As a journalist who has written articles supportive of President Obama, and as a US citizen who voted for Obama in the 2008 general election (I voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries), I was aghast to read that David Plouffe, a member of the President's tight inner circle, took a check for $100,000 from a South Africa-based telecommunications company called MTN whose Iranian joint-venture partner, Irancell, has been described by the US Government as "fully owned" by Iran's Revolutionary Guard (IRGC). Attempts to play off Plouffe's Iranian check-cashing spree as an innocent mistake or as a Republican political ploy or as an action that was not strictly prohibited by US law on the precise afternoon in December, 2010 when he went to the bank are void of practical or moral import. I doubt the people who make these lame excuses on Plouffe's behalf could gin themselves up to believe what they are saying even if their jobs depended on it (which they probably do).
It goes without saying that $100,000 is a large amount of money, especially for a DC political operative, and that Plouffe's technical or regulatory experience in the field of global telecommunications isn't worth a plugged nickel to a South Africa-based telecommunications company, because he has no such experience. The fact that Plouffe traveled all the way to Nigeria to collect the loot is a detail from a crappy political farce.
What really stinks here, however, is not simply the fact of the dodgy connection to bad people who actively seek to kill American citizens but the fact that Plouffe took the money in mid-December 2010, and then officially joined the Obama administration weeks later, in January 2011. At the very least, the timing of the Plouffe pay-off makes this a particularly egregious example of the revolving-door DC politics-and-payouts system that Obama pledged to end when he campaigned for office in 2008. The normal procedure for greedheads like David Plouffe is to cash in on their government service AFTER leaving office.
But the timing of Plouffe's payoff suggests that something more sinister should not be discounted. Short of Ali Khamenei writing David Plouffe a personal check -- which would in fact be against the letter of US law -- there is simply no clearer way for the Revolutionary Guard, which has been officially deemed "the most active state sponsor of terrorism" by the US State Department, to slip $100,000 to one of Obama's closest and most trusted advisors, at a moment when internal administration debate about US Iran policy was on high boil. Plouffe, who ran Obama's 2008 Presidential campaign, knew full well that he was going into government a few weeks after his $100,000 speech in Nigeria -- and his paymasters knew it, too.
It's hard to imagine a scenario in which either party imagined that the MTN-Plouffe transaction was anything other than what it clearly was -- influence-peddling. The only excuse I can imagine for Plouffe's conduct is that he received winking assurances from someone (his boss?) that the US and Iran were going to do a deal and that, in any case, Iran was not an enemy of the United States, and that statements to the contrary were simply hot air.
More likely, David Plouffe's actions are the products of personal greed and some degree of contempt for the stated aims of US policy, as well as for the lives of American citizens and the lives of the thousands of Iranians, Syrians, Israelis and others who have been murdered by the Revolutionary Guard and its terrorist subsidiaries around the globe. Plouffe's use of an IRGC-owned company as his personal ATM is beneath contempt, and it is hard to imagine the reasoning by which he should remain privy to government secrets or be a party to sensitive policy discussions about Iran.