Hillary Clinton

The 'Clinton System' of Selling Access to Bad Guys

NYRoB article details the power couple's dirty-Davos-style fundraising machinery


In: Having Bill do influence-peddling for the shitty president of Kazakhstan. Out: Allowing this movie to be aired on cable before an election. ||| Citizens United
Citizens United

One of the many ironies of Hillary Clinton campaigning heavily on her opposition to the Supreme Court's 5-4 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in 2010 is that the Clinton family's money machine, through her political activities and also the nonprofit Clinton Foundation, are arguably far more murky, extensive, and potentially corrupting than any other candidate's campaign-finance operation.

The overlaps and potential conflicts of interest between the foundation and Hillary's turn as secretary of state are large enough to account for their own journalistic sub-genre; here's one follow-the-money exercise from the Washington Post, and a quick interpretative column by Steve Chapman. To that add this big new pile from Simon Head at The New York Review of Books, which does not prove that Secretary Clinton based her decisions on Clinton Foundation fundraising, but rather tosses out a series of large juxtapositions designed to make you go hmmm:

During Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, US defense corporations and their overseas clients also contributed between $54 and $141 million to the Clinton Foundation. (Because the foundation discloses a range of values within which the contributions of particular donors might fall, only minimum and maximum estimates can be given.) In the same period, these US defense corporations and their overseas government clients also paid a total of $625,000 to Bill Clinton in speaking fees.

In March 2011, for example, Bill Clinton was paid $175,000 by the Kuwait America Foundation to be the guest of honor and keynote speaker at its annual Washington gala. Among the sponsors were Boeing and the government of Kuwait, through its Washington embassy. Shortly before, the State Department, under Hillary Clinton, had authorized a $693 million deal to provide Kuwait with Boeing's Globemaster military transport aircraft. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton had the statutory duty to rule on whether proposed arms deals with foreign governments were in the US's national interest.

Further research done by Sirota and Perez of International Business Times and based on US government and Clinton Foundation data shows that during her term the State Department authorized $165 billion in commercial arms sales to twenty nations that had given money to the Clinton Foundation. These include the governments of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Algeria, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, all of whose records on human rights had been criticized by the State Department itself. During Hillary Clinton's years as secretary of state, arms sales to the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation ran at nearly double the value of sales to the same nations during George W. Bush's second term. There was also an additional $151 billion worth of armaments sold to sixteen nations that had donated funds to the Clinton Foundation; these were deals organized by the Pentagon but which could only be completed with Hillary Clinton's authorization as secretary of state. They were worth nearly one and a half times the value of equivalent sales during Bush's second term.

There's so much data and activity here that it can make your eyes glaze over, which may be the point—no use having one or two big potential conflicts of interest when you can get away with 20 or 200. But even in a world where all of this stuff is and should be legal, and where the juxtapositions are just coincidences, the milieu that it depicts is a foul-smelling crony capitalism factory by which the corrupt one percent of the one percent of the one percent try to exchange their bottomless dollars for even more precious access to Western respectability.

Take this NYRoB example of how a Canadian oil tycoon and the lousy president of illiberal Kazakhstan consummated their relationship at the altar of Bill Clinton, to the detriment of those who would prefer multilateral institutions to be free of tinpot tyrants:

You stay classy, Bill Clinton! ||| Reuters

Among the most important, and lucrative, business friendships the Clintons have formed through the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiatives has been that with Canadian energy billionaire Frank Giustra. A major donor to the foundation for many years, Giustra became a member of its board and since 2007 has been co-sponsor of the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, or CGGI. In turn, Bill Clinton's political influence and personal contacts with foreign heads of state have been crucial to Giustra's international business interests.

In September 2005, Bill Clinton and Giustra travelled to Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan, to meet with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. At their meeting Clinton told Nazarbayev that he would support Kazakhstan's bid to become chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE is a body with the responsibility for verifying, among other things, the fairness of elections among member states. According to multiple sources, including the BBC, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, Nazarbayev coveted this position for Kazakhstan, primarily as a mark of European diplomatic respectability for his country and himself.

Clinton's endorsement of the Kazakh bid was truly bizarre in view of Kazakhstan's ranking by Transparency International as among the most corrupt countries in the world—126th, on a par with Pakistan, Belarus, and Honduras. Freedom House in New York judges Kazakhstan to be "not free," with Nazarbayev clocking up Soviet-era margins of victory of 90 percent or more in Kazakh presidential elections. Yet in a December 2005 letter to Nazarbayev following one of his landslide victories, Bill Clinton wrote: "Recognizing that your work has received an excellent grade is one of the most important rewards in life." It is unclear what influence, if any, Bill Clinton's support for Nazarbayev may have had in Kazakhstan's efforts to lead the OSCE, but in 2007, after the United States gave its backing to the bid, Kazakhstan was chosen as the next chair of the OSCE, a position it assumed in 2010.

Possible reasons for Clinton's support become clearer when we scrutinize the activities of Frank Giustra. In a January 31, 2008 article in The New York Times, Jo Becker and Don Van Natta, Jr., provided detailed evidence that Nazarbayev brought his influence to bear to enable Giustra to beat out better-qualified competitors for a stake in Kazakhstan's uranium mines worth $350 million. In an interview with the TimesMoukhtar Dzakishev, then chair of the state-owned nuclear holding company Kazatomprom, confirmed that Giustra had met with Nazarbayev in Almaty, that Giustra had told the dictator he was trying to do business with Kazatomprom, and that he was told in return, "Very good, go to it."

The deal was closed within forty-eight hours of Clinton's departure from Almaty. Following this successful visit to Central Asia, Giustra donated $31 million to the Clinton Foundation. He then made a further donation of $100 million to the foundation in June 2008.

In an interview with David Remnick for a September 2006 New Yorker profile on Clinton's post-presidency, Giustra described how his ties to Clinton could work for him and his interests. With Bill Clinton at that moment riding aboard his private executive jet for a journey across Africa ("complete with leather furniture and a stateroom," according to The New Yorker), Giustra told Remnick that "all of my chips, almost, are on Bill Clinton. He's a brand, a worldwide brand, and he can do things and ask for things that no one else can."

Gee, I wonder why a surprising number of Democrats are flocking to an idealistic geezer who actually believes that stuff about money corrupting politics? You don't have to agree with Bernie Sanders on that point to conclude that, at minimum, the Clintons' fundraising machinery has been unseemly, and worthy of several yellow flags. What did you do in the private sector, mommy and daddy? Oh, you know, for-hire favors for the president of Kazakhstan, that kind of thing.

NEXT: Donald Trump Is #NoLabels On Mushrooms

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  1. What difference at this point does it make?

    1. That joke is going to get very old over the course of the next 8 years…

      1. What difference at any of those points will it make?

      2. It will the welcoming sign over the gulag gates.

  2. It’s a woman’s turn to finally be in charge of the shitshow.

  3. Quantity is its own quality — Stalin, probably among a zillion others

  4. She absolutely monetized U.S. Foreign Policy and laundered the money through their institution. It is a macro version of Teapot Dome, Abscam (if it wasn’t a sting), and every other government bribery scheme ever.

    Hillary is the queen of all corrupt politicians.

  5. A few random coincidences do not a conspiracy make. Why do you hate the American rags-to-riches dream, Matt?

  6. Microsoft has, rumor has it, already declared Hillary the winner in Iowa. Have they even started tallying the votes yet?

    1. They finished tallying the “votes” that matter some time ago.

  7. Matt:
    1.) Thank you for not posting another dratted article about Trump.

    2.) Loved this article; blatant corruption needs to be fought tooth and nail.

    3.) Since you are taking on the Clinton machine with this kind of writing, had to play this just for fun.

    1. blatant corruption needs to be fought tooth and nail

      I thought corruption makes us freer?

    2. Fitting, since he’s probably going to come out of it looking like Rocky at the end of that movie.

  8. Further research done by Sirota and Perez of International Business Times and based on US government and Clinton Foundation data shows that during her term the State Department authorized $165 billion in commercial arms sales to twenty nations that had given money to the Clinton Foundation.

    I’m really curious about

    1) How many sales there were to countries that didn’t donate
    2) How many sales were denied to countries that did donate
    3) How many donations were made by countries that didn’t need something from the State Department
    4) How these compare to statistics from before and after she was Secretary of State

    1. Keep in mind that while all of that was going on her boss, the president, said and did nothing. He turned a blind eye. Now he seems to be running interference for her.

      Was appointing her and letting her get her snout in the trough some kind of ‘stay out of my way and don’t make trouble’ deal from Obumbles?

      1. Keep in mind that while all of that was going on her boss, the president, said and did nothing. He turned a blind eye. Now he seems to be running interference for her.

        Everyone has their price. I suspect he’s getting paid handsomely to look the other way.

        1. I doubt he was even aware of it until recently. He’s a newcomer to the political scene with a lot to learn.

          1. How could he have found out about it? It’s barely been in the newspapers at all.

          2. +1 “wait until Comrade Stalin hears of this”

  9. So, every single bit of corruption and conflict of interest that the left accused Dick Cheney of for 8 years, Hillary and Bill are actually guilty of committing?

    1. hmmm. tryng really hard to live up to their reputation (on less liberal parts of the internet) for projecting themselves onto (into?) their republican cartoons.

  10. “At their meeting Clinton told Nazarbayev that he would support Kazakhstan’s bid to become chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)…Clinton’s endorsement of the Kazakh bid was truly bizarre in view of Kazakhstan’s ranking by Transparency International as among the most corrupt countries in the world?126th, on a par with Pakistan, Belarus, and Honduras.”

    Also, maybe this is a dumb question, but…is Kazakhstan even considered Europe? It borders China. Wikipedia calls it a central Asian country.

    This didn’t raise any eyebrows at the time?

    1. If that bothers you, let me tell you about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization…

      1. I thought about NATO after posting. But at least NATO was originally, mostly, countries on the North Atlantic, sort of.

    2. I think they get grandfathered in to Europe because they were part of the Soviet Union, and because the OSCE is a tool to pry them away from Russia.

  11. ” US defense corporations and their overseas government clients

    while i don’t want to take away from from the very good work journalists do helping document the monumental conflict-of-interest the Clinton Foundation has been involved in….

    …you have to be extremely skeptical of any of these types of ‘guilt-by-association’ arguments which attribute monolithic motives to disparate groups/institutions.

    I have no doubt that the Sauds, Kuwaitis etc. dumped millions into the Clinton foundation. I have no doubt defense contractors did the same. I don’t doubt that sometimes their interests overlapped. Yet i still don’t think it makes much sense to describe them both as some monolithic group involved in one-dimensional activities. I just find myself reading a sentence like that and going, “What does that really mean?”. You might as well be saying, “McDonalds..and its millions of customers”…. are involved in some coordinated Anti-Vegan effort.

    That said… Arms-sales are often themselves just a back-door means to gain institutional goodwill with politicians.

    i.e. international “bribes”. Its often not about the “weapons” really.

    I don’t think the Saudis buy US arms because they want to be super-well-prepared in the event of some military conflict. I actually think the saudis spend billions with US arms suppliers mainly so they never have to fight their own wars at all. Their goal isn’t to own “weapons”, their goal is to own “relationships”.

    1. …as an example of the last point –

      Someone recently pointed out re: the release of Iran’s “$500bn”… ($150bn, plus future installments) …

      …that most of that money was going to immediately come right back to the P5+1 nations. Especially the ones that can be relied upon to offset the predictable US-congress moaning about their obvious non-compliance.

      Because how better to guarantee the toothlessness of any future sanctions threats? Make sure that your regulator’s constituents are making money and don’t want to see business interfered with.

    2. That was sort of why I asked the questions up above. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if these deals were as shady as they seem, but I also suspect that there is so much money flying around, and so many deals that need brokered by State or some other agency, that the appearance of corruption is almost par for the course. Which is yet another indictment against the whole damn system.

      1. right. its especially hard to distinguish “run of the mill” corruption in international affairs… from the extra-special Clintonian corruption, which added an additional dimension of scumbaggery and favor-selling.

        It unfortunately requires some intimacy with the issue, and given the attention span of most audiences…. it easily gets dismissed the same way that Hillary has pretended “Every Secretary of State Used Personal Email!!”

        (*when that’s of course not the ‘accusation’ at all = its not that she ‘used personal email’ – its that she used it *exclusively*, and did so with the express purpose of avoiding federal transparency/security requirements)

        the same defense will apply here when broad-brush accusations are made. There’s always stuff that ‘appears’ unseemly. And maybe much of it actually is. The only way to really nail people on this stuff is when you have clear tit-for-tat/quid pro quo relationships. trying to tarnish her by suggesting that the ‘Defense industry’ was a corrupting influence is too vague and too common an occurrence in international relations.

        1. I agree with this, as I hope is made clear in my wording of the post. Though I have heard people declare the truth of quid-pro-quo in Clinton-lands (meaning, Foundation receipts dictated Hillary’s gubmint behavior), I haven’t yet been convinced by any proof of that.

          1. yeah, i wasn’t picking on you, just the opening phrasing of the guy quoted at the NYRB

  12. Totally OT, but the bonds people form with their pets is really something else. It can be so bittersweet.

    1. Is there a backstory I was not made aware of?

      1. Not especially. We did had to take our cat to the emergency vet the other night…probably just a stomach infection, but it was scary. Then that brought up thoughts of our previous cat.

        And I just saw an older guy in our neighborhood walking his equally old dog (as he always does). As far as I can tell he lives alone, and the dog is definitely not in the best of shape. You can’t help but get the sense that there is a strong but ultimately temporary bond there, which is beautiful and sad.

        Those two things go together so often.

        /wipes spec of dust from eye

        1. My (really, my parents’) dog is getting up there. He just turned 14. My brother has the same type of dog, but a year older, and he can’t afford the same kind of meds and support as ours. I saw his dog again this Christmas, and the poor guy is basically done for. He’s mostly blind, his hind legs don’t really let him sit down, all he can muster is to waddle around and be petted. My parents and I agreed that they ought to say their goodbyes and put him down; he just appears so miserable.

          Now I’m thinking about that possibility for our dog, and how soon it might happen. He rebounded in some ways over the past few months – they finally figured out his gut problems – but his arthritis is getting worse, and he’s clearly losing his hearing and vision. The terrier I thought would easily live to be 18 may not have much of a life by 16. I think we’re all resolved that, if he’s suffering, we’ll put him down early. And I’ve accepted that.

          …But gah it sucks. I really hate the idea of letting him go, especially “early.”

  13. Just think what the liberals would say if “The Rand Paul Foundation” engaged in the same activities as the Clinton Foundation. They would label him probably worse than the Kochtopus.

    Tyrants, dictators, and despits are Ok though. Because that’s what every liberal dreams of either themselves or their slavers being anyway, as their policies require force, theft and coercion.

  14. I do love David Burge’s line:

    Ford Foundation: gives away Henry Ford’s money.
    Gates Foundation: gives away Bill Gates’ money.
    Clinton Foundation: gives Clintons money.

    But the alt-text is good.

    1. Iowahawk is a national treasure.

  15. There is no conflict when everyone pays and everyone plays.

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