The next pay for play scandal?

It looks like pay-for-play is here to stay, at least in the incoming Barack Obama administration.  After losing one Cabinet appointment yesterday to a federal grand jury investigation of corruption, another may receive a rocky ride at her confirmation hearing.  International Herald-Tribune, owned by the New York Times, reports that Hillary Clinton helped put millions of dollars into the pockets of contributors to her husband’s foundation:

A developer in New York state donated $100,000 to former President Bill Clinton’s foundation in November 2004, around the same time that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton helped secure millions of dollars in federal assistance for the businessman’s mall project.

Hillary Clinton helped enact legislation allowing the developer, Robert Congel, to use tax-exempt bonds to help finance the construction of the Destiny USA entertainment and shopping complex, an expansion of the Carousel Center in Syracuse.

She also helped secure a provision in a highway bill that set aside $5 million for Destiny USA roadway construction.

The bill with the tax-free bonds provision became law in October 2004, weeks before the donation, and the highway bill with the set-aside became law in August 2005, about nine months after the donation.

We wrote on several occasions about Hillary’s pork habits during the primary campaign.  Bill’s refusal to release donor information over the years brought questions as to whether the two were related.  Now it seems clear that Hillary has at least once tailored legislation to benefit contributors to the family foundation, which benefits the political aspirations of both Bill and Hillary.

Congel says that there is no connection between his $50,000 contribution and the legislation.  Unless someone can produce wiretaps or written instructions, it would be impossible to prove him wrong, at least in the legal sense.  The Clintons are a lot smarter than Rod Blagojevich, in that sense.  However, the timing looks highly suspicious.  In October, Hillary pushes the bond legislation that allows Congel to complete his construction.  The very next month, $50,000 suddenly appears on the Clinton Foundation doorstep.  A few months later, Hillary earmarks a project that brings traffic much closer to Congel’s mall.  And all of that is just coincidence, right?

And that’s not the only pay-for-play problem Hillary might bring Obama.  According to The Smoking Gun, Norman Hsu’s attorney promises that both Hillary and Obama will get mentioned in the fraudster’s upcoming trial:

In addition to the Rod Blagojevich pay-for-play probe, Obama could figure in the upcoming fraud trial of Norman Hsu, the disgraced Democratic fundraiser who was charged last year with operating a $60 million pyramid scheme. According to investigators, Hsu, a major Hillary Clinton fundraiser, pressured investors to donate money to political candidates with whom he was aligned. In a letter last week to U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero, Hsu’s lawyer, Martin Cohen, requested a 60-day delay in the start of Hsu’s trial, scheduled to open January 12 (Cohen cited the “extraordinary level of negative publicity” generated by the recent arrest of alleged Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff).

In his December 22 letter, a copy of which you’ll find below, Cohen also noted that Hsu was already “notorious for his political activities” and that it was “inevitable” that his client’s “connections” to Bill and Hillary Clinton “and other democratic notables–including perhaps the president-elect–will be introduced at trial.” Before becoming a key fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, Hsu co-hosted a 2005 California fundraiser for Obama’s political action committee and introduced the Illinois Democrat to Marc Gorenberg, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who later joined the Obama campaign’s national finance committee.

Hsu didn’t get his continuance, and the trial starts in two weeks — just before Obama’s inauguration.  Will Obama stick with Hillary and the new pay-for-play scandal she could potentially bring?  Or will Team Obama throw her under the bus as they did Bill Richardson?  Can Obama afford to jettison the Clintons after publicly linking his fortunes to theirs?