Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Peter F. Paul, Stan Lee, And Hillary Clinton
When people attack Hillary with claims of corruption, one of the more entertaining names that gets tossed about is Peter F. Paul.
Peter Paul. Quite a name, isn't it? The two leading saints of the Bible. It's the sort of thing that makes it impossible to forget. It's even the name of a candy company that was acquired by Hershey. Remember Mounds? Almond Joy? York Peppermint Patties? All produced by Peter Paul. You just can't forget a name like that.
Which is why it's amazing so many seemingly have. Who is this guy, Peter Paul, anyway?
Peter F. Paul is the type of guy who has proven himself to be a remarkably smooth talker. Time and again he's been able to talk his way out of people looking at his questionable resume and then talk his way into ingratiating himself among individuals of power in politics and Hollywood.
Perhaps it began with his coffee caper. In the 1970's, Paul was an up-and-coming lawyer representing South American and Caribbean governments in the Miami legal system. On the side, he was a businessman, operating the largest mercantile section of the Miami Free Zone. He was European educated, multi-lingual, and developed good relations with business and political leaders in Latin America. Then, he got caught up in the anti-Cuban political movement. In an act of extreme hubris, he cooked up a plan to sell agents of the Cuban government a shipment of coffee which he would ostensibly smuggle in past the trade embargo. But Paul had no intention of ever delivering the goods. Instead, he would keep the $8.75 million, and then have the ship deliberately sunk before it made port in Havana. He gets millions, Castro suffers, everybody wins, right? Plus, having the ship sink also meant he could collect on the insurance money. It would be three-times the cash-in!
Well, it didn't work. The mercenaries Paul had hired to sink the ship were prevented from boarding in Santo Domingo because he had neglected to bribe the port official there. The coffee boat arrived in Cuba, very much afloat, and very much empty of coffee. The jig was up!
Peter Paul plead guilty to conspiracy charges. When his Miami home was searched by police in connection with that crime, they found cocaine in his garage. Peter Paul claimed it was planted, but the authorities didn't buy it. (Neither do I. Nobody gets the kinds of Latin connections he does without dealing with the drug trade.) He plead guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and he was sent to Federal prison. He managed to get himself paroled after only three years, but then attempted to cross into Canada using a stolen passport, and got sent back to jail.
And here's where Peter Paul's story gets really weird. After being released from jail, he moved to Los Angeles in 1985, and almost immediately became the appointed President of the California Bicentennial Foundation for the Constitution and Bill of Rights, a foundation designated by the California state legislature and governor to direct California's role in the Bicentennial celebration of the Constitution and Bill of Rights! Most ex-cons are lucky just to get a job at all, but this guy gets named to a major California government job while his orange jumpsuit was still warm? It seems odd, and I can only guess it had something to do with the political connections he'd made during his tenure in Miami.
Well, it all blew up in his face again. The foundation he was put in charge of sold a commemorative book with a Ben Franklin inspired character, garishly named "Ben Bison-tennial Franklin." The book also described blacks as "pickaninnies," and declared slave owners to be "the worst victims of slavery." Well, that went over like a lead balloon with the Los Angeles Times, who lambasted him, and the governor's office for putting such a skunk in charge of something so culturally important. The L.A. Times article made him look like a fool. But Paul was not fired.
In fact, Paul seems to have ingratiated himself primarily with Republicans, and his actions indicate someone of a conservative bend. His failed swindle of Fidel Castro's Cuba is exactly the sort of thing a radicalized capitalist would want to do to a communist leader. The Arminian-descended Republican, George Deukmejian, was the governor of California when Peter Paul coaxed his way into the political scene there, and many of the other contacts he's made over the years have been die-hard Republicans.
Peter Paul seems to have spent the next decade ingratiating himself among Californian politicos and the Hollywood elite. Ever the businessman as well as the lawyer, he managed to ingratiate himself in many big-name affairs. In 1989 he helped actor Jimmy Stewart start the American Spirit Foundation, an organization designed to "enlist the entertainment industry's leadership, creativity and resources in developing and applying creative solutions to critical challenges facing America." Jimmy Stewart served as honorary chairman of the foundation until 1990. Then, Stan Lee, the founding father of Marvel Comics, became the chairman, serving until 1997. This association with Stan would become Peter Paul's biggest achievement, guaranteeing him a place among Hollywood's A-list. He co-agented several celebrity books. He helped found an art gallery in Beverly Hills called Galerie Tatou. That art gallery did a showing of the photographic art of Charleton Heston's wife, Lydia, further ingratiating himself among the conservatives of California. In an odd twist, he helped agent the career of model Fabio Lanzoni, known better simply as Fabio. Under Paul's guidance, Fabio became the most well-known romance novel cover model, and did a series of commercials for 'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.' It seemed that Peter Paul was one of Hollywood's permanent insiders.
In 1998, Marvel Comics decided it could live without Stan Lee, and let him go. Peter Paul smelled an opportunity. He persuaded his old American Spirit Foundation buddy Stan to go along with him in creating a new enterprise called Stan Lee Media. It emphasized online content and creation and, for a brief time during the Internet boom-era, surpassed even Disney and Warner Brothers in online animation. It was Stan Lee's hope that the company could buy out Marvel Comics someday.
Right about this same time (1999 into early 2000), Paul broke from his usual Republican political affiliations and began fundraising for Hillary Clinton's senate campaign. (Here's where the anti-Hillary people jump in.) Using at least in part some of the substantial income he'd suddenly gotten through Stan Lee Media, he emerged as Hillary Clinton's biggest campaign contributor. The hope on his part was to have Bill Clinton join the board of Stan Lee Media and thus add much needed clout - and the money that goes with that clout - to the company's profile. He then held a large fundraiser as both a celebration of the exiting Bill Clinton and a fundraiser for Hillary's run for senate. The event cost roughly $2 million to organize, and Paul spent about $1.2 million of his own money on it.
Why did Peter Paul break from his usual Republican hobnobbing? Well, part of it may have had to do with the fact that the exiting president Clinton just happened to be a Democrat, and business comes before politics. Perhaps he decided that his fortunes would be improved by greasing palms on both sides of the aisle, as many other wealthy patrons do. Or maybe he just wanted to be the elite Hollywood guy, and Hollywood people generally lean towards the left. Who knows?
Whatever his motives, it all blew up in his face again. Two days after the fundraising gala celebration, the Washington Post exposed Peter Paul's past convictions, and the whole shebang became tarnished. Hillary disavowed anything to do with Peter Paul and returned his personal contributions (but not those from the fundraiser gala). Paul alleged later that she lied and denied ever knowing Peter Paul. But there is no evidence to support this. Hillary was pretty much in the clear.
But Peter Paul was not. After investing so much of his own money in throwing the Clintons their fundraiser party, the dot com bubble burst. Stan Lee Media, already heavily in debt, lost millions of dollars and suddenly had no money left to repay its loans. And with Paul's reputation sullied, he lost his big investors with no hope of ever gaining their trust back. Desperate not to lose it all, he conspired with fellow corporate officer Stephen Gordon to buy up 1.6 million shares of Stan Lee Media through nominee accounts, thus artificially inflating the stock price of Stan Lee Media. Gordon paid for this through a check-kiting scheme. Peter Paul undoubtedly knew about this, but didn't care. It was all slipping away, and he'd hit the panic button.
It didn't work. The company collapsed and filed for bankruptcy in February of 2001. Stan Lee, finally seeing Peter Paul for who he really was, moved his business interests and copyrighted characters over to POW! Entertainment, where they remain to this day. (Lee has severed all ties with Peter Paul and Stan Lee Media.) Leading up to the bankruptcy filing, Peter Paul saw the handwriting on the wall. He'd participated in a scheme to artificially manipulate the price of his company's stock, and that meant that he would soon go from being a three-time felon to being a four-time felon. He would go to any lengths to avoid that!
In fact, the lengths he went to stretched all the way to Sao Paulo, Brasil, where he fled. It was a logical choice for him. Sao Paolo was a hub for the Latin business and political contacts he had made back in Miami, and there he could begom legal fights to wrangle the rights to Marvel Comics characters away from Stan Lee. He could also rebuild his political and business portfolio.
But he was in exile, and he knew it. Sooner or later, he would face extradition and trial. How could he turn things around? How could he regain his footing and win back his standing in American politics and the entertainment business?
The answer was obvious! Blame the Clintons!
It was the clear move. The Clintons were universally and irationally hated by everyone on the political right. His old conservative connections would rally to him. There was a Republican in the White House as of January 2001. Surely, he could gain the support of a few Republican senators? Maybe even garner himself a presidential pardon someday?
Even before Paul fled to Brasil, he began to put the anti-Clinton card into play. He blamed Bill Clinton for persuading his number one investor, the Japanese businessman Tendo Oto, to abandon Stan Lee Media. He said the loss of that investor led to the downfall of the company. In truth, the Washington Post article which disclosed Peter Paul's shady past is probably what did that, and even in the unlikely event that Bill's influence was the reason, one does not lose a business with Stan Lee's name on it by losing only one investor! Peter Paul lost nearly all of his investors, and he did so thanks to his shady past. Had he simply come clean, apologized for his long-ago wrongdoings, and asked his investors to judge him by his more recent upstanding performances, he could have won some or even most of them back. Instead he played the Republican blame-game, and lost everything.
For the most part, it didn't work. After fleeing to Brazil, he was charged with securities fraud, as expected. Subsequently, he filed suit against the Clintons for various things, such as accepting illegal campaign contributions. This didn't pan out well, because a later audit was done by the FEC regarding Clinton's funding related to the Hollywood gala event, and found no wrongdoing. On top of this, Paul's lawsuits against the Clintons could not go forward because of his status as a fugitive. In other word's he couldn't flee American law and file suit via American law at the same time.
Peter Paul was eventually arrested in Sao Paulo and thrown in jail. His account of this is harrowing, as Brazilian jails are not the luxury hotels they are by comparison in the States. He eventually plead guilty to securities fraud, and reached a settlement to related charges. He could never run a company again. He spent the next four years under house arrest.
But remember, I said that his plan to blame the Clintons failed "for the most part." It did, as he undoubtedly expected, galvanize the Republican base. The conservative watchdog organization, Judicial Watch, represented his initial lawsuits against the Clintons when he first fled to Sao Paulo. But later, he claimed that Judicial Watch exploited his situation to drum up anti-Clinton sentiment for money raising purposes, leaving his cause in the lurch. He vowed to continue the fight with other Republican lawyers, which he did. But Judicial Watch accomplished its main goal: continuing the character assault against Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Years later, Peter Paul has accomplished nothing legally against the Clintons. Every lawsuit he has brought against them has failed. Every federal investigation into any misdeeds regarding Hillary's finances during her 2000 Senate run has found no wrongdoing. But this doesn't matter. Peter Paul has continued to blame the Clintons mercilessly. Why? Because he knows that this is his only way back in. This is the only way he can rebuild his life. He must tear down Bill and Hillary and hope enough people buy his bullshit that he can again become a big shot among the movers and shakers of the entertainment and political spheres.
He has re-filed his lawsuits against the Clintons on numerous occasions. They continuously fail. So he has taken to the Internet to defame them using propaganda videos instead. "Hillary Exposed: The Case of Paul v. Clinton," is one such video. But it contains very little in the way of truth. Desperate to gain any real traction for his story, he claimed in a 2008 blog post that none other than Stan Lee had helped him cover up some of his illegal donations to Hillary's year 2000 Senate campaign. Stan Lee responded to this by suing Peter Paul for defamation. I don't blame him. How dare Paul sully the name of a comic book giant just to score cheap political points!
Many people, anxious to believe anything negative about the Clintons, buy into Peter Paul's story. But this man has spent years lying, cajoling, cheating, and doing whatever he could to get ahead. He is the classic silver-tongued devil, a professional liar and a Shylock. We have seen his like before, and we know to steer well clear of people like him.
I suggest we do so again.