Friends of Hillary

Pundits are already deep into marqueeing Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democratic Party's 2008 Presidential candidate, and like the willing being led to slaughter, many party pols believe everywhere Hillary goes, the sheep will be sure to follow.

One can only wonder if the chroniclers of recent history will be willing to closely examine her political biography, for within it are sure to be seen many troubling episodes where she has allowed politics to trump principle.

It is more than just that she voted for the Iraq war resolution with no regrets concerning her vote, or that on Feb. 17, after she denounced the Dubai ports deal, declaring "our port security is too important to place in the hands of foreign governments," the March 2 Financial Times reported that her husband was called in to advise the United Arab Emirates about securing the deal.

Hillary Clinton was involved in and profited greatly from two companies -- Tyson Foods, which has been creating economic chaos among our nation's cattle producers and poultry growers, and Wal-Mart, which, in exploiting international "free trade," has cost this nation's workers, retail businesses and communities untold economic hardship.

In a recent Associated Press story, reporter Beth Fouhy points out that "with retail giant Wal-Mart under fire to improve its labor and healthcare policies, one Democrat with deep ties to the company -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton -- has started feeling her share of the political heat. Clinton served on Wal-Mart's board of directors for six years when her husband was governor of Arkansas."

Throughout the 1980s, both Bill and Hillary Clinton nurtured relationships with Sam Walton, Wal-Mart's founder, a conservative Republican and Arkansas's most influential businessman. The Rose Law Firm, where Hillary was a partner, handled many of the Arkansas-based company's legal affairs.

"Clinton had kind words for Wal-Mart," Fouhy continues, "as recently as 2004, when she told an audience at the convention of the National Retail Federation that her time on the board 'was a great experience in every respect.' But ... late last year, Clinton's reelection campaign returned a $5,000 contribution from Wal-Mart, citing 'serious differences with current company practices.'

"As Clinton sheds her Arkansas past and looks ahead to a possible 2008 presidential run, the Wal-Mart issue presents an exquisite dilemma: how to reconcile the political demands she faces today with her history at a company many American consumers depend upon but many Democratic activists revile."

"The interesting question is not just Hillary Clinton's history at Wal-Mart, but why it's delicate for her to talk about Wal-Mart," said Charles Fishman, author of The Wal-Mart Effect, a book on the company's impact on the national economy. "Plenty of Democrats denounce Wal-Mart, but there are also plenty of people who need it, love it and rely on it."

Another question concerning a chapter from her past that is sure to dog the senator from New York is her astounding foray into the cattle futures market in the late 1970s and her ability to turn a $1,000 investment into a quick $99,537 profit. Her sudden acumen in cattle futures not only stretched the meaning of believability, but also belied the accepted rule as to what it takes to make a small fortune in the futures market -- start with a large one!

Yet, there are those who feel that the price Clinton was ultimately forced to pay for her dabbling in the innermost workings of corporate agribusiness was exacted years later, when her husband was in the sixth year of his presidency.

In his book Shadow, Bob Woodward recounts that after it was revealed that her husband had sex with a young White House intern, Clinton reportedly told close friends, "I have to take this punishment. I don't know why God has chosen this for me. But He has, and it will be revealed to me. God is doing this, and He knows the reason. There is some reason." This bit of Hillarism occasioned the Progressive Review's Sam Smith to report that "reached at his celestial headquarters, God told this reporter, 'That'll teach her not to rig cattle futures'."

As one begins to sort out the various insider schemes that were at work in the cattle futures market in the late 1970s, it becomes abundantly clear that those who reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars in a very short period of time were not the thousands of producers and millions of consumers of meat.

A Congressional study revealed that Clinton's ability to turn $1,000 into nearly $100,000 in 10 months of futures trading coincided with a period of time when a select group of grain companies, feedlot operators, commodity brokers and executives from packing houses reaped tens of millions of dollars in an "insider" trading scheme in the cattle futures market. There is no direct evidence available that Hillary Clinton actually knew of the scheme in 1978-79, although she most likely profited from it.

Between February 1978 and April 1979, some 32 cattle industry insiders made profits of $110 million by selling cattle futures after they received some 15 "secret signals" that were followed within an average two-and-a-half-day period by a marked drop in cattle future prices.

Neal Smith, the Iowa Democrat who was then chairman of the House Small Business Committee, released the report in February 1981. He noted that in all, a total of some 1027 individuals made total net profits of approximately $156 million.

Thus, 3% of the large traders -- those with 50 contracts or more -- with correlated trading activity and/or common business affiliations accounted for 70% of the total net profits of this group of traders. Hillary Clinton traded 50 or more contracts three times.

In later comments on his committee's study, Rep Smith noted: "There are no rewards for honesty. This system leaves opportunities for manipulation and interplay with the futures market by those who have the information earlier than the farmer or rancher does."

An earlier USDA study from 1979, for example, pointed out that during 20 of the 21 months preceding October 1979, there was not a single day in which a farmer-feeder could have used the futures market to hedge in a profit, and there were only five days in the remaining month when the farmer-feeder could have broken even.

Meanwhile, the eight largest packers, who at the time were slaughtering 44% of the nation's beef, held over half of the futures contracts and made twice as much money in the futures market as they did in trading cattle. Today, 81% of the nation's beef supply is slaughtered by just three packers.

In all, between February 1978 and December 1980, some 29 "secret signals" were given -- although Smith's committee staff made no estimates on the profits earned after April 1979.

Although neither Clinton's broker Robert L. "Red" Bone nor her principal advisor and longtime close family friend James Blair were among the identified 32 beneficiaries, it is known that both Blair and Bone at this time made millions in the cattle futures market. It is also unknown whether Clinton at any time had investments in October and December 1979 cattle futures, as she quit trading in her REFCO account in July of that year.

A.V. Krebs operates the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project. Email

From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2006

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