The ethical questions surrounding foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation have entered a new arena: arms sales. According to the International Business Times, governments with appalling human rights records who donated to the Clinton Foundation received billions in arms deals approved by the Clinton State Department that far surpassed anything doled out by the Bush administration. A review of the 2009-2012 fiscal records by the IBT discovered the transactions:
Under Clinton's leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure -- derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) -- represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.
The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143 percent 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 American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House.
American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements. Such firms and their subsidiaries were listed as contractors in $163 billion worth of Pentagon-negotiated deals that were authorized by the Clinton State Department between 2009 and 2012.
The State Department 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 United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar all donated to the Clinton Foundation and also gained State Department clearance to buy caches of American-made weapons even as the department singled them out for a range of alleged ills, from corruption to restrictions on civil liberties to violent crackdowns against political opponents.
In all, governments and corporations involved in the arms deals approved by Clinton’s State Department have delivered between $54 million and $141 million to the Clinton Foundation as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the Clinton family, according to foundation and State Department 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 Department clearance to buy American-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 policymakers.
“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,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy group that seeks to tighten campaign finance disclosure rules. “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 Department 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.
“These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment,” Lessig told IBTimes. “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 State Department presents a troubling conflict of interest.
Now, the $1 million dollar question is whether any of this will break outside the beltway, let alone stick around long enough to be used as campaign ammunition against Hillary. Again, there's no concrete timetable that links the donations to the arms sales, but as IBT noted, " news reports document that at least seven foreign governments that received State Department clearance for American arms did donate to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary: Algeria, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Thailand, Norway and Australia."
In one sense, it might have little impact given that all of the Clinton’s dirty laundry is being displayed so early. We’re roughly 17 months away from the Election Day, which is a lifetime in politics. Right now, a majority of American voters do no think Clinton is trustworthy, but they give her high marks for leadership (yeah, I don't get it either). This new revelation adds to the narrative that if you want something from the Clintons, you should probably donate to their non-profit; a point MSNBC's Chris Matthews noted regarding the foreign contributions. Yet, I doubt (sadly) that it will move the needle in either direction.
On the right, an example of the media highlighting a candidate's dirty laundry, or an unfortunate staff hire, occurred in 2013. The Washington Free Beacon reported on Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) hiring an aide–Jack Hunter–who had neo-confederate sympathies, and served as the senator’s social media director in 2012. Hunter also helped write Sen. Paul’s book, The Tea Party Goes To Washington. Hunter resigned from Paul’s staff after the Beacon’s story. In the era where everything is racist in the eyes of liberals, you would think liberal groups would hammer Paul, who is seen as a top-tier candidate for the 2016. Then again, they still could, but so far Paul is getting more flak for his view on foreign policy and national security for the time being from members of his own party.
The media fallout from the Clinton arms bazaar that reportedly occurred during her tenure as our top diplomat remains to be seen, but it appears if there’s anything that might resonate with the proverbial sensible center of America; it’s the “dead broke” comments. As Maggie Haberman of the New York Times said last Sunday, we’re approaching the one-year anniversary of those infamous remarks, and it remains fresh in the minds of voters. So, this is another item that should be added to the list of questions for Hillary Clinton, which I'm sure she won't answer anytime soon.
Oh, and yes, Bill Clinton was delivering speeches to nations who gave money to the Foundation around the same that State was approving their arms deals:
Bill Clinton took in speaking fees reaching $625,000 at events sponsored by entities that were dealing with Hillary Clinton’s State Department on weapons issues.
In 2011, for example, the former president was paid $175,000 by the Kuwait America 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 United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar -- the latter two of which had donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.
The speaking fee from the Kuwait America Foundation to Bill Clinton was paid in the same time frame as a series of deals Hillary Clinton’s State Department was approving between the Kuwaiti government and Boeing. Months before the gala, the Department of Defense announced that Boeing would be the prime contractor on a $693 million deal, cleared by Hillary Clinton’s State Department, to provide the Kuwaiti government with military transport aircraft. A year later, a group sponsored in part by Boeing would pay Bill Clinton another $250,000 speaking fee.