Sunday, July 08, 2007

Marc Rich and Scooter Libby: A Bad Comparison

Let us put to rest any comparison of the commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence and the pardon that Marc Rich received from President Bill Clinton.

They are in no way comparable.

By the degree of the individual's guilt and traitorous behavior, Libby's sentence-commutation by George W. Bush could be more aptly compared to GWB's father's pardon of Oliver North. North could have implicated the elder Bush in the illegal arms for hostages deal, which funded the subsequent murder of hundreds of thousands of Central American peasants, at the hands of the Reagan/Bush administration. Similarly, Libby could implicate the current underdstandably secretive holders of the offices of president and vice-president, of covering up the deliberate outing of a covert CIA operative.

Bill Clinton, in his autobiography, My Life, on pp. 940-941 has this to say about his own last-minute pardon of Marc Rich:

"The most controversial pardons went to Marc Rich and his partner, Pincus Green. Rich, a wealthy businessman, had left the United States for Switzerland shortly before he was indicted on tax and other charges for allegedly falsely reporting the price of certain oil transactions to minimize his tax liability. There were several such cases in the 1980s, when some oil was under price controls and some was not, inviting the dishonest to underestimate their income or to overcharge their customers. During that time, several people and companies were charged with violating the law, but the individuals were usually charged with a civil offense. It was extremely rare for tax charges to be prosecuted under the racketeering statutes, as Rich and Green were, and after they were charged, the Justice Department ordered U.S. attorneys to stop doing it. After he was indicted, Rich stayed overseas, mostly in Israel and Switzerland.

The government had allowed Rich's business to continue to operate after he agreed to pay $200 million in fines, more than four times the $48 million in taxes the government claimed he had evaded. Professor Marty Ginsberg, a tax expert and husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Harvard law professor Bernard Wolfman had reviewed the transactions in question and concluded that Rich's companies were right in their tax computations, which meant that Rich himself had not owed any taxes on these transactions."

I call bullshit on Republicans for using the Marc Rich pardon as an example that is in any way comparable to the commutation of Scooter Libby richly deserved sentence. Incidentally, one of Rich's former lawyers was the ubiquitous Scooter Libby.

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