FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hillary Clinton, the Podesta Group and the Saudi Regime: A Fatal Menage a Trois

by

If I told you that Democratic Party lobbyist Tony Podesta, whose brother John Podesta chairs Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, is a registered foreign agent on the  Saudi government’s payroll, you’d probably think I was a Trump-thumping, conspiratorial nutcase. But it’s true.

The lobby firm created by both Tony and John Podesta in 1988 receives $140,000 a month from the Saudi government, a government that beheads nonviolent dissidents, uses torture to extract forced confessions, doesn’t allow women to drive, and bombs schools, hospitals and residential neighborhoods in neighboring Yemen.

The Podesta Group’s March 2016 filing, required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, shows that Tony Podesta himself oversees the Saudi account. At the same time, Tony Podesta is also a top campaign contributor and bundler for Hillary Clinton. So while one brother runs the campaign, the other brother funds it with earnings that come, in part, from the Saudis.

John and Tony Podesta have been heavyweights in DC insider politics for decades. John Podesta served as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, founded the influential DC think tank Center for American Progress (which regularly touts Saudi “reforms”), and was counselor to President Obama. Tony Podesta was dubbed by The New York Times as “one of Washington’s biggest players” whose clients “are going to get a blueprint for how to succeed in official Washington.”

The brothers seem to have no problem mixing their roles into the same pot. Tony Podesta held a Clinton campaign fundraiser at his home featuring gourmet Italian food cooked by himself and his brother, the campaign chairman. The fundraiser, by the way, came just days after Tony Podesta filed his Saudi contract with the Justice Department, a contract that included an initial “project fee” payment of $200,000.

The Saudis hired the Podesta Group in 2015 because it was getting hammered in the press over civilian casualties from its airstrikes in Yemen and its crackdown on political dissidents at home, including sentencing blogger Raif Badawi to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam.” Since then, Tony Podesta’s fingerprints have been all over Saudi Arabia’s advocacy efforts in Washington DC. When Saudi Arabia executed the prominent nonviolent Shia dissident Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, causing protests throughout the Shia world and inflaming sectarian divisions, The New York Times noted that the Podesta Group provided the newspaper with a Saudi commentator who defended the execution.

The Podesta-Clinton-Saudi connection should be seen in light of the recent media exposes revealing the taudry pay-to-play nature of the Clinton Foundation. Top on the list of foreign donors to the foundation is Saudi Arabia, which contributed between $10 million and $25 million.

What did the Saudis get for their largesse and access? Wikileaks revealed a 2009 cable by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying: “More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar e-Tayyiba and other terrorist groups.” Instead of sanctioning the Saudis, Clinton did the opposite: She authorized enormous quantities of weapons to be sold to them. On Christmas Eve in 2011, Hillary Clinton and her closest aides celebrated a massive $29.4 billion sale to the Saudis of over 80 F-15 fighter jets, manufactured by Boeing, a company which coincidentally contributed $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation. In a chain of enthusiastic emails, an aide exclaimed that it was “not a bad Christmas present.” I’m sure the Yemenis at the receiving end of the Saudi bombings would not be so enthusiastic.

The Clintons have said that if Hillary Clinton gets elected, the foundation will stop taking foreign donations. But what about no longer taking campaign contributions from people who are paid by the Saudi government to whitewash its image? The Podesta Group should be blacklisted from contributing to Clinton’s campaign until they drop the monarchy as a client and return their ill-gotten gains. If Hillary Clinton wants to be a meaningful symbol for human rights and women’s empowerment, her campaign must live up to the values she claims to represent, and this would be one step in the right direction.

More articles by:

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human right organization Global Exchange. Follow her on twitter at @MedeaBenjamin.

Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
Jeiddy Martínez Armas
Firearm Democracy
Jill Richardson
Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students
Ralph Nader
The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law
Justin O'Hagan
Capitalism Equals Peace?
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: From the Red Sea to Nairobi
Geoff Dutton
The Company We Sadly Keep
Evan Jones
The Censorship of Jacques Sapir, French Dissident
Linn Washington Jr.
Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform
Gerry Brown
TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?
Robert Fisk
The Exile of Saad Hariri
Romana Rubeo - Ramzy Baroud
Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy
Robert J. Burrowes
Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
Chuck Collins
Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ From Corporate Tax Cuts
Ron Jacobs
Private Property Does Not Equal Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Mass Shootings, Male Toxicity and their Roots in Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
The Fordist Academic
Frank Scott
Weapons of Mass Distraction Get More Destructive
Missy Comley Beattie
Big Dick Diplomacy
Michael Doliner
Democracy, Real Life Acting and the Movies
Dan Bacher
Jerry Brown tells indigenous protesters in Bonn, ‘Let’s put you in the ground’
Winslow Myers
The Madness of Deterrence
Cesar Chelala
A Kiss is Not a Kiss: Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children
Jimmy Centeno
Garcia Meets Guayasamin: A De-Colonial Experience
Stephen Martin
When Boot Becomes Bot: Surplus Population and The Human Face.
Martin Billheimer
Homer’s Iliad, la primera nota roja
Louis Proyect
Once There Were Strong Men
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones
David Yearsley
Academics Take Flight
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail