Washington Prowler

A Clinton Goldmine

Bill's billionaire buddy -- new trouble for Hillary. Also: Will McCain and Thompson get together during CPAC?

By 1.31.08

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BILL'S BILLIONS
New York Times sources say that if Sen. Hillary Clinton loses the Democratic nomination or a general election for President, it will largely be due to the efforts of their investigative and political reporter Jo Becker, who yesterday reported on the ties between former President Bill Clinton and Canadian mining magnate Frank Giustra, who has committed almost a quarter billion dollars to Clinton's foundation, largely after Clinton appeared to pave the way for Giustra's company to get a sweet uranium mining deal in Kazakhstan.

Becker, who formerly worked for the Washington Post, has been put on the Bill Clinton beat for the foreseeable future, and has been digging around the Clinton Foundation for months, according to Clinton campaign sources, one of whom has been assigned to track Becker's activities. "She's like a woman scorned," says the campaign source. "The foundation and the former President weren't honest with her early in her reporting, and now she's going to burn the house down if she gets her way. The size of the headache she is causing inside the campaign cannot be quantified."

The campaign has been trying to keep tabs on sources Becker has been talking to for several months now, attempting to figure out which lines of inquiry she is undertaking. As reported several months ago, the Clinton campaign attempted some time ago to "oppo" the former President's post-White House time, trying to anticipate potential thorny issues that might arise for Senator Clinton. "We don't know everything, because the Clinton Foundation is something we haven't been able to fully breach," says another campaign source. "We're just getting access to some of Senator Clinton's papers from her time in the White House, and we're her fricking campaign. It's unbelievable."

Becker's work has focused almost exclusively on the Clinton Foundation, and the ways in which Clinton has used the entity to further his own personal wealth, as well as those who support him and his philanthropic activities.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that Clinton was negotiating terms to exit a partnerships and consulting deal with longtime supporter Ron Burkle. Clinton was able to attract large sums of investment money to Burkle's operation from several sources, the biggest being the royal family of Dubai. "Everyone assumes that if he separates from Burkle that the relationship with Dubai is severed, too," says a source with ties to the Clinton Foundation. "But the Dubai ties aren't the result of Burkle. That's a personal relationship with ties to the foundation, and those aren't going to end."

McCAIN, CPAC, AND FRED
Advisers to Sen. John McCain are encouraging the would-be Presidential frontrunner to arrange a private meeting with his longtime friend, former Sen. Fred Thompson in an attempt to gain greater credibility with the conservative base in the Republican Party. "They can do the meeting when he's in town for the CPAC meeting," says a McCain adviser, speaking of McCain.

McCain's campaign purchased a booth at CPAC and announced on Wednesday that McCain himself would attend the event. McCain's advisers see the event as a win-win for their candidate. "If he's applauded, then we can spin it that he's being welcomed by the base that is important to win in the fall. If they boo him, then these are still the morons who haven't liked him for a decade, so no big surprise, and John looks like the bigger man for showing up and taking the abuse. But I don't think the latter will happen. Everyone understands the political stakes. John McCain is going to be the nominee, and conservatives don't want Hillary or Obama in the White House. They will support John McCain."

Some advisers, though, think a Thompson meeting would be even better for McCain. According to McCain sources, the two men spoke briefly last week several days after Thompson exited the presidential primary field. With no conservative left in the race, McCain is looking for ways to build support among the conservative base he knows he will have to tap into if he is to win in the general election. The thinking among some McCain strategists is to have McCain look at Thompson's tax reform and judiciary policies and endorse one or both of them. That seems doubtful, given that McCain has not been supportive of broad tax cuts in the past, nor is he sympathetic to conservative judicial nominations.

McCain does not expect an endorsement from Thompson, nor has he sought it, according to McCain insiders, but a mutual understanding, with Thompson's ability to speak to conservatives and say that McCain intends to adopt more conservative policy positions when elected might go a ways to allaying conservative fears.

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