Since the release of the book Clinton Cash by Peter Schweizer, a conservative scholar and Republican consultant, Hillary Clinton has faced scrutiny over whether contributions to the Clintons and their charitable initiatives influenced her behavior while secretary of state.
Schweizer’s discussion of the book itself generated a donation-related micro-scandal. Shortly after his appearance on ABC’s This Week, where the host George Stephanopolous declared that ABC News had found “no proof” that any contributions to the Clintons or their foundation had directly affected her policy decisions, it was later discovered that Stephanopolous had contributed $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation over a three-year period.
Stephanopolous’s relationship with the Clintons stretches back decades: he helped manage Bill Clinton’s successful presidential campaign in 1992.
The book presents a myriad of relationships, timelines, transactions, and other details that suggest – but do not prove – that Hillary Clinton let donations affect her decision-making. Its allegations echo fundraising scandals that plagued the Democratic Party during President Clinton’s time in office.
Some cases appear more indicting than others, especially in light of the detailed rebuttal to the book posted by Correct the Record – an outfit run by David Brock, a prominent supporter of Hillary Clinton.
Uranium One Takeover
One frequently discussed allegation relates to an incident in October 2010, when a committee that included Secretary Clinton approved a deal that gave a Russian atomic energy company control over 20 percent of America’s uranium reserves – allegedly as a reward for generous contributions by the former owner of the company, Frank Giustra.
The timeline runs as follows. In 2005, Bill Clinton traveled to Kazakhstan with Giustra, the owner of the energy company UrAsia, to meet with President Nazarbayev. Days after that visit, Giustra acquired stake in three uranium mines in Kazakhstan. Months later, Giustra donated over $30 million to the Clinton Foundation. Giustra maintains that Bill Clinton played no role in orchestrating the deal.
In 2007, ownership of UrAsia began to change. That year, it merged with a South African company called Uranium One, and Frank Giustra sold his stake in the company – worth about $45 million. Then, in 2009, ARMZ – an arm of the Russia state-owned Rosatom, purchased 17% stake in Uranium One. This was the beginning of a gradual takeover of Giustra’s former company.
In June 2010, Bill Clinton received $500,000 to speak in Russia at the same time that Rosatom submitted to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, which had acquired ownership of uranium production sites in several western states. Approval of the deal was put before a high-level panel known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which included Secretary Clinton as well as nine other voting members — including other cabinet-level secretaries.
A dissenting vote would have transferred approval of the deal to the president, but it received unanimous approval.
In 2009, the committee disapproved of a deal that would have permitted the Chinese to acquire a 51% stake in a small gold company in Nevada, citing national security concerns.
While the allegation is that Clinton’s approval was a favor for Giustra, Correct the Record notes that he sold his share in the company 18 months before Clinton became secretary of state. However, he did continue to serve as a financial adviser to the company as the chairman of Endeavour Financial after 2007 – the year of the merger.
Moreover, as the New York Times points out, other donors to Clinton benefited from the deal, including Ian Telfer, the chairman of Uranium One at the time of the Russian acquisition. Telfer donated $250,000 through his own charity to support the Clintons’ philanthropic work that year.
While Mr. Giustra does not feature as centrally in the Uranium One case, he is at the center of allegations pertaining to influencing the approval of a free trade deal with Colombia from which he stood to benefit.
Colombian Free Trade Agreement
In 2007, Giustra helped launch an energy company called Pacific Rubiales, which had access to oil fields in Colombia.
In 2008, when Hillary Clinton was running for president, she opposed a proposed free trade agreement with Colombia, citing the country’s poor labor record.
In 2009, however, Clinton began to warm to the deal after taking over as secretary of state in President Obama’s administration. In June 2010, she traveled to Colombia and dined with Bill and Mr. Giustra. The next day, she met with Colombian president Álvaro Uribe and expressed support for a free trade agreement.
Congress debated the agreement in 2011 – amid accusations that the Colombian military had threatened violence against Pacific Rubiales workers who had staged a strike.
Clinton’s State Department praised Colombia’s progress on human rights. Congress approved the agreement in October 2011, which went into effect the following May.
Violation of 2008 Ethics Agreement
The innuendo of a conflict of interest stems from recent revelations that a Canada-based charity co-founded by Clinton and Giustra did not disclose its funding sources, which conflicts with the spirit of a 2008 ethics agreement reached with the Obama administration during Secretary Clinton’s tenure.
Giustra and his company pledged millions to the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership since its creation in 2007.
This agreement set up a review process for donations from foreign governments to the Clintons’ philanthropic organizations to avoid a conflict of interest. It did not forbid such donations so as to allow for the processing of existing multi-year grants.
However, at least one breach of this agreement did occur in 2010, when the foundation received $500,000 from the Algerian government following the earthquake in Haiti. The foundation acknowledged it failed to get the proper approval from the State Department.
That same year, there was also a noted increase in the number of meetings between department officials and registered lobbyists representing Algeria.
Morocco and OCP
Hillary Clinton also faces questions about donations from a state-owned phosphate company, OCP, in Morocco.
The country has a history of human rights abuses. It also occupies the disputed territory of Western Sahara: Morocco has held onto Western Sahara as a colonial territory long after Spain and neighboring Mauritania abandoned it in the 1970s.
Sahrawis, including miners who once worked for OCP, claim that OCP is a tool of the Moroccan occupation.
While the State Department did continue to note human rights abuses and corruption in Morocco during Secretary Clinton’s tenure, Clinton praised its autonomy plan for Western Sahara and called Morocco “a leader and a model” in 2012.
When Clinton stepped down as secretary of state, a leaked memo from the Moroccan embassy revealed that the country lost “an ally who will be difficult to replace,” while another memo stressed the need to develop an “aggressive and enterprising” strategy to maintain warm relations.
Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, has a history of being more critical of Morocco. In 2001, then Senator Kerry expressed support for a referendum to decide whether Western Sahara would achieve independence.
Since Clinton’s departure, Morocco has intensified its lobbying efforts in Washington. It recruited as a lobbyist Justin Gray, who sits on the board of the pro-Clinton super PAC, Priorities USA Action. Former U.S. diplomat and treasury department official under President Clinton, Stuart Eizenstat – who sits on the OCP’s advisory board – also lobbies on the company’s behalf in the Senate.
The OCP has donated up to $6 million to the Clinton Foundation. It most recently spent $1 million to sponsor a lavish Clinton charity event in Marrakech in early May.
When Bill Clinton was asked about Schweizer’s book during the event, he retorted, “It won’t fly.”
While many journalists have substantiated many of the facts in Clinton Cash, its publisher, Harper Collins, recently corrected a few inaccuracies.
Indian Nuclear Trade Deal
Fact-checkers have also undermined some of Schweizer’s charges. Politifact, for instance, showed that then-Senator Hillary Clinton did not change her position on amendments to a nuclear trade deal with India between 2006 and 2008.
Its report did notice, however, that Clinton did have a change of heart regarding the deal itself in mid-2006, when she switched from opposing to supporting it. “Maybe Chatwal helped change her mind between May and June 2006, or maybe not,” Politifact concluded.
In this case, Chatwal refers to Sant Singh Chatwal, a wealthy hotel and restaurant owner and a Clinton Foundation trustee. In April 2014, Chatwal pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance rules. Between 2007 and 2011, he circumvented contribution limits by reimbursing donors who gave to three Democratic federal candidates. One of these candidates was Hillary Clinton.
In addition to allegations of corruption by foreign donors giving to the Clintons’ charities, Hillary Clinton now faces renewed scrutiny about donations from domestic sources that benefited her personally.
According to a recent disclosure, BIll and Hillary Clinton earned $25 million in speaking fees since January 2014. Hillary Clinton personally earned $11.7 million for delivering 51 speeches in that time, while she was considering a presidential bid. Many of these speeches were given before technology companies, some of which have ties to the Clinton campaign.
Salesforce.com, for instance, paid Mrs. Clinton $451,000 for two speeches in 2014. Its CEO, Marc Benioff, was a major donor to the Ready for Hillary super PAC.
In late 2014, she also spoke to the data storage company, Nexenta Systems, whose chief executive, Tarkan Maner, sat on the super PAC’s national finance committee.
Some of these donors have a financial interest in U.S. policy. Qualcomm, for instance, has a major stake in protecting its intellectual property overseas. The company recently paid the Chinese government nearly $1 billion in fines for anti-trust violations. It count benefit from the implementation and later expansion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which could be used to challenge foreign governments’ regulations that are overly protective of domestic companies.
Hillary Clinton has not taken a firm stance for or against the TPP.
She has championed the interests of specific companies in the past. For instance, she promoted legislation and tariff reductions that benefited Corning Inc., a glass and materials company based in upstate New York. The company’s support for Clinton began with contributions toward her 2000 senatorial campaign.
Corning lobbied Clinton’s State Department and donated over $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. It also paid Hillary Clinton $225,500 personally to speak before the company in July 2015.
When Bill Clinton was asked about the six-figure honorariums he has received since leaving office, he stated, “I gotta pay our bills.”
The Clinton’s income puts them in the top tenth of the top 1 percent of American earners.