Nobody in America is surprised to learn the FBI is investigating Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D, over campaign contributions. Disregard for rules is part of who McAuliffe is, and it is typical of the Clinton fundraising world.
But don't confuse cause for effect: McAuliffe isn't shady because he's a Clinton fundraiser. He's a cherished Clinton fundraiser because he's shady.
Terry McAuliffe, Marc Rich, Mikal Watts, Arthur Coia, Rahm Emanuel, Hassan Namazee, Norman Hsu, Johnny Chung, Charlie Trie, Jim McDougal, Mark Middleton, Maria Tsia, Antonio Pan — these are all Clinton fundraisers who have been indicted, investigated, or caught up in shady fundraising.
This isn't a coincidence. Shadiness in fundraisers is a virtue to politicians who are comfortable with vice.
It's impossible to keep track of Clinton fundraising scandals. But here's a quick primer on McAuliffe's shadiness:
When liberal magazine Mother Jones covered McAuliffe's election in Virginia, the magazine noted "his brazen mixing of his campaign fundraising activity and attempts to enrich himself personally" and that involved leveraging public power for private and political gain.
McAuliffe's biggest innovation for the Clinton fundraising machine may have been his idea to sell access to the White House, by hosting coffees at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for donors. He was also reportedly behind the Clintons' use of the Lincoln bedroom as a high-priced bed and breakfast, rewarding donors with stays in the historic chamber.
In the late 1990s, McAuliffe was caught up in a money-laundering scheme involving the Teamsters Union before turning a $100,000 investment in a politically connected, fraud-plagued telecom company into many millions. More recent episodes of McAuliffe shadiness include a visas-for-sale scheme and his chasing of subsidies through a failed car company.
Today, the FBI is looking into McAuliffe's raising funds from politically connected Chinese billionaire Wang Wenliang, who is also — of course — a donor to the Clinton Foundation. A company owned by Wenliang, a Chinese citizen and a former Chinese politician, gave more $120,000 to McAuliffe.
Rahm Emanuel has never faced federal investigation for his fundraising, but part of his skill was shadiness. Rahm ran Bill Clinton's fundraising operation in 1992. Emanuel took a smallish salary from the campaign, but he supplemented it with consulting fees from Goldman Sachs, from whose partners and directors Emanuel happened to have already raised tens of thousands of dollars. Goldman was supposed to be paying Emanuel for insight on "local political races" or "introduc[ing] us to people, according to contemporaneous news accounts. But it certainly helped Clinton's campaign at the time, deep in debt and delaying paychecks to employees, that there was a corporation willing to supply Emanuel with his income.
The FEC also found of the 1992 Clinton campaign "that nine companies or individuals, including Goldman Sachs," as the Washington Post reported it, "were paid $246,162 by the primary committee for work at discounted rates."
The list goes on.
This summer, we will witness the criminal trial of Clinton fundraiser Mikal Watts. Watts hosted a $100,000 fundraiser for the Ready for Hillary PAC in 2013, two years after his shady dealings in the BP oil spill lawsuits were first reported, and two years before his criminal indictment.
Marc Rich will never stand trial because he is dead. But even if he had lived, he would have escaped justice because Bill Clinton pardoned him of his offenses, including trading with Iran during the hostage crisis. Rich was convicted in absentia in the 1980s because he fled to Switzerland. Rich's wife, Denise Rich, was a major fundraiser for the Clinton library in 1999, which was in all likelihood why Clinton pardoned the fugitive financier.
Hassan Nemazee was Hillary's Clinton's national finance chairman in 2008 — her top fundraiser. In 2010 the Iranian businessman was convicted on multiple fraud counts and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Norman Hsu, an investor from Hong Kong, was a "HillRaiser" in the 2008 election, hosting a million-dollar fundraiser for her. He was actually convicted of fraud back in 1992 and had been on the run from the law. When he was sniffed out during the 2008 cycle, he ran again. Cops caught him, and he was convicted of fraud the day she lost the Iowa caucuses.
Some other names — Riady, Chung, Tsia — are from Bill and Hillary's Chinese fundraising scandals in the 1990s.
It's not a coincidence all of these scofflaws end up in the Clinton fundraising apparatus. They aren't corrupted parts of the machine. They are parts of a corrupt machine. Their disregard for the rules is a virtue to the Clintons.
The Clintons raise money by peddling their power —selling policy, taxpayer funds and access. A by-the-books fundraiser isn't so useful in that enterprise.
In this light, Donald Trump — who admits to playing the crony game as a donor and who promises to use government to punish uncooperative companies — looks like a street-level conman.
So there's your choice America: the kingpin of a corrupt enterprise that sells public power in exchange for crooked contributions, or a scammy developer from Queens who is a client of her dirty game.
Timothy P. Carney, the Washington Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Tuesday and Thursday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.