Everything is for Sale at the Clinton Foundation
Smoke, But No Fire?
Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) is claiming that while there is “smoke,” there is “no fire” when it comes to the linkage between donations to the Clinton Foundation, and who was/was not granted access to the Secretary of State when she was in that office. It is important to note that when Clinton took the job as Secretary of State, she made an ethics pledge to avoid conflicts of interest involving the Clinton Foundation. It may be exceedingly difficult to find explicit violations of that pledge, since she worked through surrogates. After reading the details that follow, I believe any reasonable person would conclude that she at the very least violated the spirit of the pledge.
Before we continue, however, you may ask, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” After all, the Clinton Foundation has done wonderful, charitable things around the globe. Well, the difference would be how the money was handled, and who benefitted. As a simplistic hypothetical example, if you collect $1,000 for your charity, provide favors to the person who made the donation, plus use a big chunk of that money on yourself – is that really a good use of the money? It is something we must figure out for ourselves, since HRC is not talking about it. She is opting, instead, to let the “clock run out” up to the Election, without answering for herself. That’s something else we must all take into consideration.
To understand the game, you must first know a little something about the primary players.
- Hillary Rodham Clinton herself, as Secretary of State under Obama. As mentioned above, she took an oath to keep Clinton Foundation and State Department matters separate.
- William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton, former President of the United States, Founder and President of the Clinton Foundation.
- Cheryl Mills, at one time a government employee, and Chief of Staff for Clinton at the State Department. She is now on the Board of Directors for the Clinton Foundation.
- Laura Graham, Clinton Foundation Operation’s Director. Graham made nearly 150 phone calls to Mills during a two year span at the State Department, more than any other individual during that time frame.
- Huma Abedin, a top aide for HRC at the State Department. Abedin frequently acted as point person, giving expedited, direct access to HRC for donors.
- Doug Band, a Clinton Foundation top executive who worked with the Foundation throughout Hillary Clinton’s tenure at State, who coordinated closely with Abedin. The Abedin-Band connection is one way HRC herself kept an arm’s length from day-to-day activities.
Now let’s take a closer look at some specific examples involving donations to the Clinton Foundation and corresponding State Department dealings.
Uranium One, Giustra, and Telfer
- How much? Frank Giustra, a billionaire mining magnate from Vancouver, initially gave over $31 million to the Clinton Foundation, and has subsequently pledged $100 million more. Ian Telfer, Uranium One’s Chairman, donated $2.35 million to Clinton’s foundation (initially undisclosed). And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Bill Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
- What happened? Hillary was on the committee that approved the decision to transfer 20% of all U.S. uranium to Putin’s Russia, as nine investors in the deal gave $145 million in largely undisclosed donations to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium is considered a strategic resource, and requires U.S. government approval to acquire. Without Bill Clinton’s friendship, and Hillary Clinton’s sign-off, the deal would not have been made. Giustra and Telfer were two of the key principals at Uranium One, Inc.
- HRC defense: Other agencies, besides just the State Department were involved. Also, it is all just coincidental.
- Why that doesn’t wash: It’s a classic case of, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” A five-year old could connect the dots.
Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain
- How much money? $32 million to the Clinton Global Initiative
- What happened? After attempting to set up a meeting with HRC through “normal channels,” a Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program (CPISP) for the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) was set up, with contributions totally at least $32 million. Shortly after that, he was given private meetings with HRC.
- HRC defense: The Crown Prince is a global leader, who one would expect to meet with the Secretary of State.
- Why that doesn’t wash: The meetings were requested through normal channels, but didn’t happen until after contributions were made.
S. Daniel (Danny) Abraham
- How much money? Between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation
- What happened? Slimfast tycoon S. Daniel Abraham was granted access to HRC immediately after making the request to Abedin.
- HRC defense: There is nothing wrong with meeting a wealthy private citizen.
- Why that doesn’t wash: The Secretary of State is responsible for foreign policy and meeting with foreign leaders, not domestic billionaires – even if they want to discuss the Middle East. More importantly, she did not grant similar access to non-donors.
- How much money? Rajiv Fernando is a prolific fundraiser for Democratic candidates, and he has personally donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. Since the time of this incident, he has continued to donate to Democrats, and specifically to Clinton (including a fundraiser for Clinton in his home).
- What happened? Due to HRC’s influence, Fernando was placed on the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB) in 2011, even though he had no obvious experience in the field. The decision baffled the department’s professional staff. In recently uncovered emails, it has come to light that HRC’s Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills, added Raj to the list.
- HRC defense: As a businessman, he provided a “unique” perspective to the board.
- Why that doesn’t wash: His name did not appear on any list until HRC had him added (through her Chief of Staff). He stepped down after a press inquiry that highlighted his lack of proper credentials.
- How much? Chagoury has donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. He also pledged $1 billion to the Clinton Global Initiative.
- What happened? Doug Band (Foundation) directed Abedin and Mills (State Department) to put Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury in touch with the State Department’s “substance person” on Lebanon. Chagoury is suspected of links to terrorism (he is in the database used to screen travelers to the U.S. with possible links to terrorism), which include financing extremist organizations. Chagoury attended Bill Clinton's 60th birthday fundraiser and helped arrange a visit to St. Lucia, where the former president was paid $100,000 for a speech.
- HRC Defense: “Hillary Clinton never took action as secretary of State because of donations to the Clinton Foundation," according to spokesman Josh Schwerin.
- Why that doesn’t wash: Hillary, herself, may never have taken action, but her staff certainly did. That doesn’t happen unless the boss has created an organization where such behavior is acceptable and/or encouraged.
- How much? Well-known St. Louis-area Democratic operative Joyce Aboussie, gave the Clinton Foundation between $100,000 and $250,000.
- What happened? Aboussie wrote to Abedin, about five months after Clinton became Secretary of State, requesting a meeting between HRC and Peabody Chairman and CEO Gregory H. Boyce, and Peabody’s Senior Vice President of Government Relations Fredrick D. Palmer. Aboussie sent emails asking Abedin to “intervene please” in order to get a meeting on HRC’s calendar. Further, she stated, “We need this meeting with Secretary Clinton, who has been there now for nearly six months. This is, by the way, my first request. I really would appreciate your help on this. It should go without saying that the Peabody folks came to Dick [Gephardt] and I because of our relationship with the Clinton’s.” It’s another example of how donors to the Clinton Foundation sought preferential treatment while HRC was in office.
- HRC defense: Peabody Energy was trying to expand its global footprint.
- Why that doesn’t wash: Whether or not she took direct action, or even took the meeting, just having donated to the Clinton Foundation gave people special access.
Money brings power, privilege, special access, and power over other people. Theoretically, our leaders are supposed to be ethical enough to represent citizens in general, without granting special favors to those who offer cash and other rewards (directly or indirectly). Obviously, this is not true of Hillary Clinton. And this fact may just be the biggest single argument in favor of Trump as President. As a multi-millionaire himself, he can’t be bothered with handouts of a few hundred thousand here and there. He may be a narcissist, but he can’t be bought. Something to think about.
Do you agree that there is smoke, but no fire?
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2016 Carolyn Fields