Hillary Clinton Faces New Revelations About Questionable Donations To Clinton Foundation

A new report ties undisclosed donations to the Clinton Foundation to a Russian company's acquisition of controlling interest in a major uranium mining company.

Hillary Bill Chelsea Clinton

The New York Times is out this morning with new revelations about donations to the Clinton Foundation and connections to policy positions taken by Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State that, at the very least, raise even more questions about the Clinton Foundation’s acceptance of donations from foreign businesses and foreign governments. The report centers on donations made to the Foundation by the Chairman and other executives of a uranium company and the effort by a Russian energy concern to acquire a majority interest in that company, which required approval by the United States Government:

At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Bill Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold off to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.

Beyond mines in Kazakhstan that are among the most lucrative in the world, the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

(…)

The New York Times’s examination of the Uranium One deal is based on dozens of interviews, as well as a review of public records and securities filings in Canada, Russia and the United States. Some of the connections between Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation were unearthed by Peter Schweizer, a former fellow at the right-leaning Hoover Institution and author of the forthcoming book “Clinton Cash.” Mr. Schweizer provided a preview of material in the book to The Times, which scrutinized his information and built upon it with its own reporting.

Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown. But the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors.

In a statement, Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, said no one “has ever produced a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation.” He emphasized that multiple United States agencies, as well as the Canadian government, had signed off on the deal and that, in general, such matters were handled at a level below the secretary. “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,” he added.

The report is lengthy and detailed, and defies being excerpted here beyond what is quoted above. It’s also important to note that the report does not conclude that there was any sort of quid pro quo involved in the donations to the Foundation and the approval of the Uranium One deal. In fact, two State Department officials involved in that process deny that there was any influence exerted over them at the time. Indeed, while a deal involving Uranium assets all over the world, including the United States, and an energy company with rather obvious ties to the Kremlin is certainly one that raises eyebrows, it’s not even the most important thing that this Times reports reveals. As noted, when Clinton became Secretary of State, she signed an agreement with the Obama Administration that placed limits on the Clinton Foundation. Specifically, it was agreed that the Foundation would not accept donations from foreign governments during the time that Clinton was Secretary of State, and that all contributions to the Foundation would be publicly disclosed. According to this time report, a significant portion of the contributions that were made by foreigners linked to Uranium One were not in fact disclosed as required, and one suspects that this may only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to donations that were made between 2009 and 2013 that were not disclosed. This failure to disclose may not necessarily be illegal, but it certainly would seem to be unethical and it tends to reinforce perceptions of the Clintons and their business dealings that are, to say the least, less than charitable.

In addition to the revelations in the Times piece, Reuters is reporting that the Clinton Foundation will be revising at least five years of tax returns after revelations about improperly reported donations from foreign governments:

(Reuters) – Hillary Clinton’s family’s charities are refiling at least five annual tax returns after a Reuters review found errors in how they reported donations from governments, and said they may audit other Clinton Foundation returns in case of other errors.

The foundation and its list of donors have been under intense scrutiny in recent weeks. Republican critics say the foundation makes Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, vulnerable to undue influence. Her campaign team calls these claims “absurd conspiracy theories.”

The charities’ errors generally take the form of under-reporting or over-reporting, by millions of dollars, donations from foreign governments, or in other instances omitting to break out government donations entirely when reporting revenue, the charities confirmed to Reuters.

The errors, which have not been previously reported, appear on the form 990s that all non-profit organizations must file annually with the Internal Revenue Service to maintain their tax-exempt status. A charity must show copies of the forms to anyone who wants to see them to understand how the charity raises and spends money.

The unsettled numbers on the tax returns are not evidence of wrongdoing but tend to undermine the 990s role as a form of public accountability, experts in charity law and transparency advocates interview told Reuters.

“If those numbers keep changing – well, actually, we spent this on this, not that on that – it really defeats the purpose,” said Bill Allison, a senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency advocacy group.

For three years in a row beginning in 2010, the Clinton Foundation reported to the IRS that it received zero in funds from foreign and U.S. governments, a dramatic fall-off from the tens of millions of dollars in foreign government contributions reported in preceding years.

Those entries were errors, according to the foundation: several foreign governments continued to give tens of millions of dollars toward the foundation’s work on climate change and economic development through this three-year period. Those governments were identified on the foundation’s annually updated donor list, along with broad indications of how much each had cumulatively given since they began donating.

Unlike what Michael Tomasky suggests, you don’t have to believe that the Clinton’s turned the Clinton Foundation and the State Department into some kind of “shakedown” operation where donations were solicited in exchange for changes in policy position in order to be troubled by the allegations that have started to come out regarding the Clinton Foundation’s activities during Hillary’s time at Foggy Bottom. As I noted when this story initially broke on Monday, one of the bigger problems that this issue poses for Clinton’s campaign is that it tends to reinforce old stereotypes about her and her husband that stretch back more than two decades now. If voters start to view the Clinton campaign as a harbinger of the return of those days, then they may start to have second thoughts about her, especially if the Republicans nominate a strong candidate. Additionally, rather than being the kind of well of corruption that Tomasky says nobody has proven exists, what these kinds of stories arguably prove about the Foundation is the extent to which the Clinton’s have used it to curry favor with the world’s political, business, and entertainment elites. In that case, the problem isn’t necessarily the quid pro quo but the fact that the donations, and the relationships, buy these people influence and access that others don’t necessarily have. It isn’t really illegal and, indeed, it’s something that goes on in Washington all the time, but it does tend to put the lie to the populist spin that Clinton has been putting on her campaign since getting into the race two weeks ago.

The ultimate question, of course, is what impact all of this will have on the race for President, and it’s still far too early to be able to answer that question. The book on which much of this reporting is based won’t even be released for another two weeks, and we still don’t know exactly what it says or whether its claims. Obviously, if there is real evidence of a quid pro quo then it will be hard to understate the potential political impact that the story could have on Clinton’s campaign specifically and the race for President in general. If, however, what’s uncovered falls short of showing that link, then it’s unclear exactly how this will end up hurting Clinton’s campaign. As I’ve said before, one of the advantages (and disadvantages) that Clinton has compared to other candidates is that she is almost universally known by voters and she is at the point in her political career where everyone’s opinions about her are fairly well set. For people who are opposed to Hillary Clinton, a story like this will be further confirmation of what they’ve always believed about her and her family. For her supporters, it will be another example of the same attacks that have been leveled against the Clinton’s since 1992. The voters in the middle might, perhaps, be persuaded by something like this, but even there it seems as though most Americans have already made their mind up about Hillary Clinton one way or another. Finally, the fact that these stories are coming out now rather than six or eight months from now arguably helps the Clinton campaign since they are likely to have the same long term impact that they would if they came out at a later time, and the campaign will have a longer time to respond. As I noted earlier this week, though, much of that will depend on how the campaign and the Foundation handle all of this. If they retreat into the old Clinton strategy of delaying and attacking the messenger, which at this point includes The New York Times and The Washington Post rather than just Fox News and the conservative blogosphere, then the story could fester and feed into doubts about Clinton that harmed her in 2008. In either case, I suspect there is much more to come on this story so, stay tuned.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Hillary Clinton, National Security, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    tl;dr:

    Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown.

    So. . . nothing.

  2. Pete S says:

    The book that is the basis of this report was written by a Republican-leaning author once employed by “the right-leaning Hoover Institute”. If there was enough evidence to really undermine her presidential campaign it would be coming out in May 2016, when she would be pretty much locked in as the Democratic candidate. A book release now suggests an effort to make Democrats nervous about nominating her.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    What a hack you are.
    Ginnie Thomas’s income is based on overturning Obamacare…yet you see no conflict of interest for her husband Clarence.
    The Clinton’s are different though.

  4. Smooth Jazz says:

    “The book that is the basis of this report was written by a Republican-leaning author once employed by “the right-leaning Hoover Institute”.

    Doesn’t matter if the allegations are made by a “Republican-leaning” author, a fire breathing conservative zealot or Attila the Hun. The key point is whether there is truth to allegations supported by facts. Impugning the author is just a smokescreen. If he has supportable, documented evidence that stands up to independent scrutiny, then Hillary Clinton should be accountable.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @Smooth Jazz:
    What allegation? The article points out the lack of quid pro quo.

  6. J-Dub says:

    especially if the Republicans nominate a strong candidate

    And since there are no strong Republican candidates running this shouldn’t pose a problem.

  7. steve says:

    Doug- How is this different than secret political contributions which we allow and are totally legal/ Form what lobbyists do?

    Steve

  8. Pete S says:

    @Smooth Jazz: I am not impugning the author at all. I may not believe him, but that is not the point I am making. My point was that if he had “supportable, documented evidence” his book would be coming out in May 2016, not May 2015. I am actually crediting him with being capable of planning and foresight.

  9. Modulo Myself says:

    Well, the old Clinton strategy worked, for the most part, in that he was elected twice, and aside fro Barack Obama, she would have most likely been elected in 2008. So I’m not sure why that the logic might be here–it worked for years but you’ll be sorry now. Who knows?

    The other puzzle is that if we have to ask questions about Canadian mining interests and their contributions, where does that leave us with American energy interests and their contributions? If there’s a return on the investment with Hillary, what return have the Kochs received?

  10. Jack says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    If there’s a return on the investment with Hillary, what return have the Kochs received?

    Did I miss the news that the Kochs were running for office after spending years peddling influence as public servants?

  11. Modulo Myself says:

    @Jack:

    You do understand that the Kochs give money to conservatives and conservative causes. What return on investment do you think they might be receiving?

  12. C. Clavin says:

    Exactly the same as every other Clinton non scandal.
    No evidence at all….but idiots are already saying

    after spending years peddling influence as public servants?

  13. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin: Don’t you have some cows to “milk”?

  14. al-Ameda says:

    Some of the connections between Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation were unearthed by Peter Schweizer, a former fellow at the right-leaning Hoover Institution and author of the forthcoming book “Clinton Cash.” Mr. Schweizer provided a preview of material in the book to The Times, which scrutinized his information and built upon it with its own reporting.

    Here we go again. Peter Schweizer is part of the Permanent Investigation Of The Clintons Media-Industrial Complex. He’s worked for Breitbart, as noted he’s been at The Hoover Institute, he’s worked for Sarah Palin, and much, much more. I wonder if Schweizer somehow connected Uranium One with Benghazi?

  15. Modulo Myself says:

    @C. Clavin:

    It depends on what you mean by evidence. If, as the story alleges, Bill Clinton received 500K for a speech in Moscow from a bank connected to Uranium One’s Russian investors, it’s evidence of this: no rhetorical arrangement of words is worth 500,000. He was being paid for something else. Whether the lure of his celebrity or the fact that he could help make the deal go through smoothly or–maybe–it’s like a sacrifice, like a horse on an altar to Poseidon before setting out to sea, we don’t know.

    Personally, I thought the Clintons were pretty vulnerable on this front. They were deep in the heart of the world where huge sums of money are paid for nebulous things. It’s like dropping 25 million on a Damien Hirst, but without a set market. You’re not sure what’s more corrupt–believing that the Hirst whatever is worth that intrinsically, or espousing how great it is in order to net a 5 million profit when you sell it.

    However, I don’t think they’re vulnerable now. The Republicans are desperate and are waking up, way too late, to the fact of their incredible stupidity. Like, the majority are people who will get outraged at the idea that a climate-denialist crank who took money from some conservation foundation is filled with integrity. They love being bribed and taking money to spew bs. They just can’t handle that someone took more and ended up looking a lot better.

  16. cd6 says:

    especially if the Republicans nominate a strong candidate.

    I don’t understand how anyone can earnestly write this sentence.

    Perhaps Doug is being held hostage, forced to type out blog posts at gunpoint, and he’s trying to signal us for help?

  17. michael reynolds says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    no rhetorical arrangement of words is worth 500,000.

    Nonsense. You’re looking at this from your point of view as a presumably rational middle class person. It’s small beer to a company that wants to strut its stuff and bask in the warm glow of their competitor’s envy. Here’s an article on high end speaking fees.

    Sarah Palin and Al Gore both get 100,000 a pop and neither is in a position to do anything for anyone. Gingrich gets 60k, what’s he going to do for anyone other than make them nauseous?

  18. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, I can get $3,000 to speak and believe me, I’m worth nothin’ to nobody. I usually end up insulting the hosts and undercutting their message. Then I drink all their coffee, eat all their snacks and within 20 seconds of reaching the limo I’ve forgotten the names of all the people I’ve just met.

    Of course that’s just me.

  19. Modulo Myself says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Right, celebrity speakers are trophies for vain companies. None of this bothers me. But I do believe that with intelligence and at least a cynic’s conception of integrity, you could put together a compelling narrative to appeal to middle-class people who resent the hell out of people being paid to be trophies. I don’t see that happening.

  20. Modulo Myself says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I think it was David Geffen who said that the only people who can make it in Hollywood are the lower classes and upper classes. Everyone else believes in some kind of fairness. People who have tons of money don’t, and the people who have no money don’t.

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    I suspect Hillary is going to go all-in on income inequality as an issue. It’s her killer app, so to speak. It’s something Mr. Obama has ignored and an issue where any Republican effort would elicit laughter. Income inequality, child care support, equal pay for women, the minimum wage. . . and of course all without really upsetting Goldman Sachs.

    Damn this is going to be a long 18 months.

  22. Scott says:

    @michael reynolds: And it is not like this is a new trend. Reach back 25 years where Reagan got $2M to speak in Japan.

  23. michael reynolds says:

    @Scott:

    And what happened after that? You saw a sudden upsurge in the number of sushi restaurants in the US. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

  24. C. Clavin says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    Lots of people give him $500k to talk.
    That’s evidence of nada.

  25. Neo says:

    A new first … the Most Corrupt Woman Secretary of State

  26. Tillman says:

    @Neo: People often forget Madeleine Albright and her known connections to the Czech mafia. 😀

  27. the Q says:

    New Democrats are pretty pathetic here defending HRC.

    Um, lets see, her husband allowed Exxon Mobil to merge, got rid of Glass Steagall, should have resigned in disgrace after the Monica affair and now, we have the ghost of Dem corruption past redux in a shrill, inauthentic pale imitation.

    I guess no one could make the link to Halliburton’s stock price and Cheney’s wars either, but it doesn’t take a liberal genius to make the connection. Would we give Dick the same pass as HRC?

    What gives with the “What allegation? The article points out the lack of quid pro quo.” stance? I expect that rubbish from Jenos defending anything wingnut.

    She gave her word to the President of the United States that the foundation would not accept foreign cash and she lied blatantly to him. I guess we are used to it from the Clintons.

    Anybody sick and tired of the Clintons parsing their behavior constantly? They are pathological.

    I am a New Deal Democrat from the 1930s and can tell you first hand the foolishness of the GOP but after destroying the middle class (NAFTA) and cozying up to Wall Street for decades, the Dems are only now focusing on income inequaltity?

    And HRC is the one who is going to lead the charge? Are you phucking kidding me?

    The modern Dem party’s ideal wetdream nowadays is two gay illegal immigrants marrying while smoking legal weed.

    As far as reigning in the rulling class, taxing the schitt out of them, destroying the influence of finance capital and breaking up oligarchs and restoring middle class prosperity, the New Dems are about as far away from that as the Youth for Ayn Rand Party.

    Give me Jim Webb in a heartbeat over HRC.

    The irony is the greatest wealth inequality ever seen in this country has been presided over by baby boom Democrats. Oh the horror.

  28. the Q says:

    PS, I will hold my nose and vote for HRC over any doosh wingnut. But how sad the choice.

  29. C. Clavin says:

    Schweizer’s Government Accountability Initiative, a 501(c)(3), is funded by the Kochs. Of the $2.2 million he received in 2012, $2 million came from the Franklin Center, the Koch-funded “watchdog” organization.
    Next “scandal”.

  30. the Q says:

    To C. Clavin:

    And the NY Times and Washington post were both run by liberal Jewish families who just had it in for NIxon…..you sound like the reverse Patrick Buchanan

    Therefore anything they said about Nixon was just for scandal sake and the Clinton Foundation donations which the President asked them to refrain from accepting can be put in the “I didn’t have sex with that woman” category of not being guilty of something you really are guilty of because the accusor is being funded by a Koch kook?

  31. An Interested Party says:

    A book release now suggests an effort to make Democrats nervous about nominating her.

    Yes because Republicans are afraid of her…

    As far as reigning in the rulling class, taxing the schitt out of them, destroying the influence of finance capital and breaking up oligarchs and restoring middle class prosperity…

    Could anyone actually be elected president with this kind of platform? Sadly, many of FDR’s ideas are about as dead as he is…

  32. tien says:

    The Uranium Deal story was covered in 2009 and debunked by forbes

    http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/12/giustra-clinton-kazakhstan-pf-ii-in_rl_0912croesus_inl.html

    If this is the best the Times is given from the book , then this book is nothing but b*llsh*t