Plouffe spoke to a subsidiary of the MTN Group, a telecommunications firm, in Lagos, Nigeria, in December 2010–a month before he joined the White House staff.
In a comment to the Washington Post, the White House downplayed the speech, saying the company’s connections to Iran were not well known at the time.
“At the time, not even the most zealous watchdog group on this issue had targeted the Iranian business interests of the host’s holding company. Criticism of Mr. Plouffe now for issues and controversies that developed only years later is simply misplaced,” a White House spokesman told the Post.
A person close to Plouffe also downplayed the speech, in a comment to Politico’s Playbook:
“The biggest point that Post largely ignores is that there’s nothing remarkable about this. For example, Colin Powell spoke to Credit Suisse before he was Sec. State (one May 2000 speech to Credit Suisse Financial Services for $127,500, one September 2000 speech to Credit Suisse First Boston for $59,500). Lawrence Lindsey spoke to UBS before joining Bush Administration. … UBS and Credit Suisse were later cited for violations re: financing Iran … Powell was confirmed as SECRETARY OF STATE … There was never any mention of recusal, returning the honoraria, nor did the Post work itself into a lather … MTN’s main competitor, Turkcell, was initially awarded this same contract in Iran. And Mitt Romney is an investor in the company.”
In video of roughly seven minutes of one of the speeches first posted by Buzzfeed, Plouffe discusses the impact of technology on the Obama campaign.
Update: Responding to the Plouffe report, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt criticized Mitt Romney’s former financial interest in Turkcell, a Turkish company that also has ties to Iran.
But Plouffe was also paid $48,000 by the company in speaking fees, Buzzfeed reports: