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Behind Clinton Backer’s Arrest:
a Bipartisan, International Affair

AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano reports exclusively on the background of Hassan Nemazee, the top Hillary Clinton fundraiser who was arrested and charged with forging loan documents. Early media accounts cast the event as an embarrassment for Ms. Clinton and the Democratic Party involving the financial misdoings of one prominent backer. Actually it is much more.  Behind the Nemazee arrest lies a sprawling cautionary tale of presidents, would-be presidents, and the shadow world of wealthy operators who cozy up to them for their own gain.  It reaches into the Bush operation as well as that of the Clintons, and is a microcosm of an influence bazaar that has gone global along with the economy.

On August 25th, Hassan Nemazee, a top fundraiser for Hillary Clinton,  was arrested and charged with forging loan documents in order to borrow $74 million from Citibank. He could face up to 30 years in prison. Early media accounts cast the event as an embarrassment for Ms. Clinton involving the financial misdoings of one prominent backer. Actually it is much more.

Behind the Nemazee arrest lies a sprawling cautionary tale of presidents, would-be presidents, and the shadow world of wealthy operators who cozy up to them for their own gain.  It reaches into the Bush operation as well as that of the Clintons, and is a microcosm of an influence bazaar that has gone global along with the economy.

Hassan Nemazee, who served as a finance director for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, began raising sizable sums for the Democratic National Committee in the mid-nineties. In 1998, in the midst of the Lewinsky affair, Nemazee collected $60,000 for Bill Clinton’s legal defense fund in $10,000 increments from relatives and friends.

The following year, President Clinton nominated the money manager and investor to be ambassador to Argentina. Then an article in Forbes raised questions about his business practices. Among other things, Nemazee, an Iranian-American, had magically turned himself into an “Hispanic” by acquiring Venezuelan citizenship in order to fulfill the minority-ownership requirement of  a California public pension fund.  The nomination was withdrawn.

That embarrassment did not, however, hamper Nemazee’s rise within the Democratic Party. By 2004 he was New York finance chair for John Kerry’s campaign, and in 2006 he served under Senator Chuck Schumer as the national finance chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).  During this period the committee raised about $25 million more than its Republican counterpart.
By 2008, Nemazee was one of Hillary Clinton’s inner circle, and was being publicly touted as a top foreign policy adviser. When another major fundraiser, a clothing manufacturer named Norman Hsu, was arrested and unmasked as a swindler, it was Nemazee who was trotted out to defend Ms. Clinton and argue that she knew little about Hsu.
But she should have known plenty about Nemazee. In 2005, Nemazee and his business partner, Alan Quasha, went deep into the Clinton circle to hire Terry McAuliffe, the Clinton confidante and former chairman of the Democratic Party, for Carret Asset Management, their newly acquired investment firm. During the interregnum between McAuliffe’s party chairmanship and the time he officially joined Hillary Clinton’s campaign as chairman, Nemazee and Quasha set McAuliffe up with a salary and opened a Washington office for him.  There he worked on his memoirs and laid the groundwork for Ms. Clinton’s presidential bid.
In March 2007, Nemazee, at the behest of McAuliffe, threw a dinner for Ms. Clinton at Manhattan’s swank Cipriani restaurant, which featured Bill Clinton and raised more than $500,000.  In 2008, after Barack Obama gained the nomination, Nemazee raised a comparable sum for him.
But it is not fair to characterize Nemazee as an embarrassment to Democrats alone. Nemazee’s profile is considerably more complicated. For legal representation in his current troubles, for example, Nemazee has retained Marc Mukasey, a partner in Rudolph Giuliani’s law firm and the son of Michael Mukasey, who served as George W. Bush’s last Attorney General.
There’s more than choice of counsel involved. Before moving into the Democratic camp, Nemazee had backed such Republican senators as Jesse Helms, Sam Brownback and Alfonse D’Amato. None could be described as Clinton fans. Nemazee’s business partner, Alan Quasha, who specializes in buying up troubled companies, has also played both sides of the partisan divide. Quasha gave to both Bush and Al Gore in 2000, and in the 2008 race gave to Republicans Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani as well as Democrats Barack Obama and Chris Dodd.
The strikingly trans-partisan and trans-national nature of this high-stakes influence game is best exemplified by the relationship between Quasha’s oil company, Harken Energy, and George W. Bush. Harken provided a home for Bush in the 1980’s when his own oil businesses failed, offering him handsome compensation and a solid financial base from which to enter politics. Bush was named to the Harken board and received a range of benefits from the company while devoting most of his time to his father’s presidential campaign and then his own outside career efforts.
Harken is a curious outfit. Its early funding sources were opaque, and its investors and board members had a dizzying array of connections into global power centers—and ties to the Saudi leadership and the former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the Shah of Iran, as well as to the Swiss Bank, UBS, which has been charged by the US government with providing cover for  Americans who were evading taxes.
Around the time George W. Bush joined its board, Harken received an unusual and sizable cash infusion from the Harvard Management Company, which handles Harvard University’s endowment, the largest in the nation. Robert G. Stone, Jr., a figure with ties to US intelligence and to the Bushes, was head of the Harvard board of overseers that approved financial strategies. Former employees of Harvard Management have recently made highly-publicized charges that the company engaged in Enron-style investment practices. (Prior to going to work for Nemazee and Quasha, Terry McAuliffe had publicly criticized Bush for his financial dealings with Harken, disparaging that company’s own Enron-like accounting. Both Quasha and Nemazee, like Bush, have Harvard degrees, and both have sat on prestigious Harvard committees in recent years.)
Nemazee’s role as a foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton can be better understood through his own Iranian connections.  His father was a shipping magnate who was close with the Shah of Iran and served as the Shah’s commercial attaché in Washington; Nemazee was a founding member of the Iranian-American Political Action Committee, a lobbying group. Recent strains have been reported between President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over policy toward Iran. Clinton has advocated a harder line toward the Islamic fundamentalists who took over when the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, while Obama has stressed dialogue.
With Nemazee’s arrest for financial fraud certain to attract some sustained coverage, it remains to be seen whether it will be treated as yet another isolated case of financial wrongdoing, or lead to a deeper look at the influence bazaar that American politics has become.

# #

For a more in-depth look at Nemazee and Quasha, see the 2007 whowhatwhy article by Russ Baker and Adam Federman. For a thorough investigation of Harken, see Baker’s 2009 book, Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America.)

For the latest update to this story, CLICK HERE (Sept 19, 2009)

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  • Bill W

    Thanks Russ. I remember these guys from the book.

  • Jean Harris

    It seems we always discover that there are threads in the web that lead back to the same places. Thank you for following those threads, and showing them to us.

  • Bill White


    The linkages here are indeed fascinating. This gives new meaning to the significance of the man I was introduced to in late 1979 in the offices of Bush-buddy Jim Bath. Hiding out there at JB&A impersonating an aircraft salesman (under US Secret Service protection) was none other than His Royal Highness Prince Reza Phavlavi — son of the newly deposed Shaw of Iran. It is starting to look like the United States, at the behest of Israel, (and working in concert with the Saudis and various & sundry ousted CIA-installed dictators) is engaged in orchestrating its own version of the USSR “domino theory” to take control of the entire Middle East.

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  • Ploni

    Bill White-
    “at the behest of Israel, (and working in concert with the Saudis..”
    If you think Israel and Saudi Arabia have the same interests and goals I invite you to come to the middle east.

    • Anonymous

      Neither countries’ leadership have the people’s interests at heart. They are crooks who run both countries who must keep up appearance to keep their populations in check. Saudi Arabia has a long history of involvement in U.S. politics, i.e. Khashoggi, who even had connections going back to JFK. Whenever there is a war, the Saudi leadership makes a killing. Oil is the heart and soul of the Military Industrial Complex. Who is one of the biggest users of American military equipment that uses so much oil? It is Israel. It makes sense that they do have serious business connections. In fact, many leaders believe that 911 was orchestrated by the Bush administration, American intelligence, British intelligence, Saudi Arabia, and the Mossad.

    • Reveal_israel

      It sounds like your in the middle east and can’t see the big picture.

      Sibel Edmonds Documentary – Kill The Messenger

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  • Anonymous

    When I found out that Kenneth Starr’s uncle worked with the OSS/CIA from nearly the very beginning and brought AIG here from China after Mao took over, everything made sense. The CIA is a rich kids’ organization, basically an international police force for American corporations and their robber baron family owners. People in the CIA often have family take up positions in this organization. Knowing that GHWB is deep CIA, knowing that Clinton did not finish his Fulbright Scholarship, could not explain years of living in Europe without any source of income, lived with a prominent Czech family whose son was considering going into politics who mysteriously ended up dead, knowing that Clinton served as a firewall to prevent investigations into CIA drug smuggling through his state, knowing his own drug connections pardoning close friends of his for distribution, knowing that he never did anything to bring the very serious crimes of Iran Contra to justice, seeing that Clinton did things for corporate America that no Republican would have ever been trusted to do, seeing the many pictures of Bill and GHWB partying together, knowing that he was just as bad for democracy in countries like Haiti as the Bushes, knowing that all paperwork was destroyed after Vince Foster’s “suicide”, knowing that another Clinton lawyer, Mark Levy, has also died recently under mysterious circumstances, knowing about the Wikileaks cable where Hillary, in violation of international law, gave orders to diplomats to take part in spying, and the fact that none of these figures go to jail, it only makes sense that Bill, Hillary, Ken Starr, GHWB all worked for the CIA, and the Ken Starr investigations into the Clintons was nothing but a coverup and both parties have been compromised. It is most likely that C.V. Starr brought over the same business he had been doing in China to the USA, which was drug laundering. When JFK and RFK started to look into the organized crime of drug distribution and smuggling, they were warned to stop. The more they looked, the closer they got to the real people responsible. The mob was only a method of distribution for the CIA. Wars allowed the smuggling as it does now in Afghanistan. In fact, U.N. investigators of the 2008 financial collapse stated that it was only the drug money that kept the banks “afloat”. As Hillary said, “the money’s too good.” By the way Kenneth Starr’s uncle is C.V. Starr, owner of C.V.S. Pharmacies.

    • Bartozzi

      Quick fact check: C.V.Starr is Kenn’s great-uncle, and is otherwise who you say he is…*except* that he had nothing to do with C.V.S. Pharmacy, as far as I can tell.

  • Christopher Lines

    Has anyone read Spider’s Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq? I’m in the process of reading Russ’ book – Family of Secrets following my completion of the aforementioned book.  I don’t know if he addresses Iraqgate in Family of Secrets.  Great book Russ.  The hypothesis, webbing connections that you make in the assassination of Kennedy is more than plausible to me.

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