Andy Khawaja is a Lebanese-American CEO who knew how to make money and flirt with power until AP exposed his shady activities.
On August 2, the Associated Press circulated a story about the activities of a Lebanese-American businessman, Ahmad “Andy” Khawaja, known for his generosity to the political campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and specialized in “guiding dubious businesses past the gates of the banking system.” The well-documented cases described reveal a host of brazenly fraudulent operations, described by the company’s own staff as “very, very illegal,” ranging from money laundering to gambling and phone sex, flouting the laws of multiple nations.
The article notes that “Khawaja has shared that wealth in the form of multimillion-dollar political donations, first to Hillary Clinton and then to Donald Trump.” Business Insider reproduced the body of the AP story and even developed it further, informing us, for example, that Khawaja donated $4 million to Clinton’s campaign and then “soon after he contributed $1 million to [Trump’s] inaugural committee, eventually earning himself a photo with the president inside the Oval Office.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
The act of procuring a reward as a result of legitimate effort and, for the cleverest, multiple rewards as a result of illegitimate effort
Business Insider was impressed not just by the photo it says Khawaja earned in the Oval Office with the president, but also by photos with all the other political celebrities it displays to illustrate the article: both Clintons (and Hillary four times), Donald Trump Jr. (twice), Steve Mnuchin (secretary of the treasury), Barack Obama and even the Clooneys. A visit to his Instagram page shows him with other notables, including Prince Albert of Monaco, Rex Tillerson, Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Tim Caine and a cardinal at the Vatican, where Khawaja — who facilitated the diffusion of pornography — was honored “for all of the good work … [he has] done for the children all around the world.”
For The Beatles, “money can’t buy me love,” but according to Khawaja’s Instagram account, it can earn lots of photos with powerful people and probably just a little bit of influence as well. At the very least, we learn that Khawaja was “a beneficiary of Trump’s tax plan.”
The AP article contains the factual details about the plethora of illegal operations but little commentary. The slightly longer article in Business Insider reveals what we suspect may be a slightly ironic twist: “Nobody in Washington, Democrat or Republican, appears to have questioned how Khawaja earned his money, and what exactly Khawaja might hope to gain from his political giving is not entirely clear.”
Suffice to say that what he hoped to gain was probably more than a bevy of photos with powerful people. What is more significant is that Democrats and Republicans never “questioned how Khawaja earned his money,” but were visibly quite happy to include them in their exclusive club.
Khawaja’s Instagram page shows an impressive number of famous people, including Hollywood stars, with their arms around his shoulder. He calls them all “friend,” “buddy,” “pal.” Do they all really have that much in common? Apart from, of course, different degrees of wealth and attending the same cocktail parties? The photos tell us what should be obvious: That all these people see themselves as members of an oligarchic class who reign over a powerful economy that uses the idea of celebrity to reinforce its psychological control over their global fan base. Money doesn’t buy any of them love, but it buys them BFFs in photos.
On Instagram, Khawaja presents himself as an American “philanthropist,” “entrepreneur” and “peace maker.” Those are attributes the oligarchy prizes and that justify their sharing of influence and accumulation of riches. Even if the economy that supports them, multiplying their riches, is a war economy, they see themselves as peacemakers. So long as the fruit of their riches circulate, as discreetly as possible, amongst themselves, all will be well.
That is why Khawaja felt perfectly comfortable spending millions on Clinton before spending millions on Trump, and why Trump and other Republicans felt perfectly comfortable receiving his money after his hopes with the Clintons had been vanquished by The Donald.
The American oligarchy needs three types of people: the highly visible (politicians, entertainers), the operators (like Khawaja) and the largely anonymous captains of finance and history. In the new world of tech riches, some can be both “business entertainers” (Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and in an odder way, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos), but most of those who pull the strings remain quietly behind the curtain. They all know each other, though.
Historically, the blend of politics, finance and entertainment that defines the US oligarchy was initiated early in the 20th century by personalities like Howard Hughes and Joe Kennedy (JFK’s father), who understood that Hollywood needed to be bigamously married to Wall Street and Washington and that the more the three frequented each other, the more abundant would be their offspring. More recently Silicon Valley made it a foursome.
Interestingly, the Democrats aligned first with Hollywood and then with Silicon Valley, while the Republicans have always been in bed with Wall Street, but they all belong to the same tribe and sleep in the same sheets, as the career of Khawaja, 2016’s CEO of the Year, demonstrates.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
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