Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


David Plouffe’s Nigeria Speeches

What the link to Iran means and doesn’t mean

Print Email

No doubt low on the list of things the Obama Administration wanted to confront in the last 90 days before the election is a charge that David Plouffe, a senior Obama adviser, took $100,000 for two speeches he gave to a company that has ties with Iran. The Republican National Committee is crying foul, and others are joining in the chorus.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) released a new Web ad Wednesday needling White House aide David Plouffe for accepting money from a business that did business with Iran.

The event happened before Plouffe, who also ran President Obama’s 2008 campaign, joined the administration.

Titled “State Sponsors of Plouffe,” the video declares that Obama’s team “promised to change Washington, but they just fit right in.” It goes on to quote from the Washington Post story that revealed Plouffe had been paid a speaking fee by MTN Group, a South African company.

So, weeks before re-joining the Obama Administration, Plouffe was paid $100,000 to give two speeches in Nigeria on telecommunications for MTN, a South African company involved in a joint venture project with IranCell, a company—according to Wikileaks—run by Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC).

The IRGC’s record is so horrific, its crimes can’t be contained in this space. While Plouffe can hardly be blamed for what the IRGC has done, according to a group called United Against Nuclear Iran, which has both Democratic and Republican heavyweights on its advisory board, MTN doesn’t have a spectacular track record either:

MTN “carried out orders from the regime to shut off text messaging and Skype during times of political protest, and reportedly has a floor in its Tehran headquarters where Iranian military officials compile and access tracking data. That data has been used to track, apprehend, torture and kill regime opponents.” “Simply put,” the group said in a statement, “MTN has blood on its hands.”

The commentariat has been quick to pounce on this incident and ascribe all kinds of other nefarious behavior to the incident—the breach of President Obama’s campaign pledge to end “revolving-door politics” and a more serious conspiratorial charge of influence-pedding.

Yesterday, I spoke to a White House official who, while not authorized to speak on the record, was quick to reiterate that Plouffe’s role in the White House is not related to foreign policy. Accordingly, he saw allegations of influence-peddling as “a bridge too far.” The official also pointed out that Gov. Mitt Romney’s record of doing business with companies linked to Iran was also not stellar.

This “Romney is also assailable here” argument, while effective for keeping some of the wolves at bay, doesn’t answer the questions inherent in this whole incident, namely how was Plouffe allowed to give these speeches after his appointment to the Obama Administration was announced? Did Plouffe disclose this speaking engagement during the vetting process? Most important, did the President know Plouffe was going to be paid to speak to a company with sketchy affiliations and be so handsomely rewarded? If President Obama didn’t know, how does he feel about this?

The point of RNC ad may have been to prove that President Obama’s pledge to end certain Beltway practices has been broken, but the White House’s reticence on the issue provides ammunition for greater transgressions in the imagination. For now, the biggest takeaway seems to be that while Plouffe’s actions were not illegal, they were very stupid.

The President should say so.

RNC Web Ad Knocks Plouffe Over Speaking Fee from Company with Iran Ties [The Hill]
David Plouffe Defended for Ties to Iran-linked Company [NYT]
Iran Goes Plouffe [Gatestone]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

PhillipNagle says:

$100,000 paid for two speeches by David Plouffe, a man who is high in the Obama campaign organization. What made this man so valuable to MTN that he is worth that kind of money. It looks like influence buying and it smells like influence buying.

Hershl says:

Well, at least he has nice teeth.

But not worth $100,000.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

David Plouffe’s Nigeria Speeches

What the link to Iran means and doesn’t mean

More on Tablet:

Obama: Denying Israel’s Right to Exist as a Jewish Homeland is Anti-Semitic

By Yair Rosenberg — The president draws a line in the sand in his latest interview