Watchwoman on the Wall

► David Plouffe, currently White House senior adviser and Obama’s 2008 Campaign Manager, Takes $100,000 Indirectly From Iran, and Nobody Seems to Notice

► Plouffe Authored The Audacity to Win: How Obama Won and How We Can Beat the Party of Limbaugh, Beck, and Palin.


David Plouffe


What if, during the gathering-storm decade of the 1930s, a senior White House aide in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration had been found to have taken big money from a company dealing closely with the Nazis? Would it have been a huge scandal? Of course it would.


And what if, during the Cold War ’40s, a top White House aide to President Harry Truman had been caught taking cash from a company dealing with the Soviets? The question answers itself.

But now, in 2012, a White House aide in the Obama administration is revealed to have received a six-figure amount from a company connected to Iran, and nothing happens. 

The press doesn’t seem to care; the establishment is unruffled; even opposition Republicans have hardly noticed. 

If we, as a nation, had been this un-vigilant back during ’30s or the ’40s, America might not have survived.

More than two weeks after it ran, we can see now what should have been a big bang of a news story — the August 5 report in the Washington Post that David Plouffe, White House senior adviser, had accepted $100,000 from MTN, a South Africa-based mobile-phone company–a company that does multi-billion dollar business with Iran. Yet the story has, in fact, turned out to be a whimper.

At Monday’s White House press conference — the first such Q and A session in eight weeks — the press found time to ask questions about Syria, Afghanistan, and, of course, Mitt Romney’s taxes and Todd Akins’s idiotic words. 

Legitimate questions all, but the juiciest potential news story was Plouffe and his money; after all, here was the chance for a brave reporter to ask the President, face to face, why one of his closest aides had taken money, indirectly, from Iran. And yet none of the questioners seized the moment. 

So who, exactly, is David Plouffe? 

David Axelrod threatens to tell voters the evils of Mormonism — if the GOP dares to mention Obama’s pastor for 20 years, the “g*d-d*mn America” Rev. Wright.  It’s certain that he will only mention that Mitt Romney is a Mormon and forget the fact that Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from Nevada, is also a Mormon!

Remaining in the private sector after Obama’s victory, Plouffe published in 2010 a partisan and hallowing book about Obama, The Audacity to Win: How Obama Won and How We Can Beat the Party of Limbaugh, Beck, and Palin.

In addition, Plouffe did what many others, in both parties, have done after a big political win; he cashed in on the speaking circuit. One of those speeches caused him quick grief; it was reported in February 2009 that he had taken $50,000 to speak in the repressive ex-Soviet state of Azerbaijan; the backlash from human rights activists forced him to donate the money to a pro-democracy group.

Given that precedent, it’s all the more remarkable that nobody in the media has made a stink about Plouffe taking twice as much money from MTN, a $15 billion-a-year mobile phone company, for a speaking gig to MTN executives in Lagos, Nigeria in December 2010. 

One of the firm’s assets is MTN Irancell, which is Iran’s second-largest mobile operator. Indeed, according to the Wall Street Journal, MTN Irancell accounts for more than a fifth of MTN subscribers worldwide.

For its part, an MTN spokesman told the Post in its August 5 story that Plouffe was engaged “because of his expertise and his knowledge of the U.S. political scene.” But importantly, the speaking gig came three weeks after it was announced that Plouffe would be joining th… 

In other words, MTN wasn’t just paying to schmooze with a well-connected political insider; it was paying to schmooze with a future senior White House aide, someone who would have close access to the President and to national security secrets.

And while the same Post article added that the White House assured that Plouffe held no private meetings with MTN executives on his speaking trip, the questions of how one defines “private meeting” and whether or not Plouffe held meetings with MTN executives elsewhere seem not to have come up.


UANI is a bi-partisan, broad-based coalition in formation that will comprise individuals and organizations from across the political and ideological spectrum. UANI’s coalition of members, including human rights and humanitarian groups, the labor movement, political advocacy and grassroots organizations, representatives of diverse ethnicities, faith communities, political and social affiliations, will be united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.

Yet one activist group, United Against Nuclear Iran, (UANI) doesn’t seem to buy these attempted soothings. UANI has been campaigning for sanctions against MTN for three years. The group issued a statement on August 6, the day after the Post story, noting MTN Irancell’s subservience to the Iranian government, adding that it was especially egregious when Irancell shut down phone service to dissidents during the 2009-10 “Green Revolution.” 

Declared UANI: “MTN has blood on its hands.”

Pointing its finger at the White House aide, UANI’s statement continued, “We hope Mr. Plouffe will use his considerable influences to urge President Obama to sanction MTN and most important enact a full economic blockade on Iran, so that companies will no longer be able to operate there.” 

And UANI offered model language for sanctions which would prohibit the sort of speeches-for-hire that Plouffe had delivered.

That same day, August 6, the Washington Post’s rogue conservative blogger, Jennifer Rubin, got right down to it when she asked why Plouffe still had a job:

Why hasn’t the president fired David Plouffe who “accepted a $100,000 speaking fee in 2010 from an affiliate of a company doing business with Iran’s government”? How can the president tell other countries not to do business with the regime if a senior adviser has?

Yes, those are good questions, going right to the heart of not only ethics in the White House, but also US national security policy around the world. But nobody else asked them.

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Posted by Donna Calvin — Friday, September 07, 2012
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