Congress Investigates “Slush Fund” At USAID Used To Get Lawmakers To Pass Reforms

1369987959_USAIDOur government has long seemed to be descending into a type of Orwellian universe of double speak. The Libyan War was not a war but a “time-limited, scope-limited military action” under Obama. Torture of detainees was not torture but “enhanced interrogation” under Bush. Now it appears open bribery of foreign officials is not bribery but “incentives” to implement policies favorable to their own people. Congressional members are moving to address what is being called a “slush fund” with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) where millions are paid to political figures in foreign countries. We have previously discussed such payments by the CIA to the openly corrupt Afghanistan government, including suitcases of cash to President Helmit Karzai. What is most interesting is that an act that is a federal crime for citizens doing business abroad can be not only legal but an official program by government officials. It appears that in the handshake shown on the USAID seal, there is often a sawbuck or two in the palm.

The USAID routinely makes “incentive” payments to lawmakers to pass legislation or enact policies throughout the world. Even policies that benefit their own people, like granting rights to women or protecting the democratic process, are secured by greasing the palms of corrupt officials. In doing so, the United States perpetuates the rampant corruption in these countries and enriches officials who will only act if it benefits them personally.

Consider the $15 million forked over to Afghan lawmakers in 2013 to get them to pass a law prohibiting violence against women. Remember these payments were made at the very time that the CIA was being hammered for publicly assuring Karzai that his regular delivery of suitcases of cash would continue despite an outcry from critics. USAID defended buying lawmakers by telling Congress that the lawmakers would not have protected women if they were not paid off. Such a law would be have deemed “unpalatable” without the effective bribes.

Of course, many citizens may find it “unpalatable” for the United States to engage in open corrupt practices that are illegal for businesses. Indeed, the $15 million is nothing. The USAID has an “incentive fund” of $175 million just for Afghanistan to pass legislation protecting basic rights. It has not worked very well since the country continues to deny basic rights and protections to women and religious minorities. Now that U.S. money is declining, Karzai is openly denouncing the U.S. and seeking alliances with Russia, China, and Iran. That is the problem with dealing with corrupt politicians –they tend to follow the money.

Just last month, we reportedly paid out $15 million just to get budget changes in Afghanistan. In the meantime, John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, has complained that Afghanistan continues its downward spiral into “persistent corruption, wasteful spending and increased violence.”

It is not just Afghanistan. We are greasing the palms of corrupt officials around the world, including $30 million handed out in incentives in the Republic of the Congo to curb violence against women. Clearly some of that money goes to social services but it appears that the “incentives” are designed to buy lawmakers and pay them to actually serve the interests of their own people.

I do have a concern that these hearings are focusing on USAID rather than the CIA and Defense Department. The CIA payments appear clear and unmistakable bribes. USAID is at least trying to secure positive legislation and some of this money likely goes to actual programs and training. If USAID is paying for programs that is one thing but, if they are paying lawmakers, it is entirely a different matter in my view. Congress is right to demand answers but the lack of any response to the Karzai corruption raises serious questions over the focus of the investigation.

Putting that concern aside, the hearings do present this novel question of what is legal for government officials and yet illegal for corporate officials. As with torture, this appears a crime for which only citizens can be prosecuted. The Justice Department emphasizes that the corrupt practices provisions are broadly written and will result in criminal charges for anyone making

payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. Specifically, the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA prohibit the willful use of the mails or any means of instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of any offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of money or anything of value to any person, while knowing that all or a portion of such money or thing of value will be offered, given or promised, directly or indirectly, to a foreign official to influence the foreign official in his or her official capacity, induce the foreign official to do or omit to do an act in violation of his or her lawful duty, or to secure any improper advantage in order to assist in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person.

In order to secure short-term reforms, the United States continues to fuel corruption in other countries. Yet, by reinforcing such corrupt practices, these bribes will only secure such reforms so long as we continue the pipeline of money flowing. These are obviously not people who put either human rights or their own people first among their priorities. It also reflects the questionable assumption that we can change deep-seated prejudice and abuse in these countries that are often based on primitive religious and social practices that treat women as chattel or lesser beings.

While CIA and agency officials dismiss such objections as naive, they hardly have a track record supporting their corrupt practices as part of a realpolitik. Karzai is the best example that corruption is the only constant value for such officials. While allies and reforms come and go, only the corruption remains.

22 thoughts on “Congress Investigates “Slush Fund” At USAID Used To Get Lawmakers To Pass Reforms

  1. To the CIA objections and laws are all naive because they interfer with what they want to do. When is Obama going to do something about the extralegal behavior of these branches of government.

  2. The macro issue here is that for the government, it’s free money. They have the right to take it from US citizens and do what they wish w/ it. And, the tax base is getting smaller and smaller w/ fewer people paying taxes. We are within a few percentage points of 50% of people not paying taxes. The govt. has unlimited access to free money and less and less people bear the tax burden. We need people elected like William Proxmire. A quixotic thought, I know.

  3. Paul S, my thoughts exactly. Because we continue to put the same corrupt people back in office in our election process. So who is the idiot here? Foreign leaders taking money to enrich themselves, or U.S. voters that elect corrupt people that take money from the WIC program that helps local women and children and give it to foreign leaders?

  4. Bribery is an accepted way of life (both abroad and in selected U.S. jurisdictions – i.e. New jersey); we just handicap ourselves by not bribing foreign officials.

    The part that bothers me is the double standard between government and private enterprise.

  5. Nick Spinelli

    The macro issue here is that for the government, it’s free money. They have the right to take it from US citizens and do what they wish w/ it. And, the tax base is getting smaller and smaller w/ fewer people paying taxes. We are within a few percentage points of 50% of people not paying taxes. The govt. has unlimited access to free money and less and less people bear the tax burden. We need people elected like William Proxmire. A quixotic thought, I know.
    ===================
    Nevertheless a good idea.

    USAID is said to be a known front of the CIA (e.g. see here and here).

  6. Clearly our elected bureaucrats believe the American lawmaking process is transportable to foreign governments. If these incentives (read: bribes) weren’t effective within our own system then they would implement other means to achieve the same objective.

  7. More hanky panky inside the DC belt…..Not to far off topic

    By Tom Ridge. You’ll remember him as the former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (among other roles).

    Lack of Business Attention
    “I would say that war fighters are laser focused on risks attendant to the cyber world,” said Ridge. “I’m not sure the private sector brings the same acuity of focus to that risk, which grows ever more in the digital forevermore.” He continued, “It’s critically important to understand that national security and economic security are tied. When nation states can disrupt cyber- assets, it’s everybody’s concern.”

    Ridge noted that in the DHS they had a saying: You can’t secure the country from inside the beltway. Everybody has a role in security. “Trade secrets, product development, testing, strategies, pricing, you name it,” said Ridge. “Attackers and hackers are after it. But to the private sector, the virtual world is a vague world. The C-suite doesn’t have experience. We need to convince them that the impact is not virtual, it is real.”

  8. “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
    From ‘Why I Write’ by George Orwell

  9. The bribery of foreign governments is not a new concept and has been going on for decades. That goes for the US Government agencies and US businesses who play the bribery game. I agree that we can only stop this practice if we stop all agencies, including the CIA and the DOD. However, how do we stop the CIA when there budget is secret??

  10. FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/fbi-uncovers-alqaeda-plot-to-just-sit-back-and-enj,35788/

    Excerpt:

    “The FBI has also warned that numerous al-Qaeda agents may have established sleeper cells for the purpose of “getting a kick out of” the nation’s downfall on American soil. The bureau urged U.S. residents to use caution around schools, hospitals, legislative bodies, prisons, and other decaying institutions whose imminent failure terrorists may wish to observe up close.

    Speaking on condition of anonymity, one high-ranking U.S. counterterrorism official has described the present situation as a massive failure of intelligence.

    “The warning signs were there all along, but unfortunately we failed to heed them,” said the official, who advised Americans to brace for widespread devastation. “If we’d listened to experts or even our own common sense, we would’ve realized that this plot was being actively orchestrated within our own borders. But we didn’t, and now every one of our citizens and our very way of life is at risk from this threat.”

    “Sadly, al-Qaeda has us right where they want us,” the official added, “and at this point, I fear it is too late to do anything about it.”

    Responding to the allegations, a spokesperson for al-Qaeda reportedly confirmed the terror group’s plot and praised the American people as martyrs of the highest order.”

  11. AP that may have come from the onion but the fact is we armed al-Qaeda in Syria using dubious intelligence.

    UPDATED: Obama waives ban on arming terrorists to allow aid to Syrian opposition

    http://washingtonexaminer.com/updated-obama-waives-ban-on-arming-terrorists-to-allow-aid-to-syrian-opposition/article/2535885

    ​New analysis of rocket used in Syria chemical attack undercuts U.S. claims

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/01/15/214656/new-analysis-of-rocket-used-in.html#storylink=cpy

    ANOTHER FLASHBACK

    ​​President Obama made the decision after his administration concluded Syrian forces under Bashar al-Assad were using chemical weapons, a spokesman said.
    Ben Rhodes did not give details about the military aid other than to say it would be “different in scope and scale to what we have provided before”.

    The Syrian government said the US statement was “full of lies”.

    The White House “relied on fabricated information” about chemical weapons use in Syria in order to justify its decision to arm the rebels, the foreign ministry said.

    _www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-22899289

  12. All of this, and yet: the vast majority of people here reject the truth about most of the gov’t-sponsored conspiracies of the past 50 years, and ridicule those who point out the truth about: JFK (coup), Gulf of Tonkin, USS Liberty, stolen elections of 1968 (treason by Nixon forces), 1980, 2000, 2004, 9/11, Libya, Wars on Iraq etc., Coups in Honduras, attempts in Venezuela, giving cancer to H. Chavez, and on and on. Reasonably informed people worldwide know these things, but here such people are call conspiracy theorists.

  13. Don’t forget about the NED! They’re running out of pots to stir. There’s still some in Africa, I guess. If they run out of pots, I guess they could look inside this country and start stirring. Have to spend the current budget to get more. Maybe… they’ll start talking to unhappy ranchers or something…???? Don’t ask questions… just rubber stamp the check, and we’ll get something going. Somewhere.

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