Washington Prowler

Take the Money and Run

Democrat consultants made a killing off the Dubai Ports Deal -- and then after word of it became public stood aside as the Democratic Party turned the ports deal against the Republicans.

By 4.5.06

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So what do former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, and former Clinton Administration lawyers from the White House and the Department of Justice have in common besides their administration time together?

They all earned millions working for the United Arab Emirates weeks before their roles became public in the sale of American-based port operations to Dubai World Ports.

This shouldn't come a surprise to anyone; in fact, just about anyone who works with the UAE earns millions. But no one has earned more than former President Clinton.

To his credit, he has hit up the UAE for more charitable money than just about anyone. By some estimates, the UAE has donated through various means as much as $250 million to Southeast Asia tsunami relief, Hurricane Katrina relief, and other humanitarian aid programs. "Former President Bush had a hand in that too," says a former Clinton associate. "But it's former President Clinton who now has the very close ties to the UAE. He's the go-to guy now."

And Clinton himself has done well by this connection. According to knowledgeable sources, Clinton and his library have pocketed as much as $30 million from this relationship, including his consulting on the UAE/Dubai World Ports deal.

Given the brain power involved in mapping out strategy on the DPW deal, people are now trying to figure out how this deal went wrong, particularly since Clinton, Albright, and Browner all were advising the UAE and Dubai World Ports some time before the deal became public.

According to sources familiar with the DPW deal, Clinton put the UAE firm in touch with Albright and Browner, who is a principal in Albright's firm. Browner is said to have brought in several other outside consultants, perhaps some with ties to Republicans. She also brought in former Democrat Rep. Tom Downey, with whom she is said to have close ties. The two attempted to tag team Democrats on the ports deal once it became public.

"This deal was almost entirely a Democratic operation from the beginning," says another former Clinton staffer, who worked in the Clinton White House. "Folks like [former Republican Sen.] Bob Dole weren't brought in until after the *#&$ hit the fan." However, former Republican Rep. Vin Weber, whose firm represents the UAE, may have been involved earlier in the process.

Yet despite the "best and brightest," the DPW deal went south once it became public. Democrats on Capitol Hill in particular latched on to the foreign ownership issue, criticized the deal's UAE connections, and tied it around the Bush administration's neck. As well, stories began circulating on left-of-center blogs, further muddying the UAE waters. One popular story tied Treasury Secretary John Snow, who oversees the Treasury Department's review committee on foreign ownership and investment, to his former job as chairman and CEO of CSX Transportation, which has a deal of its own with Dubai Ports World, and the Carlyle Group, which has ties to several individuals with close ties to this Bush administration, including former President George H.W. Bush, and which also does business with CSX and a number of Arab interests.

Carlyle is to Democrats what George Soros is to Republicans -- just a mention makes liberals rabid. Yet the Democratic operatives, many of whom were being paid by the UAE to keep the deal on message, seemed incapable of controlling the DPW story from the beginning.

Some with knowledge of the deal are now wondering if the Democrats had any interest in keeping the story contained. "You look at this deal, and we had Treasury review, we had some consultation on Capitol Hill, we had politically savvy folks involved, and yet the story just blew up on everyone's faces. The only people who weren't touched were the Democrats who were steering this deal from the beginning," says a Republican lobbyist with ties to a firm that does business with Arab interests, but not DPW. "It makes you wonder just what their agenda was when they saw what political points their party was making early on in the process. There's a sense that there might have been some orchestration here, but just how long that orchestration was going on is what is unclear. I mean, suddenly, it was Democrats making national security points for the first time in years. If I were a Republican, I'd be asking questions."

To date, former President Clinton and others involved prior to the DPW deal becoming public, have not registered as Agents for a Foreign Power with the Department of Justice. And no accurate timeline of their involvement in the DPW deal has been released.

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