Wine Caves, Darkness & Sunlight


It’s been a several weeks since the Buttigieg/ Wine Cave story echoed far beyond the quiet vineyards of Napa Valley. It burst into daylight against the backdrop of a polluted Trumpian culture of influence peddling, corruption, self-dealing, law-breaking, political tone-deafness and the sale of ambassadorships to rich people, like Gordon Sondland.

Nothing that the Buttigieg campaign has done — nor any other Democratic campaign for that matter, including Joe and Hunter Biden’s blindness to appearances of conflict — comes close to the utter illegality and outright criminal actions taken by Donald Trump. Trumps explicit criminality includes three specific federal crimes spelled out in the 600-plus page House Judiciary Committee Report: Bribery, Wire Fraud and Honest Services Fraud. Those precise crimes carry with them a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison, if the perp President is convicted. And, that’s not counting the damage done to the nation spelled out in the two Articles of Impeachment vs. Trump.

By comparison, holding a fund-raiser in a Wine Cave is like having a cute costume party, especially at a time when an entire Administration has been systematically corrupting the public’s business and conducting it under a Soviet-style curtain of secrecy. Precisely because of the monumental corruption of Trump and his international crime family, Democratic Presidential Candidates have to be super-sensitive to any action that lookssuspicious, even when it’s not.

Wine Caves themselves are not inherently suspicious, nor hotbeds of corruption. They serve a real purpose, are environmentally sound, and, as the Napa Valley Register reported in a story headlined, “The History of Napa Valley Wine Caves & the Talk of the Democratic Debate” (12/20/2019), wine caves are “primarily used for storing and aging wine, both in barrel and bottle,” with natural temperature control, low exposure to light and minimal vibration.

I’m betting Buttigieg is wishing that the wine cave of the wealthy Craig & Kathryn Hall had even less exposure to daylight and political vibrations. As a Napa resident, I’ve visited many wine caves on hot Napa Valley summer days; not one had a Swarovski Crystal chandelier, nor smelled of secrecy; only wine.

So, if the wine cave itself is not to blame for the pre-pubescent PR faux pas, what, or who is? Obviously, someone on the not-so-buttoned up Buttigieg campaign failed to do some basic homework on the history of their hosts, the Halls, mega-donors to many Democratic campaigns going back 30 years.

Any cursory fact-checking by Mayor Pete’s team could have easily discovered that Kathryn Hall was appointed Ambassador to Austria by President Bill Clinton — a huge red-flag at the very time Trump’s sale of an ambassadorship to Gordon Sondland has dominated the news for months. Just because Clinton did the same thing Trump did with a much more likeable person, doesn’t make it right. If anything, it helps normalize Trump’s terrible behavior. Selling ambassadorships is wrong, whoever does it.

Overlooking the pay-to-play nature of the Hall’s Sondland-like relationship with the Clinton’s was, however, not the most egregious oversight by Mayor Pete’s inexperienced staff. All they had to do was Google the billionaire real estate developer and investor the way the Associated Press’ Brian Slodysko did, to find out what else the Hall’s wanted buried deep underground.

Slodysko’s story, which appeared on December 13, 2019, only six days before the Democratic Presidential Debate in LA, carried a striking headline: “Swarovski Crystals, $900 Cabernet, and A Buttigieg Fundraiser.” Far more damaging than the headline, was the history of Craig Hall’s political donations and their consequences. The quotes below are from the AP story:

Craig and Kathryn Hall are prolific donors who split their time between Dallas and their California wineries. But they have also drawn notoriety over their past giving, as well as Craig Hall’s role in a 1980 Savings & Loan crisis.

Risky investments by Craig Hall, the Chairman and founder of the Hall Group, during the S & L meltdown in the 1980’s, culminated in an over $300 million federal bailout and the resignation of House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas, a Democrat he turned to for help.”

Federal regulators had been zeroing in on a series of Hall’s unpaid loans. To push back, the developer and bank operator turned to Wright, who was then ascending in the House Leadership, to get them to back off, the AP reported at the time.”

The most damning information in the AP story of December 13, was still to come:

“Wright held up legislation that would have given the struggling industry a $15 billion lifeline…a few days later, the regulator overseeing some of Hall’s loans was replaced, and the legislation moved forward…Taxpayers eventually covered the cost of Hall’s default while the developer’s outreach to Wright played a central role in the Congressional Ethics Investigation that toppled him from the Speaker’s Office in 1989.

In 1993, the year Craig and Kathryn Hall were married, he (Hall) agreed to pay a $100 million settlement, and moved on.”

It was bad enough that Buttigieg’s bush-league staffers, exhibiting no historical memory, bungled this big time, allowing GOP apologists for Trump to use the “both sides are corrupt” falsehood, when the magnitude of Trump’s law-breaking and mendacity exceeds anything in American history. Allowing such a damaging story about Hall and former Democratic Speaker Jim Wright to rise from the grave after it was buried for three decades is a colossal act of incompetency by Buttigieg’s bumblers.

Far worse, was the fact that the New York Times, one week after the AP story appeared, ignored every single one of the facts reported, to permit the wine-maker to use the newspaper’s pages to whine about the “unfairness” of attacks on him.

In a December 20, 2019, story headlined “ Democrats Sparred Over a Wine Cave Fundraiser: It’s Billionaire Owner Isn’t Pleased,” by Carol Pogash and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, the Times became a megaphone for Craig Hall’s moaning:

I’m just a pawn here,” said Craig Hall. “They’re making me out to be something that’s not true, and they picked the wrong pawn. It’s just not fair…These people don’t know who they’re talking about when they throw me in the class that they did.”

Actually, it appears that Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar knew exactly who and what they were talking about: caving-in to big donors has plagued political campaigns & government for decades. What’s “unfair” and unconscionable, is that both the Buttigieg team and the New York Times failed to uncover, or worse, ignored, publicly known information about the Wine Cave’s owners who are hardly innocent “pawns” in the pay-to-play game of politics.

By awakening this long-sleeping story from hibernation, Buttigieg’s judgement is suspect, and his staff’s historical blindness has dug a deeper tunnel from which all Democrats must emerge. Democratic candidates running for President, the US Senate and the House in 2020 need to be bathed in bright sunlight, offering a sharp, stark contrast to the destructive darkness, rampant corruption and continuing crime spree of Trump and the GOP — actions which threaten to push our democracy back to the days of cave-dwellers.

This is no time for amateurs, nor for Clinton apologists. Democracy thrives in sunlight.

The Speech–and Result–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Must Deliver: The U.S. Constitution Guarantees Americans A Senate Trial of “Impartial Justice.”


(The following is a pro-bono speech I have drafted as my patriotic duty, for Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to deliver on the day the full House approves the Articles of Impeachment in the case of the People of the United States vs. Donald J. Trump.)

My fellow Americans:

Today, the House of Representatives, the People’s House of which I am honored to serve as Speaker, voted to impeach the President of the United States for only the third time in our history, and the first time in this century. With the stakes for our national security and of our democratic election process never higher, this Impeachment case of the United States of America vs. Donald J. Trump, is the most serious and significant in our country’s history.

In no other case of the Impeachment of a President — of either Andrew Johnson or Bill Clinton (Richard Nixon resigned before he was impeached) — have the violations of the oath of office, and of the law been as stark, or more clearly defined in our Constitution, and more directly abused and broken, then in this case of the People of the United States of America vs. Donald J. Trump.

The Founders of this great nation, in their wisdom, gave Congress the legal right and duty to protect this country from foreign interference in our elections, corruption, and abuse of power by the highest public official in the land. Even those prescient patriots would have been hard pressed to foresee that all of those crimes against the nation would be committed repeatedly by one man, without regard for the Rule of Law, for free and fair elections, or for our nation’s security against our most dangerous adversary. Those were, in fact, the precise “high crimes” contemplated when the Impeachment Clause was included in the U.S. Constitution.

Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, George Mason and even George Washington, could have never imagined that when they vested the responsibility to conduct impeachment trials in the United States Senate, that Senators would publicly announce their determination to “fix” the trial, and preemptively violate their sacred “oath and affirmation” to seek “impartial justice”. Fixing the trial for the accused, against the clear intent of the Constitution, is, however, precisely what both the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham have already announced they will do, on national television.

Senator McConnell told Sean Hannity of Fox News last week that, “Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House Counsel. There will be no difference between the President’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.

As Representative Val Demings of Florida a former Sheriff, who knows criminal behavior when she sees it, said: “Sen. McConnell has promised to sabotage that trial, and he must recuse himself. No court in the country would allow a member of the Jury to also serve as the accused’s defense attorney. The moment Sen. McConnell takes the oath of impartiality required by the Constitution, he will be in violation of that oath. He has effectively promised to let President Trump manage his own impeachment trial. The Senator must withdraw.”

The oath that Rep. Demings refers to is provided for in the Constitution under Article I, Section 3, and under Senate Rules, Chapter IV, Paragraph 5, and also Chapter XXV. Under that sacred oath, all Senators who sit in judgment of the President must “solemly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of Impeachment, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, who should know better, since he served as one of 13 GOP House Managers in the impeachment of Bill Clinton two decades ago, has also announced that there will not be “impartial justice according to the Constitution” in the US Senate trail of the People of the United States vs. Donald J. Trump.

“The thing will come to the Senate and it will die quickly,” Senator Graham told CNN last week at the Doha Forum in Qatar. “And, I will do everything I can to make it die quickly…I have made up my mind. I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.”

By the standards of “impartial justice” set forth by the U.S. Constitution, the Senate Rules and the Oath administered to all Senate jurors by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Senator Graham, like McConnell, must also recuse himself from the proceedings.

Unfortunately, I suspect that rather than do the honorable thing and withdraw from a trial on which these two Senate jurors have already passed judgement, Senators McConnell and Graham will do everything in their power to rig the outcome of this Senate trial of the President of the United States, in favor of the accused, and against the Constitution, and the people of this country.

Accordingly, I will recommend to the House Managers of the Articles of Impeachment against Donald J. Trump, that those articles not be forwarded to the Senate for trial until we are confident that the people of the United States will be guaranteed that a free and fair trial will be conducted according to the Constitutional standards of “impartial justice.”

During that period of time — however long it may be — the House Managers of the Articles of Impeachment against Donald J. Trump, will continue to gather evidence, secure additional sworn testimony, and integrate Supreme Court and lower court decisions pertaining to the case of the People of the United States of America vs. Donald J. Trump, into the body of evidence and Articles of Impeachment to be presented to the United States Senate for trial. Until the U.S. House of Representatives and the American people can be assured that “impartial justice” will be carried out in the Senate Trial of the People of the United States Vs. Donald J. Trump, and that the trial will not be rigged, the House will, as is our Constitutional right, withhold the Articles of Impeachment to such time when fairness, impartiality of justice, and upholding the United States Constitution can be guaranteed.

As patriotic Americans, we deserve nothing less.

Thank you, and God bless the United States of America.