Après Schweizer, le déluge. At the start of the week, The New York Times revealed that Peter Schweizer, a Republican researcher, was close to publishing a book delving into the financial dealings of the Clinton Foundation. The book focuses on how donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation correlated with favorable decisions from the State Department while Hillary Clinton was secretary. What's more, several news organizations had agreements with Schweizer to report on the findings in the book.
It's been clear for some time that the Clinton Foundation presented tricky and novel conflict-of-interest challenges for the candidate, and now the specific stories of those challenges are emerging. In fact, it can be tough to keep them straight. Here's a quick rundown.
1. The State Department, Uranium, and the Russian Government
This one is complicated, in part because many of the relationships are carefully kept at arm's length for legal and ethical reasons, but The New York Times lays it out in a lengthy story. In 2005, Canadian businessman Frank Giustra acquired uranium interests in Kazakhstan, on a trip with former President Bill Clinton. The following year, he gave more than $31 million to the Clinton Foundation. In 2007, Giustra's UrAsia merged with Uranium One, a South African company, and acquired U.S. uranium concerns. In 2009, the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom, reached a deal to take a 17 percent stake in Uranium One. In 2010, it increased that to a controlling 51 percent stake, and in 2013 acquired the rest of the company.
Because the U.S. considers uranium a strategic asset, the acquisition had to be approved by a government commission. Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, sat on the commission. As Rosatom gradually increased its stake, million of dollars flowed to the Clinton Foundation, including $2.35 million from the family foundation of Uranium One's chairman. Despite an agreement forged with the White House when Hillary Clinton became secretary, requiring the Clinton Foundation to disclose all of its donors, these donations were not disclosed. In total, people affiliated with Uranium One or its predecessor gave more than $8 million to the Clinton Foundation between 2008 and 2010. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton received $500,000 for a speech in Moscow, paid for by a bank boosting Uranium One stock.
The Times notes that it's impossible to prove any clear connection, and Hillary Clinton's campaign said that the donations had not affected her judgment, and noted that many other agencies also had to sign off on the deal.
2. The Tax Returns With the Missing Foreign Donations
For years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation reported tens of millions of dollars in donations from foreign governments on its tax forms. In 2010, that suddenly dropped to zero. Reuters reports:
Those entries were errors, according to the foundation: several foreign governments continued to give tens of millions of dollars toward the foundation's work on climate change and economic development through this three-year period. Those governments were identified on the foundation's annually updated donor list, along with broad indications of how much each had cumulatively given since they began donating.
After Reuters asked about the discrepancy, the foundation said it would refile five years' worth of returns. "No charity is required to disclose their donors," a spokesman said. "However, we voluntarily disclose our more than 300,000 donors and post our audited financial statements on our website along with the 990s for anyone to see." But of course, no other charity is run by a former president whose wife used to be secretary of state and who is running for president.
3. How Bill Clinton Benefited From Hillary Clinton's Cabinet Job
Where he once had drawn $150,000 for a typical address in the years following his presidency, Clinton saw a succession of staggering paydays for speeches in 2010 and 2011, including $500,000 paid by a Russian investment bank and $750,000 to address a telecom conference in China.
Some of the groups shelling out to hear the former president speak also had business before the State Department. Department ethics officials reviewed the speaking engagements, but apparently rarely, if ever, objected. As with the other cases, there's no clear proof of a quid pro quo, but it's also hard not to imagine that those paying Bill Clinton might have hoped it would give them extra access or sympathy with Hillary Clinton. ABC's scoop partly follows on Schweizer's book.
4. The Clintons' Intertwined Personal and Charitable Interests
In another story based in part on Schweizer's book, The Washington Post considered the close ties between the Clinton Foundation's charitable work and the Clinton family's income. Bill Clinton received at least $26 million in speaking fees from organizations that are also donors to the foundation, Rosalind Helderman reports. "The multiple avenues through which the Clintons and their causes have accepted financial support have provided a variety of ways for wealthy interests in the United States and abroad to build friendly relations with a potential future president," she notes.
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