Friday, February 1, 2008

Correlation is not Causation

The NY Times recently reported on Bill Clinton's involvement in a Kazakhstani uranium mining deal. The long and the short of it is that Frank Giustra, a Canadian financier involved in gold mining, accompanying Clinton on a philanthropic trip to Kazakhstan (along with China and India), walked away with a lucrative uranium mining contract that stunned the industry and turned around to give more than $30m to the Clinton Foundation.

Shady. Very shady.

Or, maybe not at all. The most that I can pull away from this article is that Bill Clinton may, may, want to be more discerning on who comes with him on these trips and that he might want to be weary of his friends dropping his name to get ahead.

The article seems to want us to read the situation this way: Giustra is a sly businessman who has gotten involved with the Clinton Foundation to curry favor with the big man. He somehow pushes Clinton to plan a last minute trip to Kazakhstan to announce an AIDS initiative (plus give some other, truthfully, less well thought out opinions) and hops along for the ride. Or perhaps Clinton knows his game and is a co-conspirator. Once in Kazakhstan, Giustra has Clinton introduce him to the Kazakhstani's president (nee, dictator) and, using the Clinton sparkle, scores a mining coup in pushing through his company's involvement in the uranium mining trade.

Oh, and did I mention he had a shell corporation.

I could easily come up with another narrative. Giustra is a multi-millionaire. He likes Bill Clinton and wanted to get involved with the Clinton Foundation. Clinton, seeing a good source of capital for his works, takes Giustra along on a last-minute trip to Kazakhstan to announce a recently completed deal. Giustra uses this opportunity to be in Kazakhstan, and his newfound access, to sidle up to the Kazakhstani president. The president, seeing that Giustra is with Clinton says to himself, "self, this is probably diplomatically advantageous to me." Clinton, in the meantime, has no idea that this is going on.

When the deal goes through, the newly multi-multi millinaire Giustra has the capital to donate to the Clinton foundation. Is this blood money? Hardly. Giustra is, after all, in the mining business. Yes he has never mined uranium before, but he's a keen business man, and we will assume that he has the experts hired to pull it off.

Oh, and the shell corporation. A shell corporation is simply a corporation that has no activities. One would assume that a businessman, trying to get his door into a business, would incorporate in order to raise capital before his activities get under way. Nothing nefarious. Just the beginning of a business.

Finally, the article makes a lot of stink about how Bill's comments don't fall in line with Hillary's politics. Can we simply not handle spouses disagreeing with each other.?Does Bill have to fall in line with Hillary's political opinions? Play the dutiful political wife?

Yes, it's bad judgment to be seen as going against your presidential candidate spouse's policies, but anything past that is just pure opinion on what it means to be a political spouse.


Blogger Meg said...

Or, try: Bill Clinton knows better, and his wife is back in politics. He knows the right wing has a axe to grind with them, and that they will do whatever it takes to bring them down, fair or unfair. Knowing that, one might assume he would be careful to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. That he would avoid any involvement (however tangential) in uranium mining deals. I also think it’s a tad ethically dubious to accept large charitable donations that look like thanks for acess. It's unwise, and shows poor judgment, at best.

Be careful that likeing the Clintons does not mean you always give them a free pass. Bill Clinton has tremendous strengths, but sometimes it seems he hasn't learned from his weaknesses.

February 1, 2008 at 10:19 AM  

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