Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Most E$tremely Qualified Would-Be Ambassador Yet

Hassan Nemazee, a mega-bucks Democratic political donor who was once nominated by President Clinton to be U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, was arrested yesterday on charges of financial fraud. He is accused of trying to defraud Citigroup out of $74 million.

The WaPo story on this today is quite brief, just a re-run from the Associated Press.

The Washington Times story is more informative. Among other things, it mentions that Nemazee's ambassadorial nomination was shot down by this 1999 Forbes article.

Some quotes from the WT:

One of the nation's top Democratic fundraisers, who helped bring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the presidential campaigns of both Hillary Rodham Clinton and later Barack Obama, was arrested Tuesday on charges that he masterminded a $74 million fraud against giant lender Citigroup Inc.

-- snip --

Mr. Nemazee, 59, long has been a major figure in Democratic money circles, served as a co-chairman of Mrs. Clinton's presidential bid and was a central figure involved in efforts to help unify the party after the divisive 2008 primary season.

In earlier election cycles he headed up fundraising efforts for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

-- snip --

Questions about Mr. Nemazee's financial dealings more than a decade ago wound up scuttling his nomination by President Clinton to be ambassador to Argentina. In that case, the Senate sent back his nomination after a Forbes magazine article suggested that Mr. Nemazee had gained advantages by claiming a business venture he was involved with was "100 percent Hispanic-owned." In fact, the report said, Mr. Nemazee, an Iranian-American, owned 49 percent.

Regarding that "100 percent Hispanic" claim, the Forbes article says that "through a family connection with the wealthy Cisneros clan of Venezuela, Nemazee obtained a passport from Venezuela but lived there just a few months. That was evidently enough for him to call himself Hispanic." An Iranian-American multi-millionaire turned himself into a Hispanic in order to qualify for a U.S. government program intended to favor disadvantaged minorities? I call that imaginative and resourceful.

Nemazee was evidently public spirited, politically engaged, and a wildly successful CEO. And, of course, ethnically flexible. How did we ever let this nominee get away from us?

No comments: