Is Sheldon Silver A Criminal?

Those of you West of the Hudson may not know the name Sheldon Silver, but as Speaker of the New York State Assembly he is one of the three most powerful men in New York politics (the other two being the Governor and the Majority Leader of the State Senate).  On Thursday Silver was arrested by Federal authorities under the direction of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara.

Before getting to the specifics of the allegations against Silver, I must say that I can't stop thinking about a story that a friend told me a number of years ago.  She stepped out onto the porch of her suburban house and spotted on the front step two different-color snakes coiled around each other.  She was wondering why this would be, when suddenly the two tensed up tightly, and then after some seconds, relaxed again.  And after a little more time, they tensed again, and then again relaxed.  And this behavior was repeated several times.  Gradually, she realized that they were locked in a struggle to the death.   After a while she left, but came back later, to find only one snake where before there had been two -- except that the tail of the second snake was protruding slightly from the mouth of the one that remained.

When it's two serpents, the good thing is that you don't really much care which one wins.

Silver is the complete antithesis of what I would want in a politician.  In his world state politicians exist to pass out favors to special interests, and the special interests then fund the political campaigns to keep the politicians perpetually in power.  Special interest Exhibit A is the teachers union, which according to the New York Post on January 19 spent $4.7 million in 2014 on political contributions (essentially all to Democrats) and lobbying.  Silver is then the key guy for the union in preventing the expansion of charter schools, watering down proposals for teacher evaluations, stopping merit pay, keeping it impossible to fire a teacher, and so on.  For the public employee unions more generally -- who collectively are the dominant political donors in New York -- Silver prevents pension reform, and also undermines employer bargaining power by insuring that pay increases continue even after contracts have expired.  Other major donors include real estate interests and taxi medallion owners who live off state-granted political favors.  It's all completely corrupt and greatly undermines the economic competitiveness of New York.  But none of this is a subject of this new Federal Complaint against Silver.  Also, all this information is well-known, and Silver's constituents keep electing him, most recently with 76% of the vote.

The fact that Silver is completely corrupt does not mean that Bharara has charged him with anything that does or should constitute a crime.   Here's a copy of the prosecutors' Complaint setting out the charges against Silver.  My main take is that there is almost nothing there.

The main charges against Silver are mail and wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. Section 1341, combined with "deprivation of the intangible right to honest services" under 18 U.S.C. 1346.  Section 1341 makes it a crime to engage in "any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for [the] obtaining [of] money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises."  In reading the Silver Complaint, be on the lookout for any of those "fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises."  You won't find any.   It's not that Silver hasn't made lots of false statements to the public, and this Complaint is full of them.  But if that were a crime every politician would be in jail.  "Fraud" requires not just the false promise but also reliance on it in giving up something of value.  In most to all political corruption cases, the crooked pol hasn't made a false promise to anybody to extract money, and that very issue became a persistent problem for federal prosecutors trying to put away state politicians under the mail and wire fraud statute.  And so Congress in 1988 added the following words in Section 1346:

For the purposes of this chapter, the term “scheme or artifice to defraud” includes a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.

Can you understand what that one means?  Neither can I.  And we're in good company -- neither could the Supreme Court.  In 2010 the conviction of Jeffrey Skilling, one-time CFO of Enron, reached the Supremes.  Now, if ever there was a corrupt guy, he was it.  But he was convicted under this "deprivation of the intangible right to honest services" thing, and on appeal he very appropriately challenged that statute as void for vagueness.  The Supreme Court agreed, and vacated his conviction.  In my view it should have invalidated the statute entirely, but it did not; instead (per Justice Ginsburg) it held:

Construing the honest-services statute to extend beyond that core meaning, we conclude, would encounter a vagueness shoal. We therefore hold that § 1346 covers only bribery and kickback schemes. 

I won't even try to explain to you how Justice Ginsburg was able to discern from the statute that it clearly covered "bribery" and "kickbacks," but was too vague as to everything else, when the statute doesn't ever use the words "bribery" or "kickback" or say anything about those things.  But at least as to everything other than bribery and kickbacks, this was not even close.  The decision was unanimous, 9-0.  Three justices -- Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy -- joined a concurring opinion that said the statute should have been invalidated in its entirety. 

And thus, since 2010, to convict someone of this "deprivation of the intangible right to honest services" thing, the federal prosecutor must prove either "bribery" or a "kickback."

That brings us to the prosecution of Joe Bruno.  Not so long ago -- up to 2008 -- Joe Bruno was the other legislative member (along with Silver and then-Governors Pataki and Spitzer) of the three most powerful men in New York, namely Bruno was the Majority Leader of the State Senate.  That is, he was until he attracted the attention of the federal prosecutors, this time from the Northern District of New York.  And what do you think they charged him with?  You guessed it: "deprivation of the intangible right to honest services."  The basic allegation was that Bruno had gotten paid for "consulting" when he had done little or no work, while the guy paying him had business of some kind before the state.  So what was the "bribery" or "kickback" there?  The prosecutors were completely vague about it, but this was before the Skilling case.  After charges were brought, Bruno retired from the State Senate in 2008.   In 2009 he was convicted on two counts (although acquitted on many others).  While Bruno's case was on appeal, the Skilling case came down from the Supreme Court.  Oops!  In 2011 the Second Circuit reversed Bruno's conviction in light of Skilling.  If the prosecutors had had any decency, they would have walked away at that point; but they don't have any decency.  Bruno was then re-tried in early 2014, but the prosecution now struggled to prove what it was that Bruno had supposedly done as a quid pro quo for his client that made the consulting payment a "bribe."  The jury acquitted Bruno on all charges.  In the final insult in the Bruno case, the Post reported in its Christmas 2014 edition that the State of New York had grudgingly agreed to pay Bruno's legal fees for his completely successful defense.  Yes, that was just a month ago.

OK then, what is the "bribe" or "kickback" that Silver is charged with -- in other words, what is the explicit quid pro quo between Silver and the briber and/or kickback recipient? Given the holding of the Supreme Court in the Skilling case and the extremely recent debacle of the Bruno prosecution, you would think that the prosecutors would know that this point is their Achilles heel and would address the issue squarely and directly in their Complaint.  You would think.

Back to the Federal Complaint.  Starting on page one we find that the prosecutors are savvy enough to use the magic words "bribes" and "kickbacks" in their opening allegations ("SILVER used the power and influence of his official position to obtain for himself millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks masked as legitimate income").  OK, we can see that at least you have read the Skilling case.  But how about some specifics as to quids and quos?

And then we go all the way to page 17 with lots of allegations obviously designed to paint Silver as a bad man, but only evasiveness as to the quids and quos.  Are you starting to get the sense that they are dodging something? 

  • In paragraph 9: "For more than a decade SILVER repeatedly has represented publicly that his outside income as a private lawyer is derived from private citizens who seek him out for legal services in personal injury matters, and that none of his clients has any business before the state."  OK, suppose this is all false.  Why is it a Federal crime?  Where is the bribe or kickback?
  • On pages 10 to 13, quoting and flyspecking of Silver's state financial disclosure forms.  He said his income was "predominantly" from a personal injury law firm, but got an eighth or so of it from a real estate law firm!  It's a state crime to make a false statement on one of these disclosure forms!  (OK, but is it a Federal crime?  If not, why are you wasting our time?)
  • On page 17, a long list of payments received.  OK, why is it a crime?

Finally, on page 17, paragraph 27:

SILVER . . . obtained approximately $4 million of the income described above in exchange for his corrupt and secret use of his official position through at least two different means and methods: (i) steering real estate developers with significant and continuing business before the State to the Real Estate Law Firm, in exchange to kickbacks paid to him by CC-1 for such referrals, and (ii) soliciting and obtaining referrals to Weitz & Luxenberg from Doctor-1 in return for directing State grants to Doctor-1's research . . . ."

Wait a minute -- payments from people having "business before the state" without any specifics as to a quid pro quo -- wasn't that exactly where the Bruno prosecution foundered?  OK, let's take the two pieces one at a time.     The next seven pages of the Complaint, 17-24, deal with item (i), steering real estate developers to the Real Estate Law Firm.  And for page after page it's all about technicalities of when lawyers can do fee-splitting under the ethical rules and whether Silver complied with all the technicalities -- yes, yet again, it is seven more pages of nothing to do with a Federal crime.  And then finally on page 24, we get to all they've got on the supposed quid pro quo:  "A document . . . from the Moreland Commission, which was prepared by an entity that represents real estate developers, stated in connection with the 2011 rent regulation reauthorization that SILVER was considerably more favorable to the real estate industry than expected. . . .  It would appear that he [Silver] could have successfully pushed for more."

Well, there's a gigantic nothing-burger!  Can't they even name the specific favor that was sought and delivered?  Oh, and did I mention that they conceded back on page 22 that the main entity ("Developer-1") whose real estate business was referred to the "Real Estate Law Firm" only had disclosed to it that Silver was receiving a part of the fees in December 2011 -- several months after the rent regulation reauthorization was complete -- and that that developer was then "concerned and surprised that Silver appeared to have been getting money from Developer-1 through the Real Estate Law Firm."  What exactly kind of "bribe" is that, where the alleged briber doesn't even know that the bribee is getting any money, doesn't find out about it until after the supposed "quo" has been delivered, and is "concerned and surprised" when he finds out? 

And one final thing about this alleged "bribe" from the real estate industry.  Not "successfully pushing for more" in the 2011 rent regulation reauthorization -- if Silver actually did it, which is dubious -- would probably be the only time Silver has ever done the right thing for the bulk of the voters and taxpayers in New York in his entire career.   In this Complaint, doing the right thing by voters and taxpayers is considered payoff for a bribe.

So we turn to item (ii) in paragraph 27 of the Complaint, Silver's relationship with Weitz & Luxenberg.  Over a period exceeding ten years, Silver is alleged to have received several million dollars of fees from W&L, apparently almost entirely based on case referrals from a "Doctor-1," identified as a leading mesothelioma researcher in New York.  The gist of the allegations is that Doctor-1 referred his patients to W&L to bring their cases and in return Silver directed some $500,000 in state money to Doctor-1's mesothelioma institute to support his research.  OK, that's at least a start.  But permit me to mention at least a few issues on the way to trying to prove that this was a bribe:

  • There is no mention in the complaint that Silver or anyone on his behalf ever told Doctor-1 that he could get state money for his research if he referred cases to W&L.  Rather, the Complaint states that Doctor-1 first asked Silver if W&L would support his research, and Silver said it would not, and in the face of that Doctor-1 referred cases without any other promise (page 26).  The state money came several years later.
  • There is no mention of what portion, if any, of the $500,000 went to Doctor-1 himself.
  • After the state funding ended in about 2008, Doctor-1 continued to refer cases to W&L through Silver. 

And I should mention that there appears to be a significant statute of limitations problem in these allegations.  I don't claim to be an expert in criminal statutes of limitations, but the general statute for Federal crimes is 5 years.  So what state benefit has Silver directed to Doctor-1 in the past 5 years?  You need to get all the way to page 29 for that, and it consists of presentation of an award and making a speech praising Doctor-1 for his research, and helping a family member get a job.  Really?

Don't get me wrong -- I think that Sheldon Silver is corrupt through and through and in every pore of his being.  But that doesn't mean that he is guilty of a Federal crime.  Sheldon Silver is just the inevitable product of the New York progressive fantasy.  We concede to the state more and more power supposedly to create perfect fairness by redistribution of economic resources, and what we get is pols who pull the levers of a vast state favor mill to create benefits for the pols' friends and supporters, and those friends and supporters then pass on business opportunities that make the pols rich.  It is not within the possibilities of the criminal law to do away with this. 

And is Preet Bharara any less corrupt?  This is the guy who has convicted dozens of people for the non-crime of non-insider insider trading and engaged in one shakedown after another of the big banks.  Bringing the full resources of the Federal Government to bear to seek to convict someone or coerce a settlement for something that is not a crime -- is that any less evil than what Silver is accused of in this Complaint?  On the same day that Bharara's office arrested Silver, a judge in the Southern District of New York vacated four of Bharara's convictions for non-insider insider trading in light of the Second Circuit's Newman/Chiasson decision.  I'll bet you didn't even notice that one -- it was wiped off the front pages by the Silver arrest.

Can't say I really care which of these two serpents wins.













The "Free Stuff" SOTU

OK, I didn't watch the SOTU.  First of all, every minute would feel like having my teeth drilled.  And second, I was singing in a concert last night.  (Pretty great concert.  Check out the web site of the chorus here.)  But anyway, I've read enough about it to have a good idea what was in there.

At least on the domestic policy front, here's my summary: "I stand for free stuff."  Universal child care!  Paid sick leave!  Paid maternity leave!  Government guaranty of equal pay for women!  Higher minimum wage!  Free community college!  Supposedly this is the plan to "help" the middle class.  And then at the end of the speech:  "surely we can all agree" on these goals.

Do large numbers (let alone a majority) of middle class people actually think that their lives will be improved by getting more and more compulsory free stuff from the government?  I find it hard to believe, and the rapidly increasing numbers of Republican office holders in the era of Obama would seem to validate my skepticism; but I've never seen a poll directly addressing that question.

In my view the idea that lots of free stuff can improve the situation of the middle class is just a simple fallacy.  Sure, the government can make any one person rich by handing out a check, or enough free stuff.  If the government gives you a check for a billion dollars, you are now a billionaire.  That's great for you.  And in a country with over 300 million people, everybody else just lost about $3 each -- they'll never even notice.  So handing out free stuff seems to work great when the stuff only goes to a small number of people.  But the whole thing doesn't hold together when the proposal is that everybody gets the free stuff and everybody has to pay for it, which is what Obama is proposing.  It's not complicated to understand.  Suppose that the government hands out a check for a billion dollars to everybody.  Sorry, but nobody is rich.  In the aggregate we can only consume what we produce.  What they've done instead of making everybody rich is to eliminate the ability of anyone to get ahead through hard work and effort.

Well, at least if they pass out money, you still get to pick what you buy.  When they hand out the stuff, you're stuck with what they decide is good for you.  Community college is not right for you?  Too bad, you must pay for it anyway!  (Remember, close to half the population does not attend any post-secondary education at all, and this is mostly the lower part of the income distribution.  In our tax system these people may pay less than their pro rata share of the taxes, but why again should they pay anything at all for some better off person's higher education?)  If you're in the middle class, the only thing that government's universal distribution of "free stuff" can accomplish for you is gradually to take away your ability to get ahead by hard work.  It's like attaching a ball and chain around your ankle in your race to succeed.

Mitt Romney was far from my favorite as the Republican candidate for President, but he did have a great moment on the "free stuff" issue.  In March 2012 a heckler at a campaign stop asked this question:

 “So you’re all for like, ‘yay, freedom,’ and all this stuff. And ‘yay, like pursuit of happiness.’ You know what would make me happy? Free birth control.”

And Romney replied:

"If you’re looking for free stuff you don’t have to pay for, vote for the other guy. That’s what he’s all about, okay? That’s not, that’s not what I’m about.”



On The Value Of Manhattan Real Estate

The legend is that Manhattan Island was purchased from the Indians in 1626 for $24 worth of trinkets.  The current issue of the New York State Bar Association Journal contains a fascinating article by Paul Otto (unfortunately no link available) giving some detailed history of the transaction.  Was it the best real estate deal of all time?  The story illustrates that different people, for very good reasons, may value the same thing very differently.

Otto points out that the historical letters that are the basis for our knowledge of the purchase mention the value placed by the Dutch on the traded items -- 60 guilders -- but do not mention what the items were.  Thus there is a 1626 letter from one Pieter Schagen, representative of the States General in the West India Company, reporting on the arrival in Amsterdam of a ship from the colony, and stating that the Dutch "have purchased the Island Manhattes from the Indians for the value of 60 guilders"; and a further 1630 letter from West India Company director Johannes de Laet, informing the other directors that there was an island called "Manhattes or Manhatans Island, because this nation of Indians happened to possess the same, and by them it had been sold to the Company."

But even though there is no specific historical reference to the goods traded for Manhattan, Otto points out that there were other, similar transactions at the time, for example one involving what is now Hoboken, New Jersey, and another for Staten Island.  In the case of Staten Island, one document describes the trade goods in question as follows: "Duffles, Kittles, Axes, Hoes, Wampum, Drilling Awls, Jews harps, and diverse other small wares."  Do those seem like "trinkets" to you?  Actually, it is easy to see why the Indians might place tremendous value on these things.  "Duffles" were coarse cloth, which could be used for clothing or blankets; previously the Indians had used deer skins for these purposes.  If you can imagine what it might be like to get through New York winters with nothing but deerskin to cover you, you can see how valuable simple coarse cloth might be.  And then there are axes and hoes.  Before the Europeans came, the Indians had only stone tools.  That means that they had had to build their famous "longhouses" by the backbreaking effort of chopping down trees with only stone axes.  If you have nothing else to do for, say, two weeks, try chopping down a single tree with a stone axe; and you will then understand why the Indians must have viewed metal axes as a godsend.

In fact Otto reports that the European trade goods substantially transformed Indian life, as they stopped trying to be self-sufficient in a hopelessly inefficient stone age economy, and instead devoted their efforts to producing trade goods (largely fur pelts).

Demand for duffels also indicates the Indians' growing dependency upon European goods.  As the Munsees increased the time they spent harvesting furs or producing wampum, they would have less time to produce basic necessities such as clothing, forcing them to acquire these items from the Dutch.

March forward about four centuries to the present, and the value of Manhattan real estate is about as illiquid as ever.  The New York YIMBY ("Yes In My Back Yard") website reports yesterday on the sale of a development site on the North side of Delancey Street for $7.5 million.  The site has a development potential of about 20,000 square feet, so the transaction values the building rights as about $375 per square foot -- and that's with some burden imposed by the so-called "inclusionary zoning" that requires a portion of any apartments built to be "affordable."

But meanwhile, across on the South side of Delancey Street -- where sits the SPURA urban renewal site that has so frequently been a subject of this blog -- the City sold the rights to build 1.9 million square feet for only $180 million.  That's less than $100 per square foot.  But we're getting 500 "affordable" apartments!  Yes, but the difference between $100 psf and $375 psf for 1.9 million square feet is over $500 million -- in other words, over $1 million per "affordable" apartment.  By the way, income limits for the so-called "affordable" apartments are to reach well upwards of $100,000 per year for many of the apartments.

I can understand why the Indians placed such big value on duffles and metal tools.  Why we give up $500 million for a handful of "affordable" apartments when the same people can be housed for a small fraction of the money in a cheaper place -- that I can't understand.







Economic Insanity Roundup

Here in New York, they distribute the LA-based newspaper called Investors Business Daily, but somehow it doesn't make much of a splash.  Even compared to the Wall Street Journal, IBD does a great job of shining some light on the economic craziness all around us.  Their edition for this holiday weekend has a particularly good collection of underreported stories.

First up, IBD has been doing a great job covering Venezuela, and this weekend's edition has an editorial headed "Venezuela's Socialism Is Falling Apart."   Sample:

As socialism plays out to its logical conclusion in Venezuela, the specters of long lines, rationing, troop enforcers, bizarre edicts and desperate statements are now the order of the day.  Not only have more than a dozen Venezuelans been arrested for posting photographs of empty store shelves on social media, three governors have responded to long lines by — prohibiting them; ordering the arrest of anyone who lines up for goods before sunrise.  Troops now supervise lines because so many fistfights and looting incidents break out in these daily 12-hour ordeals for rice or toilet paper.

Anything about that in the New York Times?  Not that I can find.  A few days ago Venezuela's Catholic bishops issued a pastoral letter blaming Venezuela's desperate economic situation on the adoption of socialism as its economic system.  IBD covered that here on January 12.  IBD quotes from the letter as follows:

Venezuela's bishops Monday blamed "Marxist socialism" and "communism" by name for the horrors and chaos gripping their country, according to a story in El Universal.  The bishops said the long lines of people trying to buy food and other basic necessities and the constant rise in prices are the result of the government's decision to "impose a political-economic system of socialist, Marxist or communist," which is "totalitarian and centralist" and "undermines the freedom and rights of individuals and associations."

So what did the NYT have to say about the bishops' letter?  As far as I can determine, they haven't mentioned it yet.  Here is a list of all of their latest articles on Venezuela.  The most recent one was December 30.  It conceded that the decline in oil prices was a problem for Venezuela, but then said that the country was "in a better position to avoid a bust" than at the time of previous oil price declines.  Oh, on December 17 the Times published an op-ed by Diosdado Cabello, side-kick of Venezuelan strongman Maduro, criticizing the U.S. for imposing sanctions on Venezuela for human rights violations.  You literally cannot find out what is going on in Venezuela from reading the NYT.

Also on the editorial pages of this weekend's IBD we have "Green Energy Good For Rich, Pain For Poor," by Kathleen Hartnett-White.  In a world where new drilling technologies and "fracking" have suddenly generated a surplus of fossil fuel energy and sent oil and gas prices plunging, Europe continues to suffer human-created artificial shortages.  Hartnett-White quotes the German Association of Energy Consumers for the proposition that German electricity rates are now "two to three times higher than the U.S. average," all as part of an intentional program to appease the environmental gods by making Germans poorer.   And then this:

British officials celebrate the energy scarcity as the new normal, urging Britons to schedule laundry and work according to wind conditions and cloud cover.

Didn't centuries of human creativity and striving finally give us a world where we can now be largely independent of nature's whims to earn our living?  Yes, only to find ourselves with politicians desperate to undo it all.  Thankfully, here in the U.S., even as the EPA tries to impoverish the people, the frackers have them on the run, at least for the moment.

And then on the front page of IBD we have "Obama Mandates On Employers Now Exceed $5 Per Hour."  It seems that Obama's State of the Union address, scheduled for Tuesday, will propose yet another mandate on employers of low-income workers, this time for paid sick leave of 7 days per year.  This would come on top of the recently-imposed mandates of health insurance under Obamacare, plus increases in the minimum wage.  IBD calculates the value of the new sick leave mandate as approximately 30 cents per hour; and it calculates the total of the three mandates -- sick leave, health care, and increased minimum wage -- as coming to $5 per hour for low-wage workers.  

Might all these mandates have some impact on the employability of low-skill workers?  Well, the Bureau of Labor Statistics records an unemployment rate of 33.2% for African American teenagers in its most recent (December 2014) report.   That's up (although not by much) from 31.2% in Bush's last year of 2008, and in the interim has exceeded 40% at times.  Do you think our President might show a little concern about that?  None that I've seen -- I truly think he believes that all his mandates are completely free.  Funny, I also can't find any reporting from the New York Times on the African American teen unemployment rate for the whole time of Obama's presidency.   But something tells me it will become a big issue when a Republican President comes into office.   









How Haiti Stays Poor

Consistently one of the most-read posts on this blog is the one titled "Why Is Haiti So Poor?"  Although written about six months ago, lots of people keep finding it by searches on Google and other search engines.  Very appropriately, there is a lot of curiosity out there as to how it can be possible for this particular country to stay consistently so much poorer than all those around it.

Take the Dominican Republic for example.  It shares the same island with Haiti.  U.S. policy toward the two countries is not meaningfully different.  Haiti is not subject to any kind of special embargo like Cuba has been, and Haiti even gets some preferential trade treatment due to its extreme poverty and to the severe earthquake of 2010.  On the foreign aid front, Haiti gets a lot more per capita than the Dominican Republic.   But in the rankings put out by the World Bank, the IMF and the CIA, all three find that GDP per capita is in the range of 7 to 8 times higher in the Dominican Republic than in Haiti.   Haiti has far lower income than any of the other Caribbean island countries, and for that matter than any other country in the Western Hemisphere -- only some sub-Saharan kleptocracies rank lower.  In the CIA ranking, even North Korea ranks higher!  (The other two don't rank the Norks.)

Wasn't this all supposed to turn around with the outpouring of aid that followed the earthquake?  Leading the aid bandwagon were the Clintons, Bill and Hillary and their Clinton Foundation.  They came up with the idea of putting together an industrial park called Caracol in Haiti to attract private investors to create jobs.  On the web page of the Clinton Foundation you'll find a glowing write-up:

In collaboration with the Government of Haiti, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the U.S. State Department, the Clinton Foundation assisted with the development of the Caracol Industrial Park, which could ultimately create up 60,000 jobs and help to decentralize the Haitian economy. In October 2012, President Bill Clinton joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Martelly, Prime Minister Lamothe, and President Moreno of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the opening of Caracol Northern Industrial Park. Today, the Korean apparel manufacturer Sae-A is the anchor tenant and will create 20,000 jobs alone.         

They actually got one building built there and formally opened the place in 2012.  Here is Hillary at a photo op in connection with the opening.

So where is this project today?  Mary Anastasia O'Grady of the Wall Street Journal traveled to Haiti and visited the site, and filed a report over the past weekend.  The answer to the question is that the project is inexplicably stalled.  Employing the 60,000 Haitians requires building some 40 simple factory buildings.  In the U.S., once you have a site, these things can be slapped together by private businesses in a few months.  In Haiti, four years after the project was announced, they have built all of three buildings.  The anchor tenant, South Korean garment manufacturer Sae-A Trading, says that it is willing to hire 20,000 people itself -- but to employ them it needs another dozen or so buildings, and so far it only has three.

So why in heavens name doesn't Sae-A just slap up the buildings and get on with things?  And now we come to the crux of the matter.  Sae-A doesn't control the building of buildings -- the Haitian government does.  Per O'Grady:

A Dec. 12 IDB [Inter-American Development Bank - a foreign aid agency] press release says the Haitian government is approved for a new $70 million grant to construct, among other things, three new production buildings by 2018 with a goal of providing space for 6,800 workers.

So we get to the issue that even O'Grady doesn't address directly, although it is strongly implied.  Why would the Haitian government insist on building the buildings itself with U.S. foreign aid money at a pace that will only get three more built in the next three years when forty are needed right now and private investors can do it right away?  And the answer of course is that the way it has been set up with the Haitian government in control of the land and the building, the $70 million must then flow through the Haitian government, where officials can skim a very nice part of it off for themselves.  And meanwhile while we all wait for that process to play out the people have no jobs and starve.

And the person who is the public front for this disastrous project is none other than frontrunner in the prospective race for Democratic nomination for President, Hillary Clinton.  It's not just that her foundation is in up to its neck and that she is the lead at the photo ops; she also got the U.S. commitment to the foreign aid when she was Secretary of State.  This project is her baby.  And she has no understanding of why this project is stalled or for that matter of what makes an economy work.  She should be screaming bloody murder about the corruption and obstructionism of the Haiti government, and instead her foundation web site brags about being in bed with them.  Her foreign aid is the very mechanism that the corrupt government of Haiti uses to enrich itself and keep the people in abject poverty.