Tangled Clinton Web: Foundation received millions from investors as Russia acquired part of US uranium reserves
The relationship between former President Bill Clinton and a group of wealthy Canadian mining investors who made significant contributions to the Clinton family’s foundation has come under scrutiny after their uranium company ended up in the hands of the Russians.
That deal, which gave the Russians access to part of the U.S. uranium reserves, all started with Bill Clinton’s dealings with friend Frank Giustra.
Peter Schweizer, author of the forthcoming book, “Clinton Cash,” that details family foundation donations and alleged favors, told Fox News that Clinton traveled in 2005 to Kazakhstan, where Giustra, a Canadian investor, was trying to “get control to buy a couple of uranium mines.” “And he became, really, partners, in a way, with Bill Clinton– working on philanthropic activities,” he said.
At the same time, Schweizer said, “Giustra has been involved in helping to facilitate speaking engagements — for the Clintons.”
New York Times reporter Jo Becker, who spent months investigating the deal before publishing a story Thursday, said Guistra and Clinton were both “whisked to the [palace] of President Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan, and it’s a fascinating story, because everybody walked away from the table that night with something.”
Clinton, Becker said, “basically endorsed” the “progress” Kazakhstan had made on its democracy, though Nazarbayev was elected “with 90 percent-plus of the vote … in an election that was widely criticized as being rigged.”
Schweizer said Clinton even held a press conference with the president and praised his human rights record.
In the end, Giustra got what he wanted.
“The bottom line is after they leave, a couple of days later, Frank Giustra gets his uranium concessions, which end up being enormously lucrative to him and to a small group of Canadian mining investors,” Schweizer said.
Becker said his company went from “a worthless shell company overnight — became this …huge uranium mining deal.”
And then soon after that, Becker said, “Bill Clinton got a huge donation, $31 million from Frank Guistra to his charitable foundation, followed by a pledge to donate $100 million more.”
Call by Fox News to the Kazakhstan Embassy were not returned.
Reached for comment, Giustra told Fox News he considers this an old story, and he’s not interested in politics.
Meanwhile, his defenders insist that no undue influence was exerted in Kazakhstan because the deal did not require the Kazakh government’s approval.
However, Schweizer said, corporate records “indicate very, very clearly that the Kazakh government did have to sign off and approve.”
This includes, he said, a memorandum of understanding from 2005 “between the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan and Kazatomprom, which is the atomic agency in Kazakh government, so there’s no way that they can argue the Kazakh government was not a party to these negotiations.”
The story doesn’t end there.
According to Schweizer, Kazakh officials wanted to take an equity stake in Westinghouse, a U.S. company that works in the civilian nuclear field.
That would require a review by the U.S. government.
So the potential investors came to America to see the man who could make things happen.
Becker said Guistra arranged for Kazatomprom officials to go to Clinton’s house in New York.
“When I first contacted both the Clinton Foundation, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman, and Mr. Guistra, they denied any such meeting ever took place,” Becker said. “And then, when we told them, ‘Well, we’d already talked to the head of Kazatomprom,’ who not only told us all about the meeting, but actually has a picture of him and Bill at the home in Chappaqua, you know, and that he proudly displayed … on his office wall, they then acknowledged that, yes, the meeting had taken place.”
So what happened to Giustra’s company that benefited from that deal in Kazakhstan? After a merger, it became a uranium giant called Uranium One.
And then, the Russians bought it. That’s where the American uranium comes into play.
“Uranium One became very active in acquiring uranium assets actually in the United States itself by 2008, 2009, they were a particularly attractive target for the Russian government,” Schweizer said.
And the Russians acquired that target — acquiring what would amount to 50 percent of projected uranium output by 2015.
In other words, Russia now controls what was projected to be up to half of America’s uranium.
Calls by Fox News to Uranium One were not immediately returned.
Meanwhile, former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton factors into that deal.
According to Schweizer, in order for that deal to go through, it needs federal U.S. government approval.
“And one of those people that has to approve that deal is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,” Schweizer said.
On Thursday, the Clinton camp pushed back. Campaign spokesman Brian Fallon issued this statement:
“No one has produced a shred of evidence that Hillary Clinton ever took action as Secretary of State in order to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation. To suggest the State Department, under then-Secretary Clinton, exerted undue influence in the U.S. government’s review of the sale of Uranium One is utterly baseless. It mischaracterizes the nature of the State Department’s participation in such reviews, and also ignores the range of other regulatory agencies that ultimately supported this sale. It is impossible to view this allegation as anything other than just another in the many partisan conspiracy theories advanced in the Clinton Cashbook.”
Schweizer told Fox News that when Clinton was the senator from New York, she objected to a foreign government owning U.S. ports and pointed to the serious implications of the Russians getting uranium.
“We’re talking about things that related to the nuclear industry. We’re talking about the Russian government,” he said, noting Russia already provides equipment to Iran.
Further, he said the Clinton Foundation was receiving “tens of millions of dollars from shareholders in Uranium One who wanted the Russian government to acquire them because it would be a financial landfall.”
In the end, a Russian company, essentially controlled by Vladimir Putin, will now be in charge of a substantial portion of American uranium.
Given that Russia sends uranium to its client state, Iran, American uranium could well be sent to the very nation the Obama administration is now negotiating with to try to slow its ability to develop a nuclear weapon.
For Clintons, speech income shows how their wealth is intertwined with charity
Bill Clinton was paid at least $26 million in speaking fees by companies and organizations that are also major donors to the foundation he created after leaving the White House, according to a Washington Post analysis of public records and foundation data.
The amount, about one-quarter of Clinton’s overall speaking income between 2001 and 2013, demonstrates how closely intertwined Bill and Hillary Clinton’s charitable work has become with their growing personal wealth.
The Clintons’ relationships with major funders present an unusual political challenge for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Now that she has formally entered the presidential race, the family may face political pressure and some legal requirements to provide further details of their personal finances and those of the foundation, giving voters a clearer view of the global network of patrons that have supported the Clintons and their work over the past 15 years.
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. The flow of money also gives political opponents an opportunity to argue that Hillary Clinton would face potential conflicts of interest should she win the White House. Though she did not begin delivering paid speeches or join the foundation until 2013, upon ending her tenure as secretary of state, the proceeds from her husband’s work benefited them both.
Bill Clinton was paid more than $100 million for speeches between 2001 and 2013, according to federal financial disclosure forms filed by Hillary Clinton during her years as a senator and as secretary of state.
A spokesman for Bill Clinton declined to comment on the overlap between speech sponsors and foundation donors, saying only that the former president’s speaking schedule has been largely consistent since he left the White House.
Craig Minassian, a spokesman for the foundation, said it makes sense that supporters of the foundation would also be eager to hear from the former president.
“It’s not surprising that organizations who believe strongly in the Clinton Foundation’s mission and are impressed by its results are genuinely interested in President Clinton’s perspective,” Minassian said. “The president often says the foundation is his life today, and he welcomes any opportunity to educate people about it and encourage more people to work together to solve some of the most critical global challenges we all face.”
The Post analysis shows that, among the approximately 420 organizations that paid Bill Clinton to speak during those years, 67 were also foundation donors that each gave the charity at least $10,000.
Many of those funders were major financial institutions that are viewed suspiciously by liberals whom Clinton has been courting as she seeks to secure the Democratic nomination — and avoid a vigorous primary challenge from the populist left.
Four major financial firms — Goldman Sachs, Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup — collectively have given between $2.75 million and $11.5 million to the charity, which is now called the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Between 2001 and 2013, their combined speech payments to Bill Clinton came to more than $3 million.
The Post analysis also revealed aspects of Bill Clinton’s paid speaking career during Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department that were not clear from her public filings.
●The role played by dozens of companies and organizations, some of them associated with foreign governments or with interests before the U.S. government, in serving as secondary hosts for a number of the speeches. In her filings, Hillary Clinton typically disclosed only the primary sponsor of each speech.
One such “sub-sponsor” was Boeing, a major government contractor whose interests Hillary Clinton promoted in her official duties at the State Department.
●Four speeches delivered by Bill Clinton did not appear in Hillary Clinton’s filings. One such speech was a 2012 address to an annual meeting of the Carlyle Group, a politically connected private-equity firm.
A spokesman for Bill Clinton’s office said the former president at times spoke to benefit the foundation, which would not trigger a disclosure requirement for Hillary Clinton. None of the four speech sponsors are listed as foundation donors. The spokesman said the proceeds were classified as non-tax-deductible revenue — not donations.
The Clintons’ finances have already become a political flash point with the much-anticipated release next month of a new book examining the foundation and the family’s personal wealth. The Clinton campaign has dismissed “Clinton Cash,” written by conservative author Peter Schweizer, as a partisan attack.
The Post received a copy of the manuscript after signing a non-disclosure agreement with publisher HarperCollins. This article is based on reporting and documents collected independently from Schweizer’s book.
The foundation itself has also emerged as an issue. In recent weeks, some Democrats have expressed anxiety about the foundation’s receipt of millions of dollars in donations from foreign governments while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. Records show that the foundation accepted contributions from seven foreign governments during that time, including one donation that the foundation has acknowledged violated an ethics agreement with the Obama administration designed to limit new foreign-government donors.
Clinton aides have said the foundation goes beyond legal requirements and industry standards in its transparency. Its Web site lists donors and their contribution amounts, expressed in ranges.
It is not unusual for former presidents to boost their income through an active schedule of paid lectures; records show Bill Clinton has often shared the stage with former president George W. Bush or delivered speeches in front of groups that had previously hosted Bush or his father, former president George H.W. Bush.
Clinton has been in particular demand as a speaker because of his renowned oratory and growing popularity in post-presidential life, partly based on the widely respected work of the foundation. Speech organizers, which have included universities, charities and major lecture series, report that the former president is a major draw and that he often boosts attendance for annual events.
What sets the Clintons apart is the vast reach of their donor network and the extent to which they have tapped it for the broad range of their personal, political and charitable work.
The Post’s analysis, based on foundation disclosures, State Department documents, financial filings and other records, shows that the lines between Clinton’s paid speeches and his work for the foundation often blurred as he traveled the world promoting the charity and reaping millions in payments.
Technology companies Microsoft and Cisco Systems, for instance, donated at least $1 million each to the foundation. The two companies paid Bill Clinton a total of $1.02 million in speaking fees for a series of lectures.
In September 2012, the Italian fitness equipment company Technogym paid Bill Clinton $500,000 for a speech in the northern Italian city of Cesena at a conference devoted to “creating a better and more sustainable world through people’s health,” according to financial disclosures and documents Bill Clinton’s office submitted to the State Department.
Technogym, which has also given between $25,000 and $50,000 to the foundation, reported in a news release that the speech came about in part because of the foundation’s work fighting childhood obesity.
Clinton spent much of his remarks discussing the work of the foundation to improve global health and comparing it to efforts by the company and its affiliated charity to promote the same ideas. “So I’m very interested in all these things that the Wellness Foundation and that this conference and that Technogym does — because we are trying to do this,” Clinton said, according to a YouTube video of his remarks.
Technogym did not respond to a request for comment.
The intermingling of foundation and paid work was also apparent earlier that year when Bill Clinton addressed an advertising festival in Cannes, France.
Grupo ABC, a major Brazilian advertising company, paid Bill Clinton $450,000 for the June 2012 appearance. Foundation records show that the firm has given the charity between $1.5 million and $6 million.
Excerpts from the event posted on YouTube show that Clinton was introduced with a video devoted to the work of the charity. “I personally believe that if the American people give you the honor of serving them, you should keep doing it after you leave office,” Clinton says in the video.
State Department records show that Bill Clinton gave a speech and participated in a moderated question-and-answer session in Cannes for 1,000 advertising employees and then attended a reception for 75 at a luxury hotel.
Grupo ABC spokesman Sergio Malbergier said the company has worked with a series of global charities and nongovernmental organizations as part of a belief in being a “socially responsible organization.” He said the company has supported the Clinton Foundation “because of the importance and effectiveness of its work.”
Bill Clinton was invited as a keynote speaker to help celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary, Malbergier said, because company leaders have found his vision “a great source of inspiration.”
A Clinton Foundation official said organizations that pay for the former president to speak are often interested in the work of the charity and request that Clinton address it in his remarks.
The Post analysis also found other previously unreported aspects of Bill Clinton’s speaking career.
While Hillary Clinton named the sponsoring organization for each of her husband’s speaking engagements, separate documents show that Bill Clinton’s office listed 97 additional sub-sponsors that had been proposed to help with these speaking events.
Bill Clinton disclosed the additional information as part of a voluntary ethics process undertaken when Hillary Clinton became secretary of state. He agreed to seek State Department approval of his paid speaking engagements to avoid conflicts of interest for his wife.
The correspondence between Bill Clinton’s office and the State Department was released in July after the conservative group Judicial Watch sought the records, ultimately filing suit to force their release.
Hillary Clinton was not obligated to disclose the sub-sponsors in her annual filings. The State Department’s correspondence with Bill Clinton’s office provides the only indication of the additional interests that helped support the former president’s paid speaking career.
In 2010, for instance, Hillary Clinton disclosed that her husband had been paid $250,000 to address the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt.
But Bill Clinton’s office alerted the State Department that other sponsors for the event were proposed to include Etisalat, a large Middle Eastern telecommunications company whose majority owner is the government of the United Arab Emirates.
Likewise, in 2012, Hillary Clinton’s disclosures show, Bill Clinton was paid $250,000 for a Boston speech to the Global Business Travel Association.
But the documents filed by Bill Clinton’s office show that a proposed sub-sponsor was the aircraft manufacturing giant Boeing. During a 2009 trip to Russia, Hillary Clinton made a personal pitch for a state-owned airline to buy Boeing jets.
Gordon Johndroe, a Boeing spokesman, said the company has sponsored the major travel event for several years, regardless of its invited speakers.
Some sub-sponsors also were foundation donors, including Boeing, which has given more than $1 million to the charity.
In addition, the Post analysis found that Bill Clinton delivered some paid speeches during Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department that were not publicly disclosed.
By law, Cabinet members and lawmakers must disclose speeches for which their spouses were paid at least $200. And the foundation has voluntarily updated its donor list on its Web site each year since 2008.
But four speeches were not disclosed in either fashion.
A spokesman for Bill Clinton’s office said that the former president “complied with disclosure requirements in every case” and that any speech fee not disclosed as personal income by Hillary Clinton went to the foundation.
But he said those fees were not tax deductible for the sponsoring organization and thus were not considered donations to the charity. He said they were included in the revenue figure provided in the foundation’s tax filings.
The examples The Post found were:
●A speech delivered in October 2011 in front of 9,000 at the University of Rochester’s Meliora Weekend, the school’s annual reunion and parents weekend. University officials confirmed that he delivered the speech for a fee, which they would not disclose.
●An appearance at the Minneapolis Heart Institute’s annual gala, also in October 2011. Event organizers said Clinton was supposed to attend in person but appeared via video link after a snowstorm confined him to Washington. They said a $25,000 fee was paid for his appearance at the event that, according to State Department records, was also sponsored by the Land O’Lakes dairy company.
“We wanted a speaker who could speak personally about heart disease and heart treatment,” said Minneapolis Heart Institute spokeswoman Melissa Hanson. “In addition, we wanted someone with first-class credibility. President Clinton was a natural fit.”
●A September 2012 question-and-answer session at the annual investors meeting of the politically connected private-equity company the Carlyle Group. A spokesman would not comment on Bill Clinton’s fee. According to Politico, Hillary Clinton was paid to appear at the same event a year later, after she stepped down as secretary of state.
●Bill Clinton’s participation as the guest of honor at a dinner in Limerick, Ireland, in November 2012 at which scholarships were awarded to Irish students. A spokeswoman for the organizing group confirmed Clinton traveled to Ireland to take part in the dinner.
For Hillary Clinton and Boeing, a beneficial relationship
A month later, Clinton was in China, where she jubilantly announced that the aerospace giant would be writing a generous check to help resuscitate floundering U.S. efforts to host a pavilion at the upcoming World’s Fair.
Boeing, she said, “has just agreed to double its contribution to $2 million.”
Clinton did not point out that, to secure the donation, the State Department had set aside ethics guidelines that first prohibited solicitations of Boeing and then later permitted only a $1 million gift from the company. Boeing had been included on a list of firms to be avoided because of its frequent reliance on the government for help negotiating overseas business and concern that a donation could be seen as an attempt to curry favor with U.S. officials.
The November 2009 episode was an indicator of a mutually beneficial relationship between one of the world’s major corporations and a potential future president. Clinton functioned as a powerful ally for Boeing’s business interests at home and abroad, while Boeing has invested resources in causes beneficial to Clinton’s public and political image.
Boeing’s largesse on behalf of the U.S. pavilion at the Shanghai expo was helpful to Clinton at a critical moment as she made it her priority to woo support from corporations to revive the American presence at the event.
She was widely credited with orchestrating a turnaround, and the can-do image she cultivated as secretary of state has contributed to her status as a Democratic front-runner ahead of the 2016 presidential campaign.
In 2010, two months after Boeing won its $3.7 billion Russia deal, the company announced a $900,000 contribution to the William J. Clinton Foundation intended to rebuild schools in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The foundation, which Hillary Clinton now helps lead with her husband and daughter, has become a popular charity for major corporations.
The company’s ties came into play again this month when its in-house lobbyist, former Bill Clinton aide Tim Keating, co-hosted a fundraiser for Ready for Hillary, the super PAC backing her potential presidential run.
The Boeing relationship meshed well with efforts by Clinton to expand the State Department’s advocacy of U.S. economic interests abroad, part of a broader philosophy that has emphasized partnering government with businesses to solve problems. A potential side benefit for Clinton has been the chance to strengthen ties to the kind of powerful allies in the business community who could assist a possible presidential bid.
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said that her advocacy for Boeing’s jet deal was “the job that every Secretary of State is supposed to do and what the American people expect of them — especially during difficult economic times. She proudly and loudly advocated on behalf of American business and took every opportunity to promote U.S. commercial interests abroad.”
Boeing spokesman Sean McCormack said that the company sees its cooperation with the government to encourage exports and create jobs as a “mutual institutional interest, versus a personal one.”
As for Boeing’s support for the expo pavilion and its donation to the Clinton Foundation, McCormack said that the company’s corporate giving, in the United States and abroad, is intended to serve the interests of both the company and the regions where it does business, and that it is “carefully vetted to ensure that it is appropriate and compliant with law.”
A Clinton Foundation official said that Boeing was one of numerous large corporations to contribute after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti and that the grant had no connection to Boeing’s interactions with the State Department.
Clinton’s October 2009 visit to Russia was dominated by discussion of Iranian sanctions, but she made clear that a top priority was Boeing’s interest in selling planes for use by a new state-owned Russian airline, Rosavia.
“This is a shameless pitch for Rosavia . . . to buy Boeing aircraft,” she said while touring a Boeing facility in Moscow.
The U.S. government has long pushed for Boeing to win contracts overseas, particularly in countries such as Russia where commercial jets are purchased by state-owned interests that are especially susceptible to high-level diplomatic lobbying.
Boeing has had a particularly close relationship with the Obama administration, which has made a goal of doubling U.S. exports and appointed the company’s chief executive as chairman of a task force responsible for getting it done.
The nation’s biggest exporter, Boeing employs tens of thousands and has for years been in a stiff competition for new jet sales with Airbus, which is based in France.
For Clinton and other American officials, the potential Boeing deal offered an enticing symbol of warming U.S.-Russian relations as part of a diplomatic “reset” announced in the spring of 2009.
Three days after Clinton’s remarks in Moscow, according to State Department cables released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, Boeing formally submitted its bid for the Russian deal.
At that point, Clinton was also in the midst of trying to turn around the cash-strapped U.S. pavilion planned for the 2010 Shanghai expo.
By all accounts, the American effort was already in trouble when Clinton took office in early 2009, with corporate fundraising faltering and the Chinese warning that meager U.S. participation would be viewed as a diplomatic affront.
Unlike most nations, the United States does not use government money to pay for its pavilions in world’s fairs. The 2008 economic crash made companies less than willing to participate; moreover, many had also signed up as sponsors of the Beijing Olympics and were not eager to give for another, similar event.
“We had no money and no working capital,” recalled Nick Winslow, who was the president of the nonprofit USA Pavilion, charged with getting the structure built. “No bank would invest in us.”
To kick-start her push, Clinton reached into her political network, appointing personal allies to take charge. She poured personal and political capital into an appeal to bring in $60 million from more than 60 major corporations.
Winslow said he initially submitted a list in 2008 of about 140 companies he hoped to approach for money, including Boeing.
But State Department officials ruled out soliciting Boeing and other large firms with significant business relationships with the government. The list also included banks that had received federal bailouts.
“About half of [the names on the list] came back with an ‘X’ through it,” Winslow said. “Boeing was one of them. We weren’t even allowed to talk to them.”
Agency lawyers had nixed Boeing out of concern that the department’s work lobbying for the company’s interests overseas could present the appearance of a conflict of interest, said a former agency official familiar with the decision.
“Because of the occasions in which we would provide support for them, from an ethics point of view, it was decided donations should not be solicited from them,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid offending Boeing or Clinton.
An appeal from Winslow and others involved in the project resulted in a new ruling in Boeing’s case: Since there was no direct conflict of interest, the expo could accept a donation from the company, but only up to $1 million. The goal was to ensure that Boeing did not dominate the event, the former official said.
The decision was frustrating for the struggling organizers, who saw Boeing as a natural fit for the event.
“They had this arbitrary number because they said it was a potential conflict of interest,” said Frank Lavin, who served as chairman of the pavilion’s steering committee. “There’s either a conflict or not. You don’t cap it.”
The announcement that Boeing would give $2 million rather than the $1 million maximum that had been set was made by Clinton on Nov. 16, 2009, as she toured the pavilion site. Earlier the same day, she visited a Boeing hangar in Shanghai and addressed executives from Boeing and other companies to stress the importance of the project.
How the decision was made to raise the cap remains a mystery, at least in public.
Neither Winslow nor Lavin, nor a number of other officials whose involvement with the expo pre-dated Clinton’s involvement, recalled the decision.
Said one former official: “Things were done for the pavilion that were not done in any other instance for fundraising purposes.”
The former official said a series of internal memos were written in 2008 and 2009 that laid out the reasoning behind the Boeing decisions.
State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach did not provide the memos or an explanation. He said that donors were “appropriately vetted and approved for participation at the 2010 Shanghai Expo, end of story.”
Two top fundraisers from Clinton’s 2008 campaign whom she appointed to take charge of the expo effort, former ambassador Elizabeth F. Bagley and San Antonio lawyer Jose Villarreal, did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did Kris Balderston, a longtime political aide dating to Clinton’s days in the Senate, who also assisted the effort.
Merrill, the Clinton spokesman, said support from Boeing and other corporations was sought only because it was important for the success of the event. “Suggesting otherwise would be like saying that encouraging Pizza Hut’s sponsorship was done in an effort to get free pizza,” he said.
Winslow said Boeing’s $2 million donation put the company in the upper tier of the more than 60 firms that donated to the expo, though it was eclipsed by five companies that donated $5 million each.
The success of the U.S. pavilion was considered one of the greatest achievements of Clinton’s first year in office.
In the new Clinton biography “HRC,” by journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, Villarreal said Clinton’s connections and personal endorsement of the project were key.
“We knew how to get to the leadership of companies, and, of course, being able to suggest that this was a project that was very, very important to Secretary Clinton really, really helped in opening doors,” he said.