Bill and Hillary Clinton's scandal-plagued two terms in the White House ended 15 years ago today with a blockbuster presidential disgrace that even the former president regretted for damaging his reputation: the pardon of international fugitive donor Marc Rich.
The pardon, granted on January 20, 2001, came over the opposition of top aides and after supporters of Rich poured thousands of dollars into Clinton's campaigns and Hillary Clinton's successful Senate bid.
The outrage over the pardon of Rich, accused of trading with Iran while it held American hostages. was widespread and provided the final black eye on an administration and president that lurched from scandal to scandal.
Marc and Denise Rich. AP Photo
For example, former President Jimmy Carter said the pardon brought disgrace to the White House, and Clinton's top fundraiser, Terry McAuliffe, now the governor of Virginia, called it a mistake and something "I wouldn't have done."
Rich was an energy trader who ran to Switzerland to duck an indictment on tax evasion and other crimes. He eventually died there at 78 and never returned to the U.S. despite the pardon.
His ex-wife, Denise Rich, a major Clinton donor, teamed with another Clinton and Democratic donor to push for Marc Rich's pardon. They hired Clinton's former White House counsel, Jack Quinn, to help press the case.
The pardon came immediately after Denise Rich bought some furniture for the Clintons, held a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, pushed some $450,000 to the Clinton Foundation and presented Bill Clinton with a new saxophone, according to the Hillary Clinton biographer "For the Love of Politics," by Sally Bedell Smith.
Rich, a songwriter, eventually renounced her U.S. citizenship. In doing so, she avoided paying U.S. taxes on foreign holdings.
At the time, Clinton has signed a book advance worth $8 million and purchased a $2.85 million home near the vice president's official residence which friends were helping outfit. It is this period that Hillary Clinton said that she and her husband were "flat broke."
The anti-Clinton group America Rising today released a review of Pardongate news stories that can be seen below.
Jeff Bechdel, America Rising PAC communications director, told Secrets, "Let this serve as a reminder that Clinton scandals stretch back decades and are not simply contained to private email servers and the current FBI investigation. The Clintons have made millions at the nexus of money and politics, and like in the case of Marc Rich, they have owed a lot of people favors for it. Another Clinton presidency will only bring more 'disgrace,' as Jimmy Carter put it, to the White House."
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.