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Money and politics in the First State
June 13, 2011 6:53 AM   Subscribe

It started with a warehouse in the town of Milford. Now the investigation of Delaware businessman Christopher Tigani has expanded from a shady land deal to $200,000 in illegal campaign contributions to everybody from state legislators to Vice President Joe Biden.

Tigani is the former president of NKS, a local beer and liquor distributor that was supposed to build a new warehouse on state-owned land in Milford a few years back. That deal turned into a black eye for him and the state alike when somebody actually read the contract and noticed that the rent on 10 acres of land was set for less than the monthly payment on a decent house, with a 66-year term. That turned into an inquiry, and then a lawsuit from the state attorney general to kill the contract. Federal agencies got involved when it turned out nobody ever asked for permission to build NKS its own entrance onto a federal highway.

For a while, the assumption was that NKS got a sweet deal because Tigani was a personal friend of then-Governor Ruth Ann Minner, and the fallout from this and other DelDOT land deals led to the resignation of transportation secretary Carolann Wicks in early 2011. This week we found out about the money. Tigani pled guilty in federal court to paying his employees to give $160,000 in cash and physical gifts, usually of beer and liquor, to candidates at every level in the 2004 election, governor included. Another $60,000 went to what appears to be Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in 2007, although the court has refused to identify the candidate in question. He also admitted to tax evasion totaling $361,000.

Some of those contributions also went to Biden’s son Beau, the state’s attorney general, who is now recusing himself and his office from the investigation.

Full disclosure: I work for a Delaware newspaper and have covered the Tigani/NKS story. None of the above links go to any site I work for or have ties to (which is why most of them go to Delaware Online; there are few publications in Delaware with an online presence). Others have done far more complete coverage of the topic than me, which is why I've chosen to post this here instead of Projects.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish (29 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Prosecutors said Tigani led a scheme that bundled at least $219,800 to state and federal candidates over a five-year period from October 2003 to December 2008, including $70,400 in 2007 to a presidential campaign identified only as Campaign Committee A.

I assume the prosecutor is referring to Christopher Tigani the person and not Christopher Tigani the corporate person because if it were the latter there wouldn't be any prosecutor.
posted by three blind mice at 7:05 AM on June 13, 2011


The "bundling" they're talking about is directing individuals to make donations in their own names and then paying them back so that the contributions effectively come from you, which is illegal for any entity.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:11 AM on June 13, 2011


Interesting post, glad you made it. Don't think you even needed the disclosure about your non-linked coverage.

It looks from the links like the only Biden connection is that the bad guys gave him some campaign contributions, is that correct? I don't see anything about him playing a role in the shady land deal...or is that just implied?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:22 AM on June 13, 2011


I think the campaign stuff is bad enough. If we're lucky, Biden won't run for VP in 2012 so we don't have to vote for the doofus in 2016.
posted by empath at 7:30 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Potomac Avenue: " It looks from the links like the only Biden connection is that the bad guys gave him some campaign contributions, is that correct? I don't see anything about him playing a role in the shady land deal...or is that just implied?"

I was about to ask the same thing.

Biden won't be expected to give back $60K, will he? That doesn't seem reasonable.
posted by zarq at 7:36 AM on June 13, 2011


Well, there you go. This is the White Water affair for Obama. Even-money bet that this will be used to try and wreck his re-election.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 7:38 AM on June 13, 2011


well, who's the controlling legal authority ? Because, you know, this dirty money came from American graft, as opposed to some dirty commie Chinese money..
posted by k5.user at 7:38 AM on June 13, 2011


the only Biden connection is that the bad guys gave him some campaign contributions,

Joe Biden seems to be a pretty honest guy, but why would anyone - good or bad - go to the trouble of giving him 60 thousand dollars if they did not think that the investment would pay a dividend? Especially this guy.

Even-money bet that this will be used to try and wreck his re-election.

It'll just be ACORN 2. It does not change the right wing narrative that the Democrats are fueled by illegal campaign funds, voter fraud, and dodgy community organisers, while the Republicans only burn clean and pure corporate money.
posted by three blind mice at 7:46 AM on June 13, 2011


Political speech. It's in the Constitution, son.
posted by Trochanter at 7:48 AM on June 13, 2011


Even-money bet that this will be used to try and wreck his re-election.

Of course it will. And when the Dems get campaign finance dirt on Repubs, they'll do the same thing.

That's just politics. There are no good guys or bad guys; just pandering whores who will say or do anything to get and keep power.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:07 AM on June 13, 2011


empath, Biden has, IIRC, ruled out running for Pres in 2016 (he'd be quite old). But unless this scandal grows considerably (which it may), I doubt Obama would replace Biden on the 2012 ticket.
posted by rikschell at 8:11 AM on June 13, 2011


I doubt Obama would replace Biden on the 2012 ticket.

I think he probably will, honestly. He put biden on the ticket so he could have some 'establishment' cred. He no longer needs that, really. He might go with someone who could be a legitimate successor.
posted by empath at 8:20 AM on June 13, 2011


why would anyone - good or bad - go to the trouble of giving him 60 thousand dollars if they did not think that the investment would pay a dividend?

Bundling. Let's say I want to impress Biden by telling him I raised $250,000 for his campaign. It's illegal for me just to give that amount, but legal for me to convince others collectively to do so.

In other words, the money may have gone to Biden, but as a favor to some third party looking to curry favor with Biden.
posted by orthogonality at 8:42 AM on June 13, 2011


He might go with someone who could be a legitimate successor.

This seems sort of obvious, but vice presidents have a lousy record of getting elected president:
The nation's first vice presidents were men of extraordinary ability. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.... But one precedent established by Adams and Jefferson would not be repeated for over three decades; although both men won election as president immediately following their terms as vice president, no sitting vice president would repeat this pattern until 1836, when Martin Van Buren succeeded Andrew Jackson. The gap thereafter was even longer. More than 150 years elapsed before George H.W. Bush won the presidency in 1988 at the conclusion of his eight years as Ronald Reagan's vice president
posted by fatbird at 8:44 AM on June 13, 2011


So this is $200,000 of campaign funds, some of which may possibly be graft!

Hey, what's the latest on the $240,000,000,000 the major banks directly fucked us over for so that now we're looking at a $14,300,000,000,000 deficit which is only slightly less than the GDP of the whole fucking country? ...nevermind.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:53 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


More than 150 years elapsed before George H.W. Bush won the presidency in 1988|

But plenty of VP's in between became president, though perhaps not immediately afterwards, or only after the deaths of their predecessors.
posted by empath at 8:57 AM on June 13, 2011


I say go ahead and link to the site you work for. I hate Delaware Online and all those links to them will be dead in 2 weeks. Delaware really needs a better online news source.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:59 AM on June 13, 2011


There have been 14 VPs who became president, but nine of those ascended to the office on the death (or resignation, in Ford's case) of the incumbent, leaving five to actually run for president as a former VP. Aside from the four I mentioned, Nixon is the only one who became president after a gap.

True, some of those accidental presidents then won re-election as an incumbent president, but history's pretty clear: being VP is not the political asset it would seem to be.
posted by fatbird at 9:04 AM on June 13, 2011


I've thought for a while that Obama will announce he's replacing Biden with Hillary Clinton the Monday after the GOP candidate clinches the nomination. This will take the wind out of the GOP's sails and makes the Dem ticket that much stronger. And Hillary won't be too old in 2016.
posted by gerryblog at 9:18 AM on June 13, 2011


Oh christ no.
posted by empath at 9:27 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I too am willing to accept bribes of beer and liquor!
posted by srboisvert at 9:36 AM on June 13, 2011


Didn't Clinton say she wasn't going to be going for any more political offices and wanted to do charity or the like? Not that people don't change their minds or whatever, but the Clinton addition doesn't seem likely to me.

Overall replacing Biden without a big scandal just seems unlikely to me. Biden isn't really an asset at this point, but no one is likely to vote against Obama because of him either so it seems like a needless risk to switch to someone else.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:37 AM on June 13, 2011


empath, was that directed at me? She's not my favorite politician either but she is nationally popular and it would give the 2016 ticket the same historic gravitas as 2008. The GOP had a woman on the ticket in 08 for a reason and it's pretty likely they'll try the same trick again this time around. And HRC is certainly much stronger a VP than Biden, especially now that it seems like his choice and not something he was forced to do.
posted by gerryblog at 9:38 AM on June 13, 2011


Al Gore for VP?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:45 AM on June 13, 2011


Remember before the '08 campaign when Biden was best known on the liberal blogs as "the Senator from MBNA?" As soon as Obama tapped him for VP that went out the window. Yet people are surprised the administration isn't punitive toward the financial sector...
posted by jtron at 9:52 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dammit Gerryblog, why did you have to bring her into this. Every time she gets mentioned I, as a Minnesotan in her district, feel compelled to do the same thing. Ahem...

On behalf of all Minnesotan's, I would like to apologize for Michelle Bachmann. Please don't hold her against us, we're sorry.
posted by VTX at 9:52 AM on June 13, 2011


You get a pass for Senator Franken.
posted by jtron at 10:28 AM on June 13, 2011


VTX - as a former Minnesotan, I feel your pain. But you have two pretty awesome Senators, so no worries.
posted by boubelium at 11:17 AM on June 13, 2011


And you know who else used to work for NKS? Jim Guckert a/k/a/ Jeff Gannon.
posted by Glomar response at 12:23 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


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