies: Putin, Assad, Iceland.

But the full tale of Mossack Fonseca has not come out yet -- not by a long shot.

Did you know that the journalistic consortium tasked to oversee this story is holding back the names of 441 Americans?

And did you know that Süddeutsche Zeitung (the mainstream German periodical which broke the story) has promised that American names will appear in an update?  "Just wait for what is coming next," the editors have warned.

I'm at least half-convinced that "what is coming next" will do harm to Hillary Clinton. The timing will no doubt be exquisite.

The Clintons need not be named directly. Their interests and associations are so wide as to allow for indirect guilt by association, as occurred in the case of Vladimir Putin.

We have already seen attempts to besmirch the Clintons on similar grounds: There was a flurry of stories about a figure involved with the HSBC scandal who donated heavily to the Clinton Foundation. That attempt to cobble together a scandal soon flickered out, although the embers may spark up again.

Have any members of the "Dirty 441" donated to the Clinton Foundation? Bet on it.

Anti-Clinton hysteria has caused many people to ignore one basic truth: The foundation is a charity, not a personal slush fund. The American Institute of Philanthropy gave the foundation an A rating and found that nearly 90 percent of the funds went to the poor and the needy.

Of course, mere fact tends to get lost when the winds of propaganda start to blow. Once we learn that a major Clinton Foundation donor has a "Panama" connection, the winds of propaganda will become a hurricane.

If Bill or Hillary Clinton had made direct use of Mossack Fonseca's services, we probably would have heard about it by now -- from them. The only way to survive such a scandal is to get out in front of it. Thus, I doubt that the Clintons are among the 441.

Obviously, the Panama Papers scandal could also be used to resolve the Trump problem. As everyone knows, Trump has launched strident attacks on offshore bank accounts; should he be proven a hypocrite on that score, his candidacy might not survive.

Arguably, his hypocrisy is already a matter of record.
In a report out this week, Citizens for Tax Justice and the U.S. Public Interest Group ranked the Fortune 500 companies based on how many offshore subsidiaries they have and by the amount of cash they're holding overseas. Trump owns stock in 22 of the top 30.
Do any of those 22 companies figure in the list of 441 Americans yet to be named in the Panama Papers scandal?

ICIJ. The story is controlled by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists -- and please note my use of the term "controlled by," not "reported by."
Recent ICIJ funders include: Adessium Foundation, Open Society Foundations, The Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Fritt Ord Foundation, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, The Ford Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts and Waterloo Foundation.

We are also very grateful for the support of the Australian philanthropist and businessman Graeme Wood.
Who is funding the reporters? Let's take a brief look...

The Adessium Foundation is a European environmental group that has done a lot of good. We should note, though, that it was founded by the Dutch Van Vliet family. One member of that family, Roland Van Vliet, served in his country's parliament as a member of the right-wing Party for Freedom, which espouses a distinctly Trumpian attitude toward Muslim immigrants.

The Open Society Foundations is chaired by George Soros, who recently donated $8 million to a pro-Hillary PAC. I admit that one cannot easily conceive of any covert Soros participation in a scheme to undermine her candidacy. It should be noted, however, that Soros screwed over Hillary in 2008, though he now claims to regret that decision. Two Soros fund managers have been quietly donating to John Kasich, whose star will surely rise if Trump and Hillary fall from grace. Soros is frequently accused of shorting national stock markets just before they collapse.

The Sigrid Rausing Trust was established by Swedish philanthropist Sigrid Rausing, who owns Granta Books and Granta Magazine. Undeniably, she has done an enormous amount of good in the world, although the family has not escaped the taint of scandal. (Believe it or not, the Rausings made their fortune by inventing the milk carton.)

The Fritt Ord Foundation is a Norwegian group devoted to press freedoms. From Wikipedia:
It caused controversy when it became known in 2013 that the organization provided funding to the controversial blogger Fjordman (Peder Jensen), who has been characterised as far-right[9][10] and Islamophobic,[11] for a book Jensen is writing about Anders Breivik and the 2011 Norway attacks. The Labour youth party leader Eskil Pedersen said that Fritt Ord is an organization that provides a platform for "gay-haters and racists," referring to both the support for Fjordman and previous support for other controversial causes and individuals.[1][12][13] Member of Parliament Snorre Valen accused Fritt Ord of "mockery of all those killed and injured" in the 2011 Norway attacks, stating that Fritt Ord provides funding to a writer "so that he can publish a book about the terrorist he inspired," concluding that Fritt Ord supports "extremism."[14] Leader of the support group for Breivik's victims, Trond Henry Blattmann, told Dagbladet that Fritt Ord's financial support for Fjordman was "unacceptable."[15]
Let us pause to note that Anders Breivik also expressed his support for the Party For Freedom.

Although the Pulitzer Center seems to be as Establishment as they come, I've yet to see any evidence linking them to either American intelligence or the right. In fact, they've funded some damned good writers. (Example.)

The Ford Foundation is a different story. We've looked at their links to the CIA in at least one previous Cannonfire post.

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation usually funds environmental causes. David was, of course, the Packard in Hewlett-Packard; he served as the Deputy Secretary of Defense during the Nixon era, at which time he wrote the rather infamous "Packard Memo," also known as the "Employment of Military Resources in the Event of Civil Disturbances". Also see here. He also helped to fund the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which I like a great deal. Fish are pretty.

The Pew Charitable Trust is non-ideological, although the Pew family (of Sun Oil fame) has long been noted for its conservatism. Visit here if you'd like to read a warts-and-all look at the family -- mostly warts. In the past, the Pew Trust seems to have had serious connections to both the CIA and the old-school American right: See here.

The Waterloo Foundation, devoted to helping disadvantaged areas of the world, is primarily run by British philanthropists Heather and David Stevens; Heather co-founded the Welsh-based Admiral Insurance Group, which specializes in auto insurance. I can find nothing derogatory about the Stevenses, who are the top philanthropists in the UK.

The Epstein angle. What follows is sheer speculation. I freely admit it.

Nevertheless, part of me keeps expecting disgraced hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein to play a role here. Although Epstein famously won't work with anyone worth less than a billion dollars, he might well have made an exception for a former president -- and for a potential future president.

Although Trump and Epstein were once friends, I've seen no indication that Epstein ever handled Trump's money. But can we discount the possibility?

I bring up Epstein in this context because he keeps his own money offshore. No evidence suggest that he has ever used the firm of Mossack Fonseca (though the possibility remains open) -- but right now, the public has been sensitized to the greasy nature of all offshore accounts.

The Epstein operation is ultra-mysterious; he's like no other hedge fund manager in the world. Some observers believe that he is, in truth, something else entirely.

Bottom line: I can't say that I would be terribly shocked to learn that Epstein has helped ultra-wealthy clients avoid taxes by parking their money offshore. Can I prove it? Of course not. I'm just saying that I wouldn't be terribly shocked.
Iceland aren't a designated enemy. The now-former PM of Iceland was the Icelandic equivalent of a conservative, and the polls imply a likely replacement by the Pirates, who are more edgy a lefty than the social democrats behind the events of 2010 and the financial reform.

The criticism of Fritt Ord seems to be light on facts, other than them doing what they were set up to do, defending free speech. Even Noam Chomsky has been accused of being a Nazi because he defend the free speech of people with objectionable ideas.

Ironic that this is partly funded by the Tetrapak billions, which are notoriously involved in offshoring and tax avoidance.

"The Foundation is a charity, not a personal slush fund".

No, it isn't. But Secretary Clinton's State Department authorized 151 BILLION in military funds to 16 countries (Saudi Arabia got 29 billion alone) during Hillary's time as Sec. of State that had donated to the Foundation, a 143% increase over the Bush Administration funding previously. The heads of Saudi Arabia and the UAE were both implicated deeply in hiding money through MF Law Firm.

American defense firms that donated to the Foundation and paid Bill for speaking received 163 BILLION authorized by Clinton's State Department. Seems somewhat quid pro quo to me. Being the founders of such a successful foundation certainly has its perks globally, and who is to say they weren't rewarded monetarily with an offshore shell company?

The Podesta Group has been revealed by the Papers as a lobbying group for Russia's largest bank, Sberbank, with Clinton campaign manager John Podesta's brother Tony, a top bundler for Hillary, and two staffers who were prior assistant secretaries of state as lobbyists.

Looks like you are right. The Clintons are certainly connected to culprit companies in the Panama Papers. Film at eleven.
There is no more scrutinized charity on earth than the Clinton Foundation. If there were anything there, we'd know about it by now.

The Saudi family and other rich personages/entities have contributed to this charity for the same reasons that rich people have always contributed to charities.

The idea that the Clintons are motivated by an ambition to became mega-zillionaires is silly. SUre, they are worth a lot of money -- but after awhile, you have to ask yourself the famous question from Chinatown: "How much better are ya gonna eat?"

If money were the sole motivator, why would Hillary even run? It would be better simply to stay in the public sector and earn money.

Like a lot of conspiracy theorists, you presume that those awful, awful CLintons are motivated by Evil For the Sake of Evil. That's nonsense. We've been hearing that nonsense about the Clintons since 1992 -- and it's all turned out to be a bunch of smears.
I will vote for the Dem nominee this fall no matter what. However, I don't like Hillary and never have.
Could you please stop pushing her down my throat.
She will be another Obama, promise a lot and deliver very little.
I can wrap my head around that. What I can't understand is why ALL these people would go through all these MEDIA DRIVEN CONCPIRICIES to dis-credit HRC. If Hillary or Bill are such threats to the status quo, wouldn't it be much easier to assassinate them than fight them at every election?
I love you Joe, I do, but HRC reminds of "tofu". It's good for you but you never dance while you eat it.
Fritt Ord is one of the many US/Western-European government/establishment foundations that are used to funnel money into the opposition and friendly media in places like Russia, Georgia or the Baltics.

Where Open Society and Ford goes, there goes Fritt Ord and similar smaller foundations. There must be dozens, if not hundreds, of them.

For example, this Georgian online media is supported by Fritt Ord:
Other articles show that it also gets founding from Open Society.
Indeed, the Clintons are not radicals, and so wealthy reactionaries should not be funding conspiracies to discredit them with false accusations.

And yet, wealthy reactionaries have been doing that for at least 25 years now.

So yes, why are the reactionaries doing that?
M, I agree. I will vote for the Dem nominee, whoever that may be, but I'm no fan of Clinton. I think it is interesting that so much vitriol is thrown at her, yet the avowed socialist is basically left alone. I really am starting to think that the right wants Sanders to be the person they go up against in the election. It would certainly make it easy to fire up their base, just by hammering the whole "socialist" angle, if nothing else (and there is undoubtedly more they will dig up if/when the time comes). Still, I won't feel good about voting for Hillary, but certainly better than I would voting for some crazy Republican.
The source is fringe but the argument is that Nevada, Wyoming and South Dakota are the new tax havens for the wealthy who are leaving the Caymans, Panama and Switzerland. Something to do with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.
The other interesting bit is the 2011 US-Panama Free Trade Agreement. While it officially required tax transparency between the two countries accompanying documents to the agreement had specific clauses inserted that exempted scrutiny of Panama's tax havens "if they [the agreement provisions] are 'contrary to the public policy' of Panama." Easy for the Panamanian government to get around. See here and here.
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