Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary’s State Dept
David Sirota, IB Times, May 23 2015
Even by the standards of arms deals between Pindostan and Saudi Arabia, this one was enormous. A consortium of Pindo defense contractors led by Boeing would deliver $29b worth of advanced fighter jets to Pindostan’s oil-rich ally in the Middle East. Israeli officials were agitated, reportedly complaining to the Obama administration that this substantial enhancement to Saudi air power risked disrupting the region’s fragile balance of power. The deal appeared to collide with the State Dept’s documented concerns about the repressive policies of the Saudi royal family. But now, in late 2011, Hillary’s State Dept was formally clearing the sale, asserting that it was in the national interest. At a press conference in Washington to announce the department’s approval, Asst Sec State Andrew Shapiro declared that the deal had been “a top priority” for Clinton personally. Shapiro, a long-time aide to Clinton since her Senate days, added:
The USAF and the Pindo Army have excellent relationships in Saudi Arabia.
These were not the only relationships bridging leaders of the two nations. In the years before Hillary became Sec State, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10m to the Clinton Foundation. Just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing, the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15, contributed $900k to the Clinton Foundation, according to a company press release.
The Saudi deal was one of dozens of arms sales approved by Hillary’s State Dept that placed weapons in the hands of governments that had also donated money to the Clinton family philanthropic empire, an IB Times investigation has found. Under Hillary’s leadership, the State Dept approved $165b worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IB Times analysis of State Dept and foundation data. That figure, derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Sec State, from Oct 2010 to Sep 2012, represented nearly double the value of Pindo arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Dept during the same period of Bush 43’s second term. Hillary’s State Dept also authorized $151b of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143% increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House.
Pindo defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Sec State, and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements. Such firms and their subsidiaries were listed as contractors in $163b worth of Pentagon-negotiated deals that were authorized by Hillary’s State Dept between 2009 and 2012. The State Dept formally approved these arms sales even as many of the deals enhanced the military power of countries ruled by authoritarian regimes whose human rights abuses had been criticized by the department. Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Oman and Qatar all donated to the Clinton Foundation and also gained State Dept clearance to buy caches of Pindo-made weapons even as the same State Dept singled them out for a range of alleged ills from corruption to restrictions on civil liberties to violent crackdowns against political opponents.
As Sec State, Hillary also accused some of these countries of failing to marshal a serious and sustained campaign to confront terrorism. In a Dec 2009 State Dept cable published by Wikileaks, Hillary complained of “an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.” She declared that “Qatar’s overall level of CT cooperation with Pindostan is considered the worst in the region.” She said the Kuwaiti government was “less inclined to take action against Kuwait-based financiers and facilitators plotting attacks.” She noted that “UAE-based donors have provided financial support to a variety of terrorist groups.” All of these countries donated to the Clinton Foundation and received increased weapons export authorizations from Hillary’s State Dept. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Clinton Foundation did not respond to questions from the IB Times. In all, governments and corporations involved in the arms deals approved by Hillary’s State Dept have delivered between $54m and $141m to the Clinton Foundation as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the Clinton family, according to foundation and State Dept records. The Clinton Foundation publishes only a rough range of individual contributors’ donations, making a more precise accounting impossible.
Under federal law, foreign governments seeking State Dept clearance to buy Pindo-made arms are barred from making campaign contributions, a prohibition aimed at preventing foreign interests from using cash to influence national security policy. But nothing prevents them from contributing to a philanthropic foundation controlled by policy-makers. Just before Hillary Clinton became Sec State, the Clinton Foundation signed an agreement generally obligating it to disclose to the State Dept increases in contributions from its existing foreign government donors and any new foreign government donors. Those increases were to be reviewed by an official at the State Dept and “as appropriate” the White House counsel’s office. According to available disclosures, officials at the State Dept and White House raised no issues about potential conflicts related to arms sales. During Hillary Clinton’s 2009 Senate confirmation hearings, Senator Richard Lugar urged the Clinton Foundation to “forswear” accepting contributions from governments abroad, saying:
Foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the Sec State.
The Clintons did not take Lugar’s advice. In light of the weapons deals flowing to Clinton Foundation donors, advocates for limits on the influence of money on government action now argue that Lugar was prescient in his concerns. Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy group that seeks to tighten campaign finance disclosure rules, said:
The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation. This shows why having public officials, or even spouses of public officials, connected with these nonprofits is problematic.
Hillary Clinton’s willingness to allow those with business before the State Dept to finance her foundation heightens concerns about how she would manage such relationships as president, said Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics ( :lol: – RB). Lessig told IB Times:
These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment. Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?
National security experts assert that the overlap between the list of Clinton Foundation donors and those with business before the the State Dept presents a troubling conflict of interest. While governments and defense contractors may not have made donations to the Clinton Foundation exclusively to influence arms deals, they were clearly “looking to build up deposits in the ‘favor bank’ and to be well thought of,” said Gregory Suchan, a 34-year State Dept veteran who helped lead the agency’s oversight of arms transfers under the Bush 43 administration. As Hillary Clinton presses a campaign for the presidency, she has confronted sustained scrutiny into her family’s personal and philanthropic dealings, along with questions about whether their private business interests have colored her exercise of public authority. As IB Times previously reported, Clinton switched from opposing a Pindo free trade agreement with Colombia to supporting it after a Canadian energy and mining magnate with interests in that South American country contributed to the Clinton Foundation. IB Times’ review of the Clintons’ annual financial disclosures also revealed that 13 companies lobbying the State Dept paid Bill Clinton $2.5m in speaking fees while Hillary Clinton headed the agency.
Questions about the nexus of arms sales and Clinton Foundation donors stem from the State Dept’s role in reviewing the export of Pindo-made weapons. The agency is charged with both licensing direct commercial sales by Pindo defense contractors to foreign governments and also approving Pentagon-brokered sales to those governments. Those powers are enshrined in a federal law that specifically designates the Sec State as “responsible for the continuous supervision and general direction of sales” of arms, military hardware and services to foreign countries. In that role, Hillary Clinton was empowered to approve or reject deals for a broad range of reasons, from national security considerations to human rights concerns. The State Dept does not disclose which individual companies are involved in direct commercial sales, but its disclosure documents reveal that countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation saw a combined $75b increase in authorized commercial military sales under the three full fiscal years Clinton served, as compared to the first three full fiscal years of Bush 43’s second term.
The Clinton Foundation has not released an exact timetable of its donations, making it impossible to know whether money from foreign governments and defense contractors came into the organization before or after Hillary approved weapons deals that involved their interests. But news reports document that at least seven foreign governments that received State Dept clearance for Pindo arms did donate to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was serving as Sec State: Algeria, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Thailand, Norway and Australia. Under a presidential policy directive signed by Clinton 42 in 1995, the State Dept is supposed to specifically take human rights records into account when deciding whether to approve licenses enabling foreign governments to purchase military equipment and services from Pindo companies. Despite this, Hillary’s State Dept increased approvals of such sales to nations that her agency sharply criticized for systematic human rights abuses.
In its 2010 Human Rights Report, Hillary’s State Dept inveighed against Algeria’s government for imposing “restrictions on freedom of assembly and association” tolerating “arbitrary killing,” “widespread corruption,” and a “lack of judicial independence.” The report said the Algerian government “used security grounds to constrain freedom of expression and movement.” That year, the Algerian government donated $500k to the Clinton Foundation and its lobbyists met with the State Dept officials who oversee enforcement of human rights policies. Hillary’s State Dept the next year approved a one-year 70% increase in military export authorizations to the country. The increase included authorizations of almost 50,000 items classified as “toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents and associated equipment,” after the State Dept did not authorize the export of any of such items to Algeria in the prior year. During Hillary’s tenure, the State Dept authorized at least $2.4b of direct military hardware and services sales to Algeria, nearly triple such authorizations over the last full fiscal years during the Bush 43 administration. The Clinton Foundation did not disclose Algeria’s donation until this year, a violation of the ethics agreement it entered into with the Obama administration.
The monarchy in Qatar had similarly been chastised by the State Dept for a raft of human rights abuses. But that country donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was running the State Dept. During the three full budgetary years of her tenure, Qatar saw a 14-fold increase in State Dept authorizations for direct commercial sales of military equipment and services, as compared to the same time period in Bush’s second term. The department also approved the Pentagon’s separate $750m sale of multi-mission helicopters to Qatar. That deal would additionally employ as contractors three companies that have all supported the Clinton Foundation over the years: United Technologies, Lockheed Martin and General Electric. Clinton foundation donor countries that the State Dept criticized for human rights violations and that received weapons export authorizations did not respond to IB Times’ questions.
That group of arms manufacturers, along with Clinton Foundation donors Boeing, Honeywell, Hawker Beechcraft and their affiliates, were together listed as contractors in 114 such deals while Hillary was Sec State. NBC put Chelsea Clinton on its payroll as a network correspondent in Nov 2011, when it was still 49% owned by General Electric. A spokesperson for General Electric did not respond to questions from IB Times. The other companies all asserted that their donations had nothing to do with the arms export deals. Honeywell spokesperson Rob Ferris said:
Our contributions have aligned with our long-standing philanthropic commitments.
During her Senate confirmation proceedings in 2009, Hillary declared that she and her husband were “committed to ensuring that his work does not present a conflict of interest with the duties of Sec State.” She pledged “to protect against even the appearance of a conflict of interest between his work and the duties of the Sec State” and said:
In many, if not most cases, it is likely that the Foundation or President Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.
Even so, Bill Clinton took in speaking fees reaching $625k at events sponsored by entities that were dealing with Hillary’s State Dept on weapons issues. In 2011, for example, Bill was paid $175k by the Kuwait Pindostan Foundation to be the guest of honor and keynote speaker at its annual awards gala, which was held at the home of the Kuwaiti ambassador. Ben Affleck spoke at the event, which featured a musical performance by Grammy-award winner Michael Bolton. The gala was emceed by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe show. Boeing was listed as a sponsor of the event, as were the embassies of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, the latter two of which had donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Sec State. The speaking fee was paid in the same time frame as a series of deals Hillary’s State Dept was approving between the Kuwaiti government and Boeing. Months before the gala, the DoD announced that Boeing would be the prime contractor on a $693m deal, cleared by Hillary’s State Dept, to provide the Kuwaiti government with military transport aircraft. A year later, a group sponsored in part by Boeing would pay Bill another $250k speaking fee. Gordon Johndroe, a Boeing spokesperson, told IB Times:
Boeing has sponsored this major travel event, the Global Business Travel Association, for several years, regardless of its invited speakers. Boeing’s support for the Clinton Foundation is a transparent act of compassion and an investment aimed at aiding the long-term interests and hopes of the Haitian people.
Boeing was one of three companies that helped deliver money personally to Bill while benefiting from weapons authorizations issued by Hillary’s State Dept. The others were Lockheed and Goldman Sachs. Lockheed is a member of the Pindosi Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, which paid Bill $250k to speak at an event in 2010. Three days before the speech, Hillary’s State Dept approved two weapons export deals in which Lockheed was listed as the prime contractor. Over the course of 2010, Lockheed was a contractor on 17 Pentagon-brokered deals that won approval from the State Dept. Lockheed told IB Times that its support for the Clinton Foundation started in 2010, while Hillary was Sec State. Company spokesperson Katherine Trinidad said:
Lockheed Martin has periodically supported one individual membership in the Clinton Global Initiative since 2010. Membership benefits included attendance at CGI annual meetings, where we participated in working groups focused on STEM, workforce development and advanced manufacturing.
In Apr 2011, Goldman Sachs paid Bill $200k to speak to “approximately 250 high-level clients and investors” in New York, according to State Dept records obtained by Judicial Watch. Two months later, the State Dept approved a $675m foreign military sale involving Hawker Beechcraft, a company that was then part-owned by Goldman Sachs. As part of the deal, Hawker Beechcraft would provide support to the government of Iraq to maintain a fleet of aircraft used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Goldman Sachs has also contributed at least $250k to the Clinton Foundation, according to donation records. Andrew Williams, a spokesperson for Goldman Sachs, said:
There is absolutely no connection among all the points that you have raised regarding our firm.
Federal records show that ethics staffers at the State Dept approved the payments to Bill from Goldman Sachs, and the Lockheed- and Boeing-sponsored groups, without objection even though the firms had major stakes in the agency’s weapons export decisions. Stephen Walt, a Harvard University professor of international affairs, told IB Times:
The intertwining financial relationships between the Clintons, defense contractors and foreign governments seeking weapons approvals is a vivid example of a very big problem: the degree to which conflicts of interest have become endemic. It has troubled me all along that the Clinton Foundation was not being more scrupulous about who it would take money from and who it wouldn’t. Pindo foreign policy is better served if people responsible for it are not even remotely suspected of having these conflicts of interest. When George Marshall was Sec State, nobody was worried about whether or not he would be distracted by donations to a foundation or to himself. This wasn’t an issue. And that was probably better.