Entries in Clinton Cash (1)


My Review of Clinton Cash and Why it Matters

Bill and Hillary Clinton have formed political-financial alliances that few former presidents and first ladies have ever established, let alone, have couples seeking to become president and first gentleman. In Peter Schweizer’s latest smash expose, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, he follows the money between their public office and private citizen exploits, through the mega successful, Clinton Foundation. Since 2001, the Clinton Foundation has amassed a staggering $2 billion, mostly in chunks from globally powerful individuals, multinational companies and foreign countries.

Schweizer lays out compelling patterns in which the timing of policy decisions or international deals relative to donations, transcends coincidence - or at least, merits closer inspection. He narrates with crisp prose and illuminating detail. Though a few errors exist about certain speaking fees and event sequences, there’s no question that Bill Clinton’s speaking fees rose substantially after Hillary took the helm of State, as did Clinton Foundation donations from foreign countries and certain controversial operators.

The book runs 245 pages with an impressive 56 pages of endnotes. It might be tempting to dismiss Clinton Cash as a product of Schweizer’s own conservative leanings. Yet, his more recent works, Throw Them All Out and Extortion, have examined shenanigans on both sides of the aisle.

Plus, placing issues of possible impropriety or illegality in a partisan box, ignores the dangers of an oligarchical political system that hopelessly blurs public and private lines. The Clintons are champions of the ‘Clinton Blur’ as Schweizer dubs two of his chapters.

The Clintons are not alone in fusing the lines of public service and private positioning. As first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt ran many charitable initiatives. Yet, unlike Bill Clinton, who claims he needs high speaking fees to “pay our bills”, she donated her writing fees. President Harry Truman bestowed his humble post-presidential speaking fees to build the Truman Library. The Carters run the Carter Center dedicated to humanitarian causes. The George W. Bush Foundation raised more than $341 million from 2006 to 2011. Nearly half of the 2010-2011 funds came from 16 donors, which begs further investigation. Still, those figures pale in comparison to the Clinton Foundation money and power machine.

The Clintons, and various members of the press, have condemned Clinton Cash, both for what they deem to be unsubstantiated slams, and for being misleading and containing certain factual errors. For the most part, these beckon further debate and exploration, rather than being downright wrong.

For instance, in Chapter 3, Hillary’s Reset, Schweizer indicates Hillary was involved in approving the sale of a Canadian company, Uranium One, which held a large stake in US uranium output to the Russian State Atomic Nuclear Agency (Rosatom). A Time magazine article found nothing linking Hillary specifically (or solely) to the related conversations. Yet, large donations did came from Uranium One Chairman, Ian Telfer, concurrent with the deal, and while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

Schweizer concedes in Chapter 5, The Clinton Blur (1) that, “The Clinton's ability to convene various public and private interests around a common cause or project does create leverage for getting things done in the global arena.” But, he goes on to say, “the blur also creates opportunity for moving a lot of money around with very little accountability.”

Certain longtime Clinton supporters are sketchy to criminal in behavior. One of them, Vinod Gupta, Indian entrepreneur and founder and chairman of InfoUSA, was a Clinton Foundation trustee. In 2010, he was charged with fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for using $9.5 million in company funds to support his extravagant lifestyle. He settled with the SEC for $7.3 million. His shareholders filed a separate suit over “misuse of corporate funds” including a $3 million consulting fee to Bill Clinton and “using corporate assets to fly the Clintons around.” The company settled for $13 million.

Sant Singh Chatwal, another trustee, was convicted for illegal campaign financing and obstruction of justice. He got no jail-time. Clinton Foundation board member, Argentine mogul, Rolando Gonzalez Bunster, was named in a fraud case in the Dominican Republic.

One could argue that it’s not the Clintons fault that some of their star supporters have such legality issues, though the company they keep renders their dismissals of conflicts of interest claims, less palatable. Maybe they should hang with a better class of billionaires?

By Schweizer’s tabulation, approximately 75% of the Clinton Foundation’s money has come from contributions of $1 million or more, with a fair share from foreign nationals. Some of that money buys respect in the Clinton circle, if not overt policy favoritism. Notable dictators from countries like Ethiopia and Rwanda were invited guests at Clinton Foundation events and praised for their leadership.

Some of that money secures profitable business deals. In 2009, Schweizer writes, Hillary Clinton “pushed Russian officials to sign a [$3.7 billion] airplane agreement with Boeing. Two months after Boeing won the contract, the company pledged $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation.” In Haiti, Schweizer depicts certain disaster-relief contracts as awarded along the lines of Clinton Foundation donors. These depictions have been criticized for accuracy, though still point toward partiality, if not direct money flow.

Beginning in 2009, Schweizer writes, “Swedish telecom giant Ericsson came under US pressure for selling telecom equipment to oppressive governments,” including to Sudan, Syria, and Iran and Belarus. Erickson decided to sponsor a speech for which Bill Clinton received a record $750,000 at a Telecom conference. A week later on November 19th, 2011, the State Department had removed telecoms from its sanctions list. The causality again isn’t distinctly proven. However the order of events is eye raising.

In Chapter 8, Warlord Economics, Schweizer writes that as a senator, Hillary “took the lead in rooting out Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) corruption and violence.” But when she became Secretary of State, her stance had softened considerably. According to Schweizer, certain “changes in policies conformed with the interest of Clinton Foundation large donors.”

He notes that, “The cluster of donors and advisers to the Clintons who rely on warlords and corrupt dictators is not confined to the DRC, Ethiopia, or Sudan.” It includes a Clinton pal with ties to the corrupt regime in Nigeria where Bill Clinton gave two of his most lucrative talks ($700,000 each) after Hillary became Secretary of State.

Controversial billionaire businessman Gilbert Chagoury made a fortune aiding former Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha in various oil and money funneling schemes. His name comes up frequently regarding bribery and other scandals, though he was never explicitly charged by the US Department of Justice.

In response to the book, Bill Clinton has insisted, “There is no doubt in my mind that we have never done anything knowingly inappropriate in terms of taking money to influence any kind of American government policy.” He added, “I asked Hillary about this, and she said, ‘No one has ever tried to influence me by helping you.’”  Hillary could still treat their friends and Clinton Foundation donors deferentially, though. The question is -  to what degree? Where does acceptance of help in one area imply wanting, or getting, something in return in another?

The Clinton Foundation has admitted disclosure errors regarding certain donations, and claims it will increase the frequency of its financial statements and limit large donations from foreign governments. These matters remain a red flag.

Corruption in politics is bi-partisan. The power of money is bi-partisan. Lines get crossed for alliance and sway reasons continuously. The Clintons want to portray themselves as having crossed no lines, despite the myriad of individuals, companies and countries that benefited from their relationship with them, and vice versa. Schweizer provides a damning portrait of elite and circumspect power and influence. He also acknowledges that, “Corruption of the kind” he describes in Clinton Cash “is very difficult to prove.”

Given that Hillary Clinton is running for President, the motives of these larger Clinton Foundation foreign donors and speaker fees to Bill Clinton while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, require greater inspection. As Schweizer stresses, “the pattern of behavior I have established is too blatant to ignore, and deserves legal scrutiny by those with investigation capabilities that go beyond journalism.”

At the end of Clinton Cash, Schweizer concludes that “money carries a serious weight, gather enough weight and you can intimidate most people into not questioning how you got it.” Whether the Clintons are corrupt, or successful opportunists requires a deeper federal investigation. Since new US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch first came to professional prominence as Bill Clinton’s appointee for US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, the possibility of a Department of Justice (DOJ) probe is remote. That’s a story for another time.

This article first appeared in Forbes.