Obama adviser David Plouffe is on the defensive this week after reporting in The Washington Post revealed that he received $100,000 in speaker’s fees from an affiliate of a telecommunications company that’s done business in Iran.
The fees reportedly came from an affiliate of the MTN Group, a telecommunications provider that operates across Africa and provides services in Iran through the state-owned partnership Irancell. While that means Plouffe’s fees were perfectly legal, they will still make for some hearty political red meat in the coming weeks.
As if the news weren’t bad enough, the Obama campaign responded to the report on Monday in the worst possible way, telling BuzzFeed reporter Zeke Miller that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) previously held investments in the Turkish telecommunications firm Turkcell, which has sought to expand its business in Iran. As it turns out, Turkcell also paid Plouffe $48,000 (PDF) to come speak to them in March 2010.
Both items will likely be high on the roster for Romney, who’s taken of late to accusing Obama of being soft on Iran and warning that the president may allow Israel’s rival to develop nuclear weapons. Romney’s top foreign policy adviser, former United Nations ambassador John Bolton, has repeatedly called for an Israeli-led bombing campaign against Iran. The candidate himself has also vowed to stand with Israel, even in the event of an unannounced attack against Iran.
Even though Plouffe’s speaker’s fees look like a winning talking point for Romney, the presumptive Republican candidate’s own blind trust held investments in companies with similar business ties to Iran as late as 2010, according to The Associated Press. Romney’s shares in the companies were sold off for a profit of more than $3 million, the AP reported in February.
“We’re happy to have a debate over what clients Mitt Romney’s advisors have chosen to advise – from human rights abusers to Chinese oil companies – but what is more significant is Romney’s own failure to keep his word when it came to Iran divestment,” Obama spokesman Ben LaBotl told BuzzFeed.
Though President Obama recently criticized his Republican opponent for speaking about all-out war with such “casualness,” reporting by The New York Times and Newsweek revealed that the current president played a central role in a cyber-war against Iran’s nuclear energy program by sanctioning sophisticated computer virus attacks. “We will not countenance Iran getting a nuclear weapon,” Obama said at a White House press conference in March.
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