Why @HillaryClinton’s @StateDept Quid Pro Quo Pay-To-Play Is A Corrupt Practice
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, August 28, 2016
Accountability is what remains once responsibility has fled. The citizens of the United States must demand higher standards from their public servants, and officials, and severely punish violations of the same.
Bill and Hillary Clinton, Meet Jozette Berry, Alisha Cole and Lashonda Smaw
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on August 28, 2016
Used with permission.
In 2013, Jozette Berry, Alisha Cole and Lashonda Smaw were Jefferson County, Alabama revenue clerks who worked in the downtown County Courthouse and the Center Point Satellite Courthouse. These low-level public servants accepted cash gratuities for cutting people to the front of the 4-hour long, slow moving, car tag line. Cole was caught accepting $20 on two occasions in August 2013. Berry and Smaw were caught accepting $40 on a single occasion in April 2013.
After a local Fox TV news team publicly exposed this criminal conduct, there was immediate and widespread condemnation of the women’s actions. It made national news. This was declared an ethics violation on the part of each woman.
In December 2013, a Jefferson County grand jury indicted Berry, Cole, and Smaw for using their public office for personal gain, which is a felony in Alabama and an ethics violation as well. Each woman faced 2 to 20 years in prison, if convicted.
These women did not have friends in high places. They were not connected to the Obama White House, or the U.S. Attorney General, or the Director of the FBI. They did not hold any political office. They did not have New York spin-doctors or high-powered lawyers to argue that they had done nothing wrong. In short, they had no one who could “fix” their criminal case, or make it go away.
Jozette Berry and Lashonda Smaw, who are black, eventually pled guilty. Alisha Cole, who faced two felony counts of ethics violations, went to trial and was convicted. Berry received a sentence of 12 months of hard labor in the county jail. Imposition of Berry’s sentence was later suspended and she was placed on 2 years of unsupervised probation. After her conviction, Cole received a three-year suspended sentence and two years of unsupervised probation. Smaw’s sentence for her ethics violation is unknown at this time.
The guilty pleas for Berry and Smaw and guilty verdict for Cole ended a multi-year joint criminal investigation by the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Public Corruption and White Collar Crimes Unit, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, and the Birmingham Police Department. After the criminal cases ended in May 2015, the local DA proudly released the following statement: “We are grateful to have partners in law enforcement who are willing and able to expose fraudulent schemes or practices in government. We hope this resolution sends a message to all public servants that the public deserves integrity, honesty, and transparency in government. It is not acceptable to misuse a public position.”
Fast-forward to August 2016. The Associated Press, Washington Post, and a host of other national media organizations reported that the Clinton State Department ran the same type of “cash for prioritized access” scheme that was run by Jozette Berry, Alisha Cole and Lashonda Smaw. The Clintons’ scheme was larger, more sophisticated, and vastly more profitable than the one run by Berry, Cole, and Smaw.
The core elements of the two schemes were identical. In each case, donors were cut to the front of the line in exchange for a gratuity. The line-cutters in the Berry, Cole and Smaw case only paid $20 to $40 to cut to the front of the car tag line, while the Clinton Foundation donors paid $100,000 to $10 million for cutting the line of people seeking to meet or talk with Secretary Clinton.
At least 85 of 154 private sector donors who met or had phone conversations with Secretary Clinton donated to the Clinton Foundation. Combined, these 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million to the Clinton Foundation.
Unlike the small gratuities that were given to Berry, Cole and Smaw, the tainted donor money did not go directly into Hillary Clinton’s pocket. Instead, this $156 million was discreetly channeled into the bank accounts of the Clinton Foundation, which is a tightly controlled Clinton family business enterprise.
Unlike the Clintons, Jozette Berry, Alisha Cole and Lashonda Smaw lacked a family Foundation to launder and sanitize the $120 in total cash gratuities they received from their collective ethical breaches.
The Clintons are standard bearers for the National Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton is its nominee for president. These factors, along with some others, have produced a display of hypocrisy and backsliding in the Clinton case that is unrivaled in modern times. Some supporters are desperately trying to minimize the Clintons’ ethical lapses with the PR spin that is routinely provided by pro-Clinton TV talking heads.
Cutting people to the front of the car tag line was cast as “public corruption” and “ethics violations” when the culprits were low-level revenue clerks who were doing it for $20 to $40 in gratuities. When the turbo-charged Clinton machine did it for $156 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation, this “cash for prioritized access” was recast as “business as usual”. What is worse, the Clintons have taken this unethical conduct to an art form that seems to be acceptable within Democratic Party circles and federal law enforcement agencies.
Unlike the car tag line in the Jozette Berry, Alisha Cole and Lashonda Smaw criminal case, the line for access to Secretary Clinton was strictly regulated by federal government protocols that included detailed background checks for the persons seeking meeting with Ms. Clinton, which were obviously skipped when the Foundation mega-donors were escorted to the front of the line on an expedited basis by top Clinton aid and close personal friend, Huma Adedin.
I have pounced on the Clinton “cash for prioritized access” scandal for two important reasons. First, this scandal is a classic case of disparate treatment within the American criminal justice system. Jozette Berry, Alisha Cole and Lashonda Smaw were investigated, prosecuted and convicted for their unethical conduct. In stark contrast, law enforcement officials have given the Clintons, who engaged in the same unethical conduct, an undeserved “pass” on investigating and prosecuting ethics charges against them.
Second, the Clinton “cash for prioritized access” scandal is an in-your-face example of the Clintons benefitting from unadulterated “white privilege” within the criminal justice system, rather than renouncing it. Ironically, Hillary Clinton was still basking in the warmth of her “white privilege” security blanket last week while she was arguing with Donald Trump over which one of them is a bigot on racial matters.
Let me close with these words: Bill and Hillary Clinton, meet Jozette Berry, Alisha Cole and Lashonda Smaw. You may not have met these ladies before, but you should get to know them now. All five of you share a common bond when it comes to a lack of ethics, accountability, and transparency in government.
About the author:
Donald Watkins is a retired Criminal Defense Attorney whose clients have included former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, former Birmingham, AL Mayor Richard Arrington, Jr., and Federal Judge U.W. Clemon. Mr. Watkins is also an entrepreneur, and owns businesses in the United States and abroad, in a variety of interests, including energy. And as a Banker, he has started and overseen banks in Alabama, and elsewhere. Earlier in his career, he was also elected to the City Council of Montgomery, AL. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law, and resides in the greater Atlanta, GA metro area.