by Paul R. Hollrah –
On Wednesday, October 23, two clients of Donald Trump‘s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, pleaded not guilty to federal campaign finance crimes during an appearance in Manhattan federal court. The two men, Russian-born Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were released on $1 million bonds and subjected to house arrest at their homes in Florida. According to an ABC News report, the indictments outline a “foreign national donor scheme” alleging the men conspired to circumvent federal election law by funneling foreign money to candidates in U.S. elections. The indictments detail how the defendants allegedly funneled $1-2 million’ from a Russian donor into the U.S. political system between June 2018 and April 2019.
The two men face charges including conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and falsification of records. ABC News reports that the defendants have “in recent weeks become key figures in the congressional impeachment inquiry against the president,” suggesting that they “played a significant role in assisting the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in digging up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his family. It is also alleged that Parnas and Fruman made a series of illegal contributions that included a $325,000 donation to the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action, and that the two violated the law by falsely reporting the source of those funds.
The indictments cause us to once again deplore the existence of a double standard in U.S. law enforcement under which Republican-linked wrongdoing is thoroughly investigated and severely punished, while the same violations, linked to Democrats, are ignored, excused, and covered up.
For example, in July 2008, Barack Obama boasted that, as of May 31, that year, his contributor base numbered some 1.5 million people, with one-fourth, or $66.25 million of his $265 million, coming from those contributing $2,000-2,300… some 33,200 people. Thus, the remainder, or $198.75 million, came from some 1.47 million people, each contributing $5, $10, $20… or, as Obama assured us, “whatever they could afford.”
While it is true that Obama is the kind of guy who could read Bill Clinton’s golf scorecard off a teleprompter and make it sound convincing, simple arithmetic should have told him that $198.75 million cannot be contributed by 1.47 million people in “$5, $10, or $20” amounts. Each of those 1.47 million people would have had to contribute, on average, $135 to create a pool of $198.75 million… and that simply does not happen. It has never happened before in American politics and it did not happen during the 2008 presidential campaign.
But then, in October 2008, the Obama campaign compounded their error. They reported that their contributor base had increased from 300 1.5 million to 2.5 million people, and that the total amount raised approached $600 million. If we can assume that 25% of their contributions still came from individuals giving $2,000-2,300, that base had grown from 33,200 individuals to 65,000 in a time span of just three months, and the number of individuals contributing modest amounts… “$5, $10, $20, or whatever they could afford”… had grown from 1.47 million to 2.43 million people, each contributing, on average, $185. Anyone who believes that bold-faced lie will believe almost anything. So how did they do it?
In a July 25, 2008, column we pointed out that UBS Americas, headed by Robert Wolf… along with George Soros, one of Obama’s top two bundlers… had been accused of highly unethical and illegal banking practices in six months of hearings by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. According to an article in The Nation, UBS Americas, a subsidiary of UBS, of Zurich, Switzerland, had advised wealthy Americans, including many of our worst villains, how to shelter funds from the IRS, as well as from prosecutors, creditors, disgruntled business associates, family members, and others.
In a Statement of Facts in the criminal trial of former UBS executive Bradley Birkenfeld, it was alleged that UBS took extraordinary steps to help American clients manage their Swiss accounts without alerting federal authorities. For example, UBS advised American clients to avoid detection by using Swiss credit cards to withdraw funds, to destroy all offshore banking records, and to misrepresent the funds received from their Swiss accounts as loans from the Swiss bank.”
It was the perfect instrument for funneling illegal campaign contributions into the coffers of an unscrupulous American politician. Putting two and two together, I surmised that a very wealthy individual, or cartel, wishing to influence the election of the president of the United States, could transfer unlimited sums of money through this device. A U.S. recipient, such as the Obama campaign, could receive hundreds of thousands of individual contributions via Swiss credit card transfers, with fictitious donors… contributors “borrowed” from the campaign’s list of $10 and $20 contributors… being entered on FEC reporting forms by teams of paid staffers working in a “boiler room” setting. The owners of the Swiss accounts would receive periodic statements indicating: a) debits of varying amounts, up to $2,300 each, and b) offsetting credits provided by the cartel, or by the wealthy, but unnamed, “international financier.”
For most of the super wealthy, especially those attempting to hide income and assets from U.S. authorities, an unexplained debit and credit of $2,300, or less, would not even raise an eyebrow. So, who would ever know the source of such contributions? No one.
But then, in an October 20, 2008, Newsmax article by Kenneth Timmerman, an article following up on suppositions contained in my July 2008 column, provided details from FEC records that gave substantial weight to my theory. In studying Obama’s FEC filings, Newsmax found more than 2,000 donors who had given substantially more than their $4,600 limit ($2,300 in the primaries and $2,300 in the General Election). The law requires that such excess contributions must be returned to the donor within 60 days of the donor going over his/her limit. However, many of the donors contacted by Newsmax said that they had not been contacted by the Obama campaign, nor had they received refunds.
But those were relatively minor infractions compared to 66,383 highly suspicious contributions, from 37,265 donors, whose contributions were not rounded to even dollar amounts. For example, Timmerman found that an insurance agent in Burr Ridge, Illinois, gave a total of $8,724.26. He gave in odd amounts such as $188.67; $1,542.06; $876.09; $388.67; $282.20; $195.66; $118.15; and one of $2,300.
A self-employed Los Angeles caregiver made 36 separate contributions totaling $7,051.12. An astonishing number of contributions. Thirteen of her contributions were later refunded. However, in an odd coincidence those 13 refunds, in amounts such as $233.88 and $201.44, came to an even $2,300, the maximum amount then allowable in any one election.
One contributor interviewed by Newsmax, a retired schoolteacher from Rockledge, Florida, was reported to have given $13,800… $9,200 over his limit. However, the donor did not remember giving that much money to Obama, nor had anyone from the campaign ever contacted him about a refund. Of the 66,383 who contributed in odd amounts, 44,410 were in unrounded amounts of less than $100; 15,269 contributions were in unrounded amounts of between $101 and $999; and 704 contributions were in odd amounts greater than $1,000.
Lest anyone suspect that these 37,265 donors either emptied their piggy banks or emptied their pockets and purses periodically and just sent it all to Obama, pennies and all, allow me to suggest something a tiny bit more Machiavellian. Those 66,383 contributions are the proceeds of foreign currency conversions, smuggled into the country through foreign credit card receipts, and converted to U.S. dollars. According to a Newsmax analysis, the Obama campaign finance reports contain some 370,500 unique names… a far cry from the 2.5 million contributor base claimed by the campaign. Of course, when your money is coming in large chunks from offshore accounts, such as hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time from the Middle East and from Third World African countries, then laundered through UBS accounts in Zurich, it takes a bit of creativity to put authentic-sounding names on all of it for the FEC records.
How massive was their crime? Since the Obama campaign refused to disclose their complete contributor list (they continue to hide the identities of some 2 million donors). Newsmax estimated that “Obama was financing his presidential campaign with anywhere from $13 million to a whopping $63 million from overseas credit cards or foreign currency purchases.”
On January 20, 2009, we inaugurated a man who should have been impeached before his wife had a chance to measure the White House for new draperies. But that’s not what happened. Instead, official Washington gave our first black president a wink and a nod and then looked the other way. So, can Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Giuliani’s Russian clients expect the same kid glove treatment from the U.S. justice system… even though it is highly unlikely that Trump had anything at all to do with the illegal contribution made by Giuliani’s clients? Not a chance!
Realizing what has happened to General Michael Flynn, Dinesh D’Souza, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone… the latter two destined to spend the rest of their lives behind bars for relatively minor offenses… their chances do not appear to be good. They simply had the misfortune to put their faith in the American system of justice and then to serve openly as members of the Republican Party.
If our constitutional republic is to be saved, our first imperative is to reelect Donald Trump to a second four-year term in 2020, during which he will be in a position to create a strong 7-2 or 6-3 conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, while adding hundreds of like-minded judges to our district and appellate courts. We have no alternative. We must deliver a landslide victory in 2020. The only long-term alternative is political, economic, and geographic bifurcation. We damn sure can’t live with Democrats any longer, but I’d sure like to try living without them.
| December 5, 2019
Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College. He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.