Perhaps you’ve heard this story before: a huge leak of confidential data gets everyone excited over several hundred thousand documents and emails that could contain all kinds of shifty, newsworthy information. Big names get tossed around, powerful people get a slap on the wrist, world keeps on spinning. Except this time, there are a lot more documents, real world leaders are being toppled, and at the end of it all, we might be inaugurating President Bernie Sanders.
Several days ago, a group called the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published the documents now known as the Panama Papers. These 11.5 million files, approximately 2.6 terabytes of data, carried far-reaching implications for anyone that did business with the Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca.
Sounds like a lot of documents, right? You have no idea. This is WikiLeaks on steroids. It’s Edward Snowden and the NSA files, but with real teeth. Even Snowden called it the biggest leak in history. Just a few days in, and it already claimed (and then maybe unclaimed) its first world leader.
Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson originally stepped down today amid the release of documents showing his shady dealings, but later in the day, he sent a follow-up email saying he merely stepped down temporarily. Then he stepped aside, but didn’t step down, but he might come back later. Or maybe not. Very confusing few days in Iceland, so I’ll just leave all of those options here in case one turns out to be right.
It turns out, Gunnlaugsson and his wife owned an offshore company called Wintris, Inc., where they concealed millions of dollars that Gunnlaugsson failed to report when he ran for office. In his campaign after the 2008 financial crisis, he railed against the bailing out of creditors for some of Iceland’s largest banks. As it turns out, Gunnlaugsson was one of those creditors.
Iceland is pissed. Latest estimates say approximately 22,000 people were involved in recent protests demanding his resignation; Iceland’s entire population is 323,000. The American equivalent would be about 22 million protesters surrounding the White House.
The papers don’t stop there. British Prime Minister David Cameron, long known for his strong stances on transparency, had it revealed that his family has substantial amounts of money hidden in off-shore havens. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ties to several money laundering schemes run through the firm, and FIFA has to deal with corruption from their new president, going back to previous scandals in which he insisted he was not involved.
While so far there hasn’t been a lot of talk about the involvement of Americans in the documents, there is this one small piece of the Panamanian puzzle that has a chance to play into the U.S. Democratic Primary.
In 2009, shortly after President Obama took office with his new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, the documents show how the two of them pushed hard for free trade agreements that had stalled during the Great Recession. This led to the 2011 signing of a trade agreement with Panama, one which President Obama and Secretary Clinton touted as a great step forward. At the same time, many watchdog groups urged them to be cautious, as the agreement as written opened up the potential for questionable activities that we now know actually occurred.
One of those watchdogs just happens to need a bit of a boost right now in his primary race with the former Secretary Clinton. As he’s done so many times before, Bernie Sanders called it:
Sanders doubled-down in a statement today, his first since the Panama Papers were leaked:
“I was opposed to the Panama Free Trade Agreement from day one. I wish I had been proven wrong about this, but it has now come to light that the extent of Panama’s tax avoidance scams is even worse than I had feared.”
The question now stands. Will this be enough? NostraBernie told Alan Greenspan exactly what would happen if banks were not held in check before becoming so large that they would be deemed “too big to fail.” Bernie told us exactly how the Iraq War would play out before we attacked in 2002. And now, it turns out he knew exactly what was happening with the Panama trade agreement. In every case, it seems no one listened. Now it’s on the Bernie Sanders campaign to get this information to the American people before his chances for nomination are in the wind.
So what does Senator Bernie Sanders predict for the next decade? And what would President Bernie Sanders be willing and able to do about it?
Featured image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr, available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic