Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Clinton Cash by Peter Schweizer (Book Review #74 of 2015)

Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich
I finished Clinton Inc. by Daniel Halper before starting Clinton Cash by Peter Schweizer. I found Clinton Cash to be much more succinct, intelligent, and factually accurate as the author investigates financial records and the timing of Sen. Clinton's meetings, votes, and policy changes when she was at the State Department. Clinton, Inc. is a much longer view of the lives of the Clintons, is less precise in its focus, and definitely biased in its commentary. The author focuses less on their actual income and business dealings than Clinton Cash does so the title is sort of a misnomer. I recommend the latter highly over the former. (I have also read Hillary's previous two memoirs and two other books written about her, so I'm not approaching these books ignorantly.) It has influenced how I may vote.

Schweizer opens the book with a disclaimer: just as insider trading on Wall Street is difficult to prove, so is proving the timing of political donations with political decisions, events, and voting records. Correlation does not equal causality, but if one lays out the facts a particular pattern may emerge. Schweizer detects suspicious behavior while looking at Hillary Clinton's public schedule as a Senator and Secretary of State to that of Bill Clinton as he traveled the world giving speeches and arranging various business deals and donations for his charity. There are times where Clinton is being paid large speaking fees in a country at the exact instant that the Secretary of State is meeting with someone influential in bringing him to that country. You can argue with the analysis but it's harder to argue with the facts as they're laid out.

The major question the book raises is: Why doesn't the Clintons' foundation just forswear foreign donations or disband its operations while Hillary was Secretary of State or running for President? That would seem to eliminate any conflict of interests and the possibility of foreign money being seen as influencing political decisions. Since it didn't, the paper trail suggests that billions of dollars flowing in from foreigners indeed affected U.S. policymaking through Hillary (both in the Senate and the Cabinet) whose family's livelihood outside of office is maintained by the income they receive from the charity. If Saudis, Russians, etc. want to fund relief or other chartieis why don't they just give money directly to their own charities or directly to the foundations on the ground instead of using CGI as a middleman? It certainly would be more efficient...

Similarly, the Clintons earn income from this charity, which anyone can donate to. How is this not a way to circumvent campaign finance rules in the U.S.-- anyone can donate as much as they want as a tax write-off?  Schweizer notes a correlation between the reported inflow of donations from the U.S. and abroad just as Hillary makes the announcement she's running for President.

Another important question is: Why is no one calling the Clintons on the carpet about not upholding the Memorandum of Understanding to disclose all foreign donations to the Clinton charity while Hillary was Secretary of State? Schweizer gives plenty of alarming evidence of laxness in this area.

Schweizer begins with Clinton leaving office in 2001, when he issued a last-minute pardon for Mark Rich immediately after Rich and his wife made huge donations to Hillary's campaign, the Democratic Party, and the Clinton Foundation/library. This stunned and outraged even staunch Clinton supporters at the time but seems forgotten today. Clinton later wrote an op-ed in the NY Times explaining the pardon only to have the NY Times publish several corrections of factual innaccuracies of the piece the next day.

Rich continued to benefit via the Clinton Global Initiative. Glencore, his commodities and mining company, had interests in Kazakhstan along with Bill Clinton's CGI partner Frank Giustra. Giustra, looking to seal a deal in Kazakhstan takes Clinton there to meet President Nazarbayev, who gives his blessing for Giustra to acquire a stake in a state-run mining company, which makes him much richer, for which he rewards Clinton with a huge donation. Clinton later sends a congratulatory letter to the dictator Nazarbayev for a rigged 91% election victory. Sen. Hillary Clinton, previously critical of Nazarbayev, is suddenly absent for a hearing on which she was to help decide whether Kazakhstan could join the OSCE, something Nazarbayev had strongly desired. Bill Clinton later has a mysterious business meeting with a member of the Kazakh mining outfit that he and Giustra deny until the press get clear pictures and the cover is blown. Here's a timeline of some of these events.

What gets shadier is when a Russian oligarch moves to buy a majority stake in the outfit, which Guistra sold to a South African firm, while simultaneously making large donations to the Clinton charity. Hillary is by then Secretary of State, and the State Department has the authority to approve or deny the deal on national security grounds, since the consortium would own shares in uranium mines in the U.S. and could supply that uranium to China or elsewhere that the U.S. may not be comfortable with. Bill Clinton makes expensive speeches in Moscow in June 2010 sponsored by an investment bank that had an interest in the deal just before the State Department, as part of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, signs off on the acquisition. Investors in that company gave the Clinton Foundation $145 million. Just a coincidence, really? Here's an NY Times timeline of the above as well: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/04/23/us/clinton-foundation-donations-uranium-investors.html?_r=0

Borrowing from this website: http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/04/23/clinton-cash-more-names-revealed-of-foundation-donors-who-benefited-from-hillarys-state-department/
In addition to Giustra, Clinton Cash reveals—and the New York Times confirms—a host of Clinton Foundation donors were connected to the uranium deal, including:
Frank Holmes, a shareholder in the deal who donated between $250,000 and $500,000 (the Clinton Foundation doesn’t report exact amounts, only in ranges) and is a Clinton Foundation adviser
Neil Woodyer, Frank Giustra’s colleague who founded Endeavor Financial and pledged $500,000 as well as promises of “ongoing financial support”
Robert Disbrow, a Haywood Securities broker, the firm that provided “$58 million in capital to float shares of UrAsia’s private placement,” gave the Clinton’s family foundation between $1 and $5 million, according to Clinton Cash
Paul Reynolds, a Canaccord Capital Inc., executive who donated between $1 million and $5 million. “The UrAsia deal was the largest in Canaccord’s history,” reports Schweizer
GMP Securities Ltd., a UrAsia Energy shareholder that pledged to donate a portion of its profits to the Clinton Foundation
Robert Cross, a major shareholder who serves as UrAsia Energy Director who pledged portions of his future income to the Clinton Foundation
Egizio Blanchini, “the Capital Markets vice chair and Global cohead of BMO’s Global Metals and Mining group, had also been an underwriter on the mining deals. BMO paid $600,000 for two tables at the CGS-GI’s March 2008 benefit”
Sergei Kurzin, the Russian rainmaker involved in the Kazakhstan uranium deal and a shareholder in UrAsia Energy, also pledged $1 million to the Foundation
Uranium One chairman Ian Telfer committed $2.35 million

CGI has also collected millions in donations from India and Indian-American entrepreneurs, many of which the Clintons failed to disclose. 75% of donations to CGI are over $1 million and most come from abroad. Schweizer walks through some of those Indian connections in detail, coinciding with the same time that Hillary reverses her position on India's nuclear program.

In Hillary's memoir, she writes of expanding USAID and partnering with the Clinton Foundation to help sponsor entrepreneurship abroad. That is laudable, but Schweizer notes several Clinton cronies and friends who were given positions in USAID that they may not have been qualified for.

There are also chapters on Africa and South America that outline the murky trails of money and dictators. The State Department began loosening its classification of Nigerian corruption at the same time other international indices showed corruption worsening, all while Nigerian barons were making large donations to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary opposed the Columbian Free Trade Agreement until Bill began to get big fees there. Hillary never completely reversed on the deal during the 2008 presidential campaign but Columbia chose to criticize Obama's position instead of Hillary's.

Perhaps the Clinton Global Initiative's work in Haiti has come under the most media scrutiny. Schweizer notes various Freedom of Information requests that eventually pried open the deals sealed with agencies rebuilding infrastructure, many were paid prices well above market rates an in a very untransparent manner. The worst is the exclusive mining permit issued to a company that put Hillary's brother on its board apparently just to get the deal, something that the Clintons were less-than-forthright about. This politico piece has a summary including investigating some aspects reported by Clinton Cash that is worth reading: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/05/clinton-foundation-haiti-117368

It's troubling that the Clintons have not fully managed the above, but most of the news spin is now focused on Hillary's private email server. That seems trivial compared to the billions in "donations" that Clinton Inc. traces. I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5.

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