Why Libertarians Should Cheer for the Panama Papers

Panama PapersBe cordial. It’s not like I always succeed, but it’s a good idea to try to be polite to everybody when you first meet them—because you never know what they can tell you. When you’re young you probably feel that the movie of your life is the most interesting narrative in the universe. But you’ll wind up leading a far more legendary life if you form a habit, as early as you can stand, of allowing that anybody you meet might have better stories than you do.

For example: I’m not really what you would call a lawyer groupie, so I didn’t know much about Marc Randazza when he agreed to help me out recently. All I knew was that, as a free speech specialist, Randazza was eager to deflect an attempt to jam a sock in my mouth by a fraudster whose (alleged) hijinks I had exposed; Randazza and his nice paralegal got things in hand quickly.

Now I find out from an associate of Randazza’s that he was involved in freeing the scoop on the infamous Panama Papers. For those who have been too smothered under a pile of hack protesters to pay attention to the rest of the news, the Panama papers are a database of documents that leaked a couple of months ago, mostly e-mails, from a Panamanian manufacturer of shell companies called Mossack Fonseca. The database was curated this spring for the use of journalists by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ); the docs condemn a rogues’ gallery of kleptocrats, drug dealers, and general oiled-moustache money-launderers of every stripe, and the ICIJ have done heroes’ labors in opening them up to sunshine and public scrutiny—particularly since there’s so much stolen public money involved. But there hasn’t been a lot of reportage around the free speech lawyers who were involved in opening up parts of the case for journalists’ access.

Randazza rather shrugs that off. His associate wrote that “the unraveling arguably began with Argentinian Journalist Jorge Lanata’s investigation of Argentina’s 2001 financial crisis”—and the investigation was made possible by Randazza’s work.

Randazza replies: “I think she over-stated it, to be honest.”

So what happened?

“Let’s just say that we saw the Panama Papers before they were called the Panama Papers,” Randazza says. He got a call from Jorge Lanata, an Argentinean journalist who wanted help tracking down his country’s bad debt. Argentina’s national treasury owed a lot of money to a hedge fund, and its politicians were, coincidentally, suspected of digging a drainage ditch (metaphorically speaking) from the national treasury into their own pockets. Said pockets seem to have been located in Nevada, US, where Mossack Fonseca has an affiliate branch in the form of “MF Nevada.”

“The court documents,” says Randazza, that were “sought to be kept sealed, were brought into the sunshine by my client’s efforts and by the wisdom of the judge in recognizing that the public has a right to know what is happening in its courts.”

These particular court documents were the depositions of one Patricia Aunategui, who, on paper, runs MF Nevada. She had agreed to be deposed only under the condition that the hedge fund to which Argentina owed money kept her deposition sealed away from the public eye.

In the suit, MF Nevada’s lawyer claimed (with such an entitled degree of “what-right-does-anybody-have-to-question-our-highnesses?” that it’s almost as hilarious as these self-righteous maroons) that the parent company wasn’t really connected to MF Nevada. Therefore, the Argentine fourth estate had no right to look at Aunategi’s sealed deposition, since it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with Argentina’s corrupt politicians. And anyway, there was (sniff) overly personal stuff in there regarding her immigration status (she’s Chilean by birth) and her other personal data that could embarrass and/or endanger her. (The Panama Papers themselves would eventually cough up frantic e-mails from company officials that made it clear they were desperately trying to wipe MF Nevada’s computers clean of their connections to the parent company’s data systems.)

As Randazza stated on Lanata’s behalf in a court document: “In this case, access to all court records, including Ms. Amunategui’s deposition, are particularly important because this case involves claims of international financial mismanagement and fraud, with some of the participants involved in the alleged fraud being incorporated right here in Nevada.” (As some have pointed out, the United States is one of the go-to havens for the kleptocrats of the developing world. Who knows what ungodly percentage of our own foreign aid is parked in our home-grown shell corporations?)

Randazza argued that the deal Amunategui cut to keep the court proceedings silent was “entirely irrelevant,” adding: “Access to the courts is neither Ms. Amunategui’s, nor NML Capital’s, nor The Republic of Argentina’s to barter or broker—that access belongs to the people… It is quite understandable why Ms. Amunategui would find herself motivated to demand secrecy—given the fact that she is, by all evidence, an unfortunate pawn in a much larger game, and it takes very little imagination to see that her benefactors and masters are really the ones interested in keeping this information confidential.”

The court wound up telling MF Nevada to black out Amunategui’s personal information, and then cough up the documents: The entirety of their legally admissible objections to releasing the documents as a whole could fit beneath a few swipes of a Sharpie.

So… I’ve said some nasty stuff about lawyers. Back when I worked as a French translator in the Cook County Courts, I saw enough lawyers and judges stumbling around drunk at work (one of them tried to talk me into heading to a Skokie hotel with him and a bottle of wine over lunch break) to wonder if any of them are worth their salt.

Well, I take it all back… No, I only take back the generalizations. (Ya see, self-righteous academics? Non-leftists do care about stereotyping people; in fact, I care about it consistently, and try to see straight white male oppressors as human. I even try to see you as human, although you’re making it damned difficult.)

And yet why—you may ask—is a libertarian-ish type such as myself not cheering for tax evasion? What business is it of mine if job creators don’t want to pay for SSI fraud any more than I do? Why am I indulging instead in schadenfreude over noble capital’s foiled attempts to dodge the greedy paws of various tax-hungry governments?

Because I’m not snickering at all of them. Just the hypocrites.

(Well, and the cronycaps kleptocrats: according to Meagan McArdle and quite a few exposes on world leaders who may be stealing from the tax trough, the Panama Papers don’t reflect as badly on the employment of capital as they do on corrupt, big governments that bleed tax money into the pockets of useless politicians and corrupt, big corporations that purchase the services of said pols.)

I don’t give a rat’s ass if a small-government guy dodges some of his taxes; for example, if Trump isn’t lying about his campaign promises (we’ll see about that; Obama sounded kinda sincere too, remember?), then he doesn’t want people in my income bracket to pay a cent to tax-fed parasites—be they corporate welfare persons or individuals who suffer from constipation of the brain and diarrhea of the womb. His behavior is consistent with his stated beliefs. I don’t care about his tax forms any more than I cared about Obama’s birth certificate.

But I’m beside myself with delight to see shame befall the wealthy leftists who Tweet and prance in support of tax-funded government programs—programs they want the rest of us to pay for, while they use their .01-percent privilege to hide from the tax man offshore. When these guys get caught, I hope their proverbial skirts fly up so far we can see the stains on their underpants. It’s just as satisfying as watching it happen to corporations that rely on regulatory capture to operate, if not more so. At least a corporation doesn’t dress up its greed in social causes.

Which brings us to the ever-more-chokeworthy Emma Watson, who was exposed as a client of Mossack Fonseca a few weeks ago. Her exposure is one of the most pleasant surprise boons connected to Randazza’s advocacy for free speech, but the press hasn’t made nearly enough of her hypocrisy. They’ve let her pretty much flounce off the hook. But let’s discuss exactly what it means for a grandiloquent pro-welfugee millionaire to dodge her taxes.

Watson—for those who are wise enough to not pay any mind to the talentless pit of nepotism that is the film industry—was the smug-faced little girl who got a golden ticket for life when she was picked to ruin the role of hot, angry, kinda-fun proto-feminist Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films. In real life, Watson has grown up to be less of a badass hottie and more of the whiny, quavery-voiced flavor of feminist. She’s joined the illustrious likes of Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian in leveraging her fame and vagina to get an audience with the United Nations—that international beacon of justice, which has apparently given up on substantially improving this howling mess of a world in favor of a much easier mission: guilt-tripping Western men into not calling a bossy pain in the ass a bossy pain in the ass.

But like, whatever; killing what’s left of Western masculinity doesn’t dig directly into most people’s pockets, so why should we worry about that? What comes next was funnier: in between her audience with the UN and the current scandal, Watson took (not nearly enough) heat for announcing from her wizard’s tower (via Tweet) that she wishes to welcome all the Muslim refugees we can stuff through the door to Europe.

She thus prompted, and proceeded to blithely ignore, the now-familiar rebuttal that since she lives comfortably far from the migrant camps—unlike the European working class, who will suffer the brunt—she has no business pretending to be magnanimous. (The ensuing petition demanding that Watson spend a week in a migrant camp without her bodyguards—which she also preciously ignored—is hilarious.)

The boggling doublethink that an intersectional feminist needs to pretzel her little brain into when she simultaneously demands that men all convert to feminism while insisting it’s OK for lots of men with bat-shit insane attitudes toward women to flood Europe without documentation is bad enough.

But think about the state-breaking cost to the taxpayer that she’s glibly asking the EU and her country (she’s British) to undergo. It’s the citizens’ moral duty to cough up for her conscience—but as her shell company implies, she’s willing to be pretty shady to avoid putting her own millions where her big, fat mouth is, thereby increasing the share of the welfare burden for people who can less afford to pay than she can. If it weren’t for my firm belief in human stupidity, there might be a conspiracy theory in this. Is Emma Watson really a deep sleeper anarcho-capitalist? Nah; she’s a perpetually sheltered dipshit. Her PC honking is how she builds her personal brand. Like every other shill and hack in the Internet age, Watson is desperate to cover up her lack of talent by yelping about her supposed beliefs. But her true religion is her own ludicrous combination of greed and moral vanity.

And she isn’t alone amongst supporters of mass immigration who’ve been bitten by the Panama Papers; admittedly, she’s not even close to being the slimiest. George Soros’ career is proof positive that shit floats, which is why I’m such a half-hearted libertarian. He loves importing leftist voters almost as much as he loves buying the Democrats they help elect to office—and he was implicated in the cascading shell-company crisis just a few days after Watson. This revelation is made even stranger by the fact that Soros also gives money to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists—the very group that made the Panama Papers available to the wider press. Either Soros is playing a very deep game, or some journalists only pretend they can be bought.

So vive le free speech! The more hypocrites fear being hoisted on their own petard, the better the rest of us will sleep.

Ann Kathryn Sterzinger

Ann is an editor and a writer who produces actual tragic comedies—that is, they aren't unfunny stories that end happily like in "Tragicomedy." They're funny stories that end horribly. The other stuff she does is only interesting to her. Buy her best novel, NVSQVAM, at Nine-Banded Books, which also published her recent Mirbeau translation. Her second-best novel is available on Amazon (as is everything else Sterzingerian). You can find her blog at www.annsterzinger.com.




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