On Dec. 1, the “Washington Wire” column in the Wall Street Journal published this gratifyingly noir item about the postelection drama in Florida:
“Madame Butterfly” Theresa LePore wasn’t always an embattled Palm Beach ballots chief. In the 1980s, she moonlighted as a flight attendant on private planes owned by Saudi weapons dealer Adnan Khashoggi, a middleman in Reagan administration arms sales to Iran.
Connoisseurs of Khashoggi-centric conspiracy theories should have little difficulty using this information to finger Khashoggi as the mastermind of the plot to deny Al Gore the presidency. Khashoggi has close ties, from Iran-Contra and elsewhere, to the Republicans, and vaguely defined ties to Dubya’s father. (In a 1990 court case, Khashoggi’s phone records revealed that Khashoggi had spoken at least twice with George Bush’s vice-presidential office during 1985 and 1986.) LePore worked for Khashoggi during the 1980s, when, according to her official biography, she was chief deputy supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County, a job she held until 1996, when she was elected supervisor of elections. Ergo, LePore has been working as a Khashoggi asset to elect the son of Khashoggi’s old comrade-in-arms, George Bush!
Chatterbox doesn’t actually believe this, of course. But the Journal’s tidbit does provide an occasion to play one of Chatterbox’s favorite games, “Six Degrees of Adnan Khashoggi,” in which the shadowy international arms merchant is connected to every scandal of the past 40 years and some that occurred even earlier. (It helps that Khashoggi is a “connector,” to borrow a term from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point. Click here for Gladwell’s explanation of how connectors rule the universe, and click here to read Chatterbox’s favorable review of The Tipping Point in the Washington Monthly. See also Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball’s classic 1987 New Republic article, “The Swami of Iranamok,” which describes the connector role played by Khashoggi’s spiritual adviser, Shri Chandra Swamiji Maharaj.) “Six Degrees of Adnan Khashoggi” is a slightly misleading name for this parlor game because in Khashoggi’s case, it’s rarely more than one or two degrees. Allow Chatterbox to demonstrate:
Iran-Contra. Khashoggi brought Manucher Ghorbanifar, Iranian arms buyer, into contact with the arms-selling Israelis. Khashoggi himself provided crucial bridge loans and lost somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million in the whole affair.
Imelda Marcos’ Shoe Collection. In 1990, Khashoggi was tried, and acquitted, on charges that he helped the Marcoses conceal ownership of four buildings in New York.
Wedtech. Remember e.bob wallach, the crony of Ed Meese who, maddeningly, spelled his name in lowercase letters? wallach was an adviser to Wedtech Corp., a now-defunct Bronx-based minority contractor to the Pentagon. In that capacity, he tried to get Khashoggi onto Wedtech’s board. Khashoggi never joined Wedtech’s board. wallach was eventually convicted of defrauding Wedtech.
BCCI. The most complicated bank scandal in human history. Khashoggi had a big account with BCCI’s Monte Carlo branch.
The Death of Princess Di. Khashoggi was the uncle of Dodi Fayed, Di’s rich boyfriend, in whose speeding limo both Dodi and Di perished.
The Gaudiness of Donald Trump. Trump bought his yacht, the Trump Princess, from Khashoggi (apparently via the Sultan of Brunei) after Iran-Contra put Khashoggi’s finances in a brief tailspin.
The Kennedy Assassination. Joseph A. Ball, the principal author of the Warren Commission report on JFK’s death, represented Khashoggi in his 1980 divorce from Soraya Khashoggi. After the death of her second husband, Aristotle Onassis, Jackie Kennedy was romantically tied in press accounts to Khashoggi, though in all likelihood they were just friends.
Watergate. Ball also represented John D. Ehrlichman during his Watergate troubles. Khashoggi had earlier contributed secret-but-apparently-legal funds to Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign. Khashoggi attended Nixon’s funeral in 1994.
The Breakup of the Beatles is often attributed to tensions that arose when John Lennon and Paul McCartney got married. In an interview this past October on British television, McCartney, now a widower, declared his love for a woman named Heather Mills, who was a toddler at the time of the Beatles’ breakup. Had McCartney left his wife Linda for Mills at the time, perhaps the Beatles would have remained together. Prior to dating McCartney, Mills reportedly dated Adnan Khashoggi.
The Synfuels Fiasco. In a program promptly shut down by the Reagan administration and subsequently missed by no one, President Jimmy Carter passed a law empowering the Energy Department to provide loan guarantees for the manufacture of gasohol. Khashoggi used the money to set up an ethanol plant in Louisiana that went bust in the late 1980s. When it did, the federal government was forced to pay out $70 million to Khashoggi’s creditors.
Charlie Chaplin’s Seductions of Teen-Age Girls took place in a Beverly Hills mansion that was subsequently owned by Adnan Khashoggi.
Katharine Hepburn’s Endorsement of Harris Wofford in the 1991 Pennsylvania Senate race apparently stemmed from her fury at Wofford’s opponent, Dick Thornburgh, for falsely accusing Wofford of soliciting a contribution from Khashoggi when Wofford was president of Hepburn’s alma mater, Bryn Mawr. Hepburn’s endorsement wasn’t scandalous. (Though it should be noted that Hepburn was a resident of New York at the time.) But Thornburgh’s accusation that Wofford solicited money from Khashoggi was clearly a cheap shot. In fact, Khashoggi had asked to establish a Middle Eastern program at Bryn Mawr, and Wofford rejected the offer, advising Khashoggi to give money to Bryn Mawr’s scholarship fund instead. Click here to see the Adnan Khashoggi Campus Center at American University in Washington, D.C.