David Corn

David Corn

Washington Bureau Chief

Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.

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Clinton Foundation Donor Info: Playing Hard To Get?

| Thu Dec. 18, 2008 3:47 PM EST

When Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton decided to work together--with her becoming secretary of state--part of the deal was that the William J. Clinton Foundation, which funds the former president's globetrotting do-gooding and his presidential library, would release all of its donors going back to 1997. For years, Bill Clinton had declined to reveal who was backing his foundation. But the point, as a foundation press release noted, was "to ensure that not even the appearance of a conflict of interest existed between the Clinton Foundation's operations and Senator Clinton's anticpated service as Secretary of State."

On Thursday, the foundation posted the names of those donors on its website--all 2922 pages of them. The list includes a host of foreign governments (Norway, Kuwait, Qatar, Taiwan), Stephen Speilberg's foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Blackwater, General Motors, Freddie Mac, and Citigroup's foundation.

Beyond the specific contributions, what's notable is that this list is damn hard to navigate. To review the contributors, a visitor--say, a journalist--has to click through nearly 3000 pages. As of today, it was not searchable. And the names are provided without addresses or any identifying information. (Political campaigns have to provide the Federal Elections Commission addresses and employment information for their donors.) So who's this Nasser Al-Rashid, who gave between $1 million and $5 million. Cut to Google: he's a Saudi Arabian businessman, supposedly an influential adviser to the Saudi royal family, and owner of one of the largest yachts in the world. Saudis have been especially generous to the Clinton Foundation.

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Corn on Hardball: Watching Matthews Eviscerate an Iraq War Hawk (Video)

| Wed Dec. 17, 2008 11:23 AM EST

I don't know if Hardball host Chris Matthews will run for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania and challenge incumbent Republican Arlen Specter. I do know that it would be refreshing to have a fellow in the Senate with as much passion as Matthews. Sure, he peeved a number of people with his comments on Hillary Clinton during the recent presidential campaign. But last night, I was a guest on his show and watched Matthews eviscerate former Reagan administration aide Frank Gaffney on the question of whether the Iraq war had been justified. I had been booked to debate Gaffney on the subject. But Matthews tore into him more than I could.

I give Matthews plenty of credit--not just for being right on this issue but for devoting the first quarter of his show to the matter. He shoved aside Blago and Caroline Kennedy to discuss a war that the mainstream media does not sufficiently cover. There aren't many television talk show hosts who still greatly care about whether George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the rest of that crew hoodwinked the country into war. But Matthews does. He wants to win the fight over the history and make sure that the public does not forget how the soon-to-be-gone Bush administration misled the nation. I'm not urging Matthews to run--I enjoy appearing on his show and would be sad to see it disappear--but it would be heartening to see in the Senate a man who displays so much zeal on this front.

I have a feeling that in the coming years the Bush-backers and neocons will not give up the fight; they will relentlessly argue that the war was right and just. Even though the majority of the American public doesn't buy that, the foes of the war will have to push back and do combat over and over on this point. Whether Matthews is on TV or in the Senate, he could be a valuable participant in that (alas) never-ending debate.

Cheney Spinning His Way Out the Door (on Gitmo and Torture)

| Tue Dec. 16, 2008 1:17 PM EST

In his first--dare we say it?--farewell interview, Vice President Dick Cheney told ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl that he'd like to keep Guantanamo open until the "end of the war with terror." How long will that be? "Well, nobody knows," the veep said. To defend his hold-'em-forever stand, Cheney referred to the much-repeated claim that many of those released from Guantanamo have returned to terrorism. He said:

We've had, as I recall now--and these are rough numbers, I'd want to check it--but, say, approximately 30 of these folks who've been held in Guantanamo, been released, and ended up back on the battlefield again, and we've encountered them a second time around. They've either been killed or captured in further conflicts with our forces.

This figure of 30 back-to-the-battlefied Gitmo vets has been used by the administration and its supporters for some time now. One problem: it seems to be hype.

Last year, researchers at Seton Hall University School of Law researched this contention, examining the extensive records covering those who have been released from Guantanamo, and they found that the data did not support this claim:

Background on the Shoe-Throwing Iraqi Journalist

| Mon Dec. 15, 2008 2:24 PM EST

For background on the Iraqi journalist who on Sunday hurled two shoes at George W. Bush during a press conference in Iraq, there's this November 18, 2007 report from Reporters Without Borders:

Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern today about the disappearance of Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi of satellite TV station Al-Baghdadiyah, who was kidnapped in central Baghdad on 16 November. The news agency reports of his abduction offer little reason for optimism.
"The kidnapping of a journalist in Iraq is often a prelude to his murder, and we have every reason to fear for Zaidi's life," the press freedom organisation said. "This war has resulted in massive bloodshed for both the Iraqi and foreign media. Never before in history have journalists suffered so much in a war. We urge all the security forces present in Baghdad to work together to find Zaidi. And we extend our support to his family and colleagues."
The Associated Press quoted an Al-Baghdadiyah editor as saying Zaidi went missing in central Baghdad while on his way to work. The editor said that, when Zaidi failed to turn up, a colleague called his mobile. A strange voice answered and said: "Forget Muntadhar."

Would You Pay $10,000 for Sarah Palin's Emails?

| Thu Dec. 11, 2008 1:32 PM EST

How much would you pay for access to the emails Sarah Palin has sent and received as governor of Alaska? Would you part with $10,000 for them? That's basically what her office is asking.

During the general election, I filed an open records act request for all emails that had gone to and from Palin in her official capacity. And Alaska citizen watchdog Andrée McLeod, who had long been peppering Palin's office with similar requests, did the same. At a time when Palin was on the hot seat as Senator John McCain's vice presidential running mate, her office replied that it would cost over $65,000 to round up all of Palin's emails and that Mother Jones would have to cover this cost.

The problem: Palin had used at least two nonofficial email accounts (such as a Yahoo account) to conduct her state business. Given that the governor's office did not have access to those accounts, its information specialists had concluded that the only way to gather all her emails would be to search the state email accounts for about 70 people who worked within the executive offices of the governor and look for emails to and from Palin's nonofficial email accounts. Palin's office estimated it would cost almost a thousand dollars for each search of these 70 or so official accounts.

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