President Obama's top campaign advisor and 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe has come under fire Monday as The Washington Post reports that Plouffe allegedly accepted a $100,000 speaking engagement from a subsidiary of a company in 2010 who has been in business with the Iranian government.
While Plouffe was not working at the White House at the time of the speaking engagement, has never been involved in policy with Iran, and has technically done nothing illegal, the report challenges Obama's defense against claims from Mitt Romney that his presumptive general election opponent is soft on Iran. The Post reports:
A subsidiary of MTN Group, a South Africa-based telecommunications company, paid Plouffe for two speeches he made in Nigeria in December 2010, about a month before he joined the White House staff.
Since Plouffe’s speeches, MTN Group has come under intensified scrutiny from U.S. authorities because of its activities in Iran and Syria, which are under international sanctions intended to limit the countries’ access to sensitive technology. At the time of Plouffe’s speeches, MTN had been in a widely reported partnership for five years with a state-owned Iranian telecommunications firm.
There were no legal or ethical restrictions on Plouffe being paid to speak to the MTN subsidiary as a private citizen. But for a close Obama aide to have accepted payment from a company involved in Iran could prove troublesome for the president as the White House toughens its stance toward the Islamic republic. In recent weeks, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has accused the administration of being soft on Iran.
The revelation comes as Iran successfully test fired missiles over the weekend, Iranian television recently aired controversial Israeli assassin “confessions,” and tensions with the U.S. and its allies continue to escalate. In addition to the news on Plouffe potentially hampering the Obama campaign's foreign policy chops, the report is another example of a broken 2008 campaign promise from Barack Obama about influence peddling in Washington and how the Obama administration was going to be different. Jim Geraghty writes on National Review online:
Government work and campaign work often don’t pay very well. But those who choose that path can develop relationships with powerful people – and thus, once a campaign or government worker has built up enough solid relationships with powerful lawmakers, they can cash in on the decades of effort with highly-compensated “totally not a lobbyist” jobs like Daschle’s, or through extremely well-compensated speaking gigs like Plouffe. Again, both sides do it.
But as a candidate, Obama explicitly and loudly denounced this phenomenon, and he ran ads on it: “The chairman of the committee who pushed the law through went to work for the pharmaceutical industry, making $2 million a year. Imagine that! That’s an example of the same-old game playing in Washington. I don’t want to play the game better, I want to put an end to the game-playing.”
Geraghty joined 'Real News' Monday to discuss the Washington Post report, whether Plouffe's offense itself is as big a deal as some have made it, and if this ordeal can be chalked up to the list of broken promises made by candidate Obama. Watch a clip from Monday's show below: