from The Shiny Object Fallacy by Kevin Williamson in National Review Online

The wise political entrepreneur uses more opaque methods to make his purchases. Hillary Rodham Clinton walked away from the inquiry into her remarkably successful commodities-trading career unscathed, in no small part because commodities trading is a complicated business — a hell of a lot more complicated than giving a guy a Rolex — and complicated stories do not generally capture the public’s imagination. It was suggested at the time that Refco, the firm that handled Mrs. Clinton’s trades, might have been assigning profitable trades to favored customers and losing trades to those without connections. It was accused of that in a lawsuit, and was later charged with that by regulators. Without admitting or denying guilt, the firm paid a $6 million fine to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to settle the case. It would later find itself in even deeper legal trouble only a few months after an initial stock offering; in the end, its CEO and chairman pleaded guilty to 20 criminal counts, largely involving securities fraud, in what was at the time considered the nation’s second-most-significant corporate scandal, after Enron. During the time when Mrs. Clinton was making her extraordinarily profitable trades, Refco was cited for systematically violating margin requirements, and, according to that infamous organ of right-wing conspiracy theory, the Washington Post, it was at the time allowing Mrs. Clinton “to initiate and maintain many trading positions — besides the first — when she did not have enough money in her account to cover them.” There were substantial discrepancies between official records of the trades and the results in Mrs. Clinton’s account, leading the former chairman of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to suggest “the possibility that some of her profits — as much as $40,000 — came from larger trades ordered by someone else and then shifted to her account,” as the Post put it.

If you ask people about the “Clinton scandal,” you invariable will get lurid stories about furtive intern fellatio in the Oval Office rather than lurid stories about the Clintons’ profiting from thoroughly dodgy commodities trading with the help of a thoroughly dodgy brokerage that was implicated in all manner of felonious shenanigans. Why? Because targeting the intern pool for sexual predation is like giving somebody a Rolex — it’s easy to understand. (How easy? The Big Bang Theory has a plotline about a high-earning wife emasculating her academic husband by giving him a Rolex.) Practically nobody understands commodities-trading regulation, including a great many people who engage in commodities trading. Albert Einstein is reported to have joked that the hardest thing in the world to understand is the tax code — remember that he lived in New Jersey — but the IRS has got nothing on the CFTC.

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