Saturday, February 12, 2011

Michael Glassner - Palin's New Chief of Staff. The Haiti Connection

Guest Post by Nomadic Joe

If CNN's latest report is true, Sarah Palin may be serious about running for president after all. In the last few days, she has apparently decided to add a veteran Republican strategist to serve as chief-of-staff for her political action committee, Sarah PAC. If so, she is off to a pretty bad start.

Michael Glassner, an attorney and longtime adviser to former Kansas senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole, has signed on to steer the former Alaska governor's political operation as she considers a possible 2012 presidential bid.

One would assume that this is the very same Michael Glassner who was in charge of campaign operations during the 2008 McCain-Palin bid. Glassner, registered as a federal lobbyist, was a member of the McCain New York, New Jersey Connecticut Finance Committee and a bundler for John McCain.

Immediately prior to this Michael Glassner had been a vice-president of International Discount Telecom (IDT). The New Jersey-based telecom was fined $1.3 million by the FCC in July for failing to file a Haiti contract, a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The contract, effective in 2004, revealed payments to an offshore shell company in the Turks & Caicos which sent only part of the fees to Haiti’s phone company. The case is under investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission. A former IDT insider, Michael Jewett, who managed the company’s Caribbean region, says the missing money represented kickbacks to former Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Glassner had worked with IDT since April 2001 and, presumably, as an IDT corporate communications official would have known the details of the contract and the investigations.

According to an article by Portifolio's Lucy Komisar, "When the F.C.C. forced IDT to file its 2003-2004 telecommunications agreement with Haiti, it showed that IDT had negotiated an illegal long-distance rate, with payments made to a Turks & Caicos company instead of a Haiti Teleco account in Haiti."

As soon as news broke of the details of the FCC fine John McCain's staff immediately erased all traces from its fund-raising list of anyone associated with the company. This included Glassner, as well as IDT head Jim Courter who served as one of McCain's "trailblazers," that is he had raised over $100,000 for the GOP nominee. Both resigned in July of 2008 and their names disappeared from the McCain campaign's website. Courter, a former New Jersey Republican congressman, was one of 20 McCain national finance co-chairmen. Courter had been with the campaign since February 2007.

It is certainly difficult to square the hiring of Glassner -with his ties to corporate corruption in Haiti- with Palin's recent well-televised tour (a Fox News exclusive) of charity work, involving the poor and last years earthquake survivors. Palin, as the vice presidential candidate, must have been aware of the reasons for Glassner's abrupt departure and could hardly blame a vetting problem. One thing's for certain: This is going to be a fun campaign if this is any indication.

(Special thanks to Kathleen for all her kind help.)


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