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Obama camp attacks Hillary's Indian links

By Rediff News Bureau
Last updated on: June 15, 2007 22:08 IST
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When United States Senator Barak Obama entered the American Presidential race, he staked out his turf on the moral high ground with a call for a new kind of politics, devoid of personal attack and characterised by debates on the issues that matter.

His campaign apparently has not been listening: Members of the Senator's campaign staff have been circulating a document that, in its title, slightingly refers to Democratic rival Senator Hillary Clinton as the Democrat from Punjab -- a seeming slur on Clinton's ties with India and Indian Americans.

The three page 'opposition research paper', titled Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab)'s Personal Financial and Political Ties, which has begun circulating in the blogosphere, criticises the Clintons' links to India in an effort and attacks her record on outsourcing, and on protecting American jobs.

The D-Punjab reference apparently refers to a joke Senator Clinton made last year, at a fund-raiser hosted by New York-based hotelier and top Democratic fund-raiser Sant Singh Chatwal. 'I can certainly run for the Senate seat in Punjab and win easily,' she had said on that occasion.

The document references the Clintons' recently released financial disclosure forms, to underline former President Bill Clinton's acceptance of $300,000 for paid speeches from Cisco Systems, a company that, the document notes, has 'shifted hundreds of jobs from America to India.'

It further says Hillary Clinton accepted almost $60,000 in contributions from employees of Cisco Systems, 'which laid off American workers to hire Indian techies.'

The document points out that Clinton 'invested tens of thousands' in an Indian bill payment company -- a reference to the former president's disclosure form that lists between $15,001 and $50,000 worth of stock in Easy Bill Limited, an Indian company.

The Obama campaign, ironically, is currently engaged in floating chapters of 'South Asians for Obama' across the country. The document, however, insidiously suggests that it is not all kosher to cozy up to the Indian community.

The document begins thus: 'The Clintons have reaped significant financial rewards from their relationship with the Indian community, both in their personal finances and Hillary's campaign fundraising.

'Hillary Clinton, who is the co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, has drawn criticism from anti-offshoring groups for her vocal support of Indian business and unwillingness to protect American jobs.

'Bill Clinton has invested tens of thousands of dollars in an Indian bill payment company, while Hillary Clinton has taken tens of thousands from companies that outsource jobs to India. Workers who have been laid off in upstate New York might not think that her recent joke that she could be elected to the Senate seat in Punjab is that funny.'

Sant Chatwal merits three whole paragraphs in the document. After listing various fund-raisers hosted by Chatwal, as also steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and the Hindujas, the document alleges Chatwal owed the city of New York more than $2 million in back taxes; that he fled prosecution for fraud in India; that he was arrested during his visit to India with then President Bill Clinton and charged with defrauding the New York City branch of the Bank of India out of $9 million he borrowed in 1994.

The document says Chatwal posted bail, then fled to Vienna, eluding the authorities. It says, further, that in 1996, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp charged Chatwal, then a director with the bank, with obtaining improper loans from the First New York Bank for Business, causing the bank to lose more than $25 million.

'Chatwal, who was a director of the bank, arranged more than $14 million in loans to himself and his businesses, often with no collateral, says the FDIC. He didn't repay the loans and the bank failed,' the document says, citing a story in New York's Daily News newspaper of November 24, 2002.

The Clinton campaign declined comment.

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