Singer Was Bush's Mystery Dinner Host. No, Not That Singer.

Rose Mary Woods: Put your left foot in and your right foot out. Pick up the phone and shake it all about.
Rose Mary Woods: Put your left foot in and your right foot out. Pick up the phone and shake it all about. (Associated Press)
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By Al Kamen
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The mystery is solved. Thanks to a devoted Loop Fan, we now know that the host of Friday's $1.4 million Republican National Committee fundraiser at the famed Beresford co-op in New York -- headlined by President Bush -- was none other than Paul Singer, the hedge fund billionaire and renowned "vulture capitalist."

Singer, a mega-donor for Republicans and conservative causes over the years, has pumped out more than $2.6 million in contributions over the past decade, according to a records search, to folks such as John McCain, Tom DeLay, Mitch McConnell, Christine Todd Whitman and dozens of others. He was a big promoter of Rudy Giuliani's late presidential campaign and gave $5,000 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth back in 2004.

Singer also has been one of the top money guys for Progress for America, an ostensibly independent political committee that promoted Bush's policies and political agenda, giving, all told, $1.5 million. The only Democrats on Singer's favored list seem to be Chuck Schumer and Bill Bradley.

So why should the White House or Republican National Committee not want to advertise that Singer was the host of such a fabulous luncheon -- 70 folks at $20,000 a pop?

Maybe it's his media nickname, "vulture capitalist," coined because his firm buys up debt held by Third World countries at a discount, then sues them to force repayment in full, sometimes for even more than the original amount.

Singer has said that buying "sovereign distressed debt" in such places as Peru or Congo serves the purpose of requiring countries to comply with contracts and that the countries can afford to pay but refuse to do so. Besides, it's less than 2 percent of his 31-year-old, $9.8 billion hedge fund.

But what would Bush's other friend Bono, the rocker and African debt-relief activist, who has strongly criticized such transactions, say if he knew?

New Erasure Head Crowned

And now, the winner of the National Security Archive's fourth annual Rosemary Award, named for President Richard M. Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods, and her magnificent stretch, which caused that "accidental" erasure of 18 1/2 minutes of a key Watergate tape.

This year's winner -- and it wasn't a close call -- goes to the Treasury Department, which Archive Director Tom Blanton hailed for bringing "a new meaning to the notion of subprime performance" in its handling of Freedom of Information Act requests.

Instead of answering the requests, Blanton said, Treasury just keeps asking people if they still really want the information and often "actually destroys the original request letters the way [Woods] erased the tapes." One Archive request is 21 years old.

A 1997 Archive request asked for information about the Clinton administration's certification that Mexico was working against drug trafficking. Treasury responded in 2001, 2004 and 2007, but only to ask if the Archive was still interested in the information. The agency has sent the Archive 74 such "Are you still . . .?" letters for 42 different requests in the past seven years.

The agency also asked for another copy of the request because the original had been, a la Woods, "destroyed." (Blanton said that's something the agency has done 42 times for other requests.) And Treasury then closed the file without taking action, because so much time had gone by that the stuff had been retired to the National Archives, which Blanton said often happens.

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