Did you catch that fantastic Bloomberg story last weekend about Best Sunshine Live, the curiously named and wildly profitable casino in the middle of nowhere that may or may not be a massive money-laundering operation?
We'll forgive you for missing that one amid news that President-elect Donald Trump is busy transforming the White House into a safe space for white supremacists and chatting up Sandy Hook truther Alex Jones.
But you really should check it out.
Because in Paragraph 18 you'll learn that the casino - which opened last year on the tiny U.S. island of Saipan and is run by Trump protégé Mark Brown - is paying Ed Rendell $5,000 a month to sit on an advisory committee for business strategies and government relations. Apparently, the job doesn't involve much work.
Best Sunshine Live, which Bloomberg says is wedged between a coin laundry and a cellphone shop, is posting incredible numbers. No, really, they don't seem credible. In September, the casino's owner, Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific International Holdings, reported a whopping $3.9 billion in bets at the casino.
The U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has taken notice, according to Bloomberg reporters Daniela Wei and Matthew Campbell. Casino insiders say the numbers are either inflated or an indication that the casino might be facilitating money laundering. Brown says everything is kosher.
But back to Rendell, the former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor. We got Fast Eddie on the phone Wednesday and asked about Imperial Pacific. He said the company has been paying him $5,000 a month for the last six or seven months.
"It's not a big f-ing deal," Rendell said, channeling outgoing Vice President Joe Biden.
Rendell told Clout that he "did a little due diligence" before signing up with Imperial Pacific.
"They seemed fine," Rendell said. "I said to Mark, 'Is this legit?' He said, 'Yes.' I said, 'Is it a real casino?' He said, 'Yes, it is.' "
Rendell said former New York Gov. David Paterson, a former adviser to Imperial Pacific, pitched him to join the committee. The company also has recruited former CIA Director James Woolsey and former FBI Director Louis Freeh.
So what has Rendell done for Imperial Pacific so far?
"The only thing I did was, I persuaded Haley to sign up," Rendell said, referring to former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, now an adviser to the company.
As for the Bloomberg story, Rendell said he doubted that the casino is in the money-laundering business. He knows Brown and said he is well-regarded in the casino industry.
"I relied on my conversation with Mark Brown that it was real," Rendell said. "If it proves to be a shell, I'm resigning immediately."
You're welcome, Linebarger
Last month, Mayor Jim Kenney's campaign committee canceled a fund-raiser after we asked whether a bunch of firms with city contracts would have inadvertently disqualified themselves from receiving city work by sponsoring the fund-raiser.
Turns out that's exactly what would have happened. Because they were listed as sponsors, the companies would have exceeded the contribution limits for companies with noncompetitively bid contracts under the city's pay-to-play regulations.
We can report that city money is still flowing as usual. For example, Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, which throws around campaign cash like 50 Cent at the club, has been awarded a $1.4 million contract for collecting court ordered judgments, effective July 2017. That's on top of its existing contract for collecting money from sheriff's sales, which gets the company an 18 percent cut.
Linebarger was one of the would-be sponsors of the canceled Kenney fund-raiser. Its contracts - and those held by the other sponsors - would've been invalidated if the fund-raiser occurred.
In short, what we're trying to say is: You're welcome. Clout saved you some serious moola.
BTW, are you all familiar with the concept of kickbacks? Three percent is the industry standard, we hear. Christmas is fast approaching and Clout needs to buy some gifts.
Squilla and the Birds
Speaking of fund-raisers, Councilman Mark Squilla's campaign committee is holding one at the Oregon Avenue sports bar Toll Man Joe's during the Eagles-Bengals game on Dec. 4.
"Free Parking and Open Bar!" the email states.
When we saw that the top-level contribution is $3,000, we thought that the parking damn well better be free and the bar damn well better be open.
But as we were about to delete the email, we scrolled down to the bottom and saw that general admission is only $30.
Damn, $30? Clout can drink $30 worth of booze by halftime. This might be the best game-day deal in town!
Can we ask what you have on tap, Councilman?
- Staff writers William Bender, Claudia Vargas and Will Bunch contributed to this column.