In 90’s, Nemazee Courted Clinton, Gore — And GOP

MCMULLAN CO/SIPA/Newscom
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We’ve told you about Hassan Nemazee’s leading role in raising money for the Democrats’ climb back to power over the last few electoral cycles. But a longer look back shows that the New York financier — who was charged yesterday with running a $292 million Ponzi scheme — began building his influence by wrangling cash for the Clinton-Gore team during the 90s. And that his largesse also extended to the GOP.

Based on news reports accessed via Nexis, here’s a quick time-line on Nemazee’s political and fund-raising work during those years:• November 1995: Nemazee hosts a fundraising dinner on behalf of the Democratic National Committee. The event features Al Gore, the vice president at the time, and brings in $250,000. It appears to have been Nemazee’s breakout performance as a top-flight Democratic money-man.

• November 1995: Nemazee attends a “donor event” put on by the White House for top contributors, which involves coffee with President Clinton.

• 1996: Nemazee gains U.S. citizenship, making him eligible for a top post with the administration.

• June 1998: Nemazee becomes a member of the “Gang of 5” by contributing $5000 to Gore’s PAC, Leadership ’98. Other members are heavy-hitters financier Steve Rattner, Jon Corzine (then the chair of Goldman Sachs) labor lawyer Lewis Kaden and Alice Kandell, a co-owner of the Ritz-Carlton.

• June 1998: Nemazee enjoys a junket to Paris as part of a U.S. delegation to the soccer World Cup, led by E.P.A. administrator Carol Browner.

• Fall 1998: Nemazee collects $60,000 for Bill Clinton’s legal defense fund in connection to the impeachment saga. He bundles six $10,000 contributions (the maximum legally allowable) from relatives and friends.

• December 1998: Nemazee is nominated to be ambassador to Argentina. But he fails to win Senate confirmation after an article in Forbes details his history of controversial and acrimonious business dealings. Among other damaging information, Forbes reports that Nemazee had used a family connection to obtain a Venezuelan passport after living there just a few months. That allowed him to claim to be a Hispanic, thus making his firm eligible for a minority set-aside contract managing investments on behalf of Calpers, the California public employees union.

• Late 90’s: From 1995 to 1999, Nemazee and his family give over $150,000 to Democratic politicians and the DNC. But he doesn’t entirely neglect the GOP. He also gives generously during that period to Republican senators Jesse Helms, Sam Brownback, Lauch Faircloth, and Al D’Amato.

• 2002: In fact, even as he’s beginning to hitch his wagon to John Kerry, the Democratic front-runner for 2004, Nemazee is still playing both sides. He contributes to Helms’s 2002 re-election campaign (though Helms ultimately retired). At the time, Helms chairs the Senate Foreign Relations committee, which has jurisdiction over ambassadorships.

And soon, Nemazee’s climb to even greater prominence would begin.

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