Clinton Foundation donors got face time with her at State
WASHINGTON (AP) — More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money — either personally or through companies or groups — to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.
Donors who were granted time with Clinton included an internationally known economist who asked for her help as the Bangladesh government pressured him to resign from a nonprofit bank he ran; a Wall Street executive who sought Clinton's help with a visa problem; and Estee Lauder executives who were listed as meeting with Clinton while her department worked with the firm's corporate charity to counter gender-based violence in South Africa.
(See a partial list of the donors below.)
They are among at least 85 of 154 people with private interests who either met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton and also gave to her family's charities, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. The 154 does not include U.S. federal employees or foreign government representatives.
The AP's findings represent the first systematic effort to calculate the scope of the intersecting interests of Clinton foundation donors and people who met personally with Clinton or spoke to her by phone about their needs.
The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. But the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton. Her calendars and emails released as recently as this week describe scores of contacts she and her top aides had with foundation donors.
Clinton's campaign said the AP analysis was flawed because it did not include in its calculations meetings with foreign diplomats or U.S. government officials, and the meetings AP examined covered only the first half of Clinton's tenure as secretary of state.
"It is outrageous to misrepresent Secretary Clinton's basis for meeting with these individuals," spokesman Brian Fallon said. He called it "a distorted portrayal of how often she crossed paths with individuals connected to charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation."
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fiercely criticized the links between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department. "It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins," he said at a rally Tuesday night in Austin, Texas. "It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office."
State Department officials have said they are not aware of any agency actions influenced by the Clinton Foundation. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday night that there are no prohibitions against agency contacts with "political campaigns, non-profits or foundations — including the Clinton Foundation." He added that "meeting requests, recommendations and proposals come to the department through a variety of channels, both formal and informal."
Last week, the Clinton Foundation moved to head off ethics concerns about future donations by announcing changes planned if she is elected. Those planned changes would not affect more than 6,000 donors who have already provided the Clinton charity with more than $2 billion in funding since its creation in 2000.
"There's a lot of potential conflicts and a lot of potential problems," said Douglas White, an expert on nonprofits at Columbia University. "The point is, she can't just walk away from these 6,000 donors."
Fallon said earlier Tuesday the standard set by the Clinton Foundation's ethics restrictions was "unprecedented, even if it may never satisfy some critics."
Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering low-interest "microcredit" for poor business owners, met with Clinton three times and talked with her by phone during a period when Bangladeshi government authorities investigated his oversight of a nonprofit bank and ultimately pressured him to resign from the bank's board. Throughout the process, he pleaded for help in messages routed to Clinton, and she ordered aides to find ways to assist him.
Grameen America, the bank's nonprofit U.S. flagship, which Yunus chairs, has given between $100,000 and $250,000 to the foundation — a figure that bank spokeswoman Becky Asch said reflects the institution's annual fees to attend CGI meetings. Another Grameen arm chaired by Yunus, Grameen Research, has donated between $25,000 and $50,000.
In another case, Clinton was host at a September 2009 breakfast meeting at the New York Stock Exchange that listed Blackstone Group chairman Stephen Schwarzman as one of the attendees. Schwarzman's firm is a major Clinton Foundation donor, but he personally donates heavily to GOP candidates and causes. The next day, according to Clinton emails, the State Department was working on a visa issue at Schwarzman's request. In December that same year, Schwarzman and his wife, Christine, sat at Clinton's table during the Kennedy Center Honors.
Blackstone donated between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Eight Blackstone executives also gave between $375,000 and $800,000 to the foundation. And Blackstone's charitable arm has pledged millions of dollars in commitments to three Clinton Global aid projects ranging from the U.S. to the Mideast. Blackstone officials did not make Schwarzman available for comment.
And in June 2011, Clinton met with Nancy Mahon of MAC AIDS, the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics, which is owned by Estee Lauder. The meeting occurred before an announcement about a State Department partnership with MAC AIDS to raise money to finance AIDS education and prevention.
The MAC AIDS fund donated between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation and several million more in commitments to programs through the Clinton Global Initiative.
Foundation donors who met, talked with Clinton
Hillary Clinton met or talked by phone with at least 154 people from private interests, such as corporations, during her time as secretary of the state. More than half those people had donated either personally or through companies or groups to the Clinton Foundation or pledged to donate to specific programs through the charity's international arm.
—Joseph Duffey, who once worked for Laureate Education, a for-profit education system based in Baltimore, was one of 20 people at a higher education policy dinner with Clinton in August 2009. Weeks earlier, Clinton emailed her staff looking for Duffey's phone number. Duffey, whom Bill Clinton appointed as director of the U.S. Information Agency, gave between $10,000 and $25,000 to the foundation in 2012. Laureate, which paid Bill Clinton more than $17 million as a consultant between 2010 and 2015, donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. Laureate also has seven commitments with the Clinton Global Initiative.
—Jeffrey Skoll, a Canadian engineer and technology investor who was the first president of internet auction site eBay. He cashed out with $2 billion in assets and used the money to finance his foundation, a technology investment firm and a Hollywood production company. The Skoll Foundation contributed between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation and has partnered in at least 21 commitments to programs through the Clinton Global Initiative. In May 2009 Sally Osberg, CEO of Skoll's charity, messaged longtime Clinton friend Jan Piercy about "the possibility of Hillary's speaking at next year's Skoll Forum" — a message that was relayed to Clinton. Clinton told aides by email she wanted to attend the Skoll event in the U.K. in March 2012 but was unable to attend. Instead, in April 2012, Clinton met privately with Skoll and Osberg during a State Department-sponsored forum on government-business partnerships. The same month, USAID, the State Department's foreign aid arm, announced a partnership with the Skoll Foundation to invest in health, energy, governance and food security innovations.
—Haim and Cheryl Saban. Haim Saban is an entertainment magnate, long-time Clinton and Democratic Party fundraiser and founder of the Saban Center for Middle East Peace, a Mideast policy think tank based in Washington. His wife, Cheryl Saban, is a psychologist and writer who has been a Clinton Foundation board member since 2013. The Sabans donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation — among the largest gifts to the charity. Saban met privately with Clinton at least once in September 2009 and also hosted her twice at events put on by his think tank in June 2012 and again in November 2012. Messages from both Sabans were relayed to Clinton during her tenure. In one following Clinton's appearance at his center luncheon in June 2012, Haim Saban told her: "Very much was looking forward to hangin'. Tx again for today." Clinton replied: "Not to worry. Loved seeing you and Cheryl and looking forward w Bill to White House tonight. See you then."
— John Mack, the former chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley and a political donation bundler for Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. In September 2011, as Morgan Stanley chairman, Mack was among a group who met with Clinton on China trade issues. In July 2012, he and his wife were scheduled to have dinner with her. They were again to have dinner with Clinton in September 2012, but Clinton canceled at the last minute, according to her emails and calendars. The Macks' personal charity has given between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. Other Morgan Stanley organizations, including the bank itself, have given between $360,000 and $775,000. Morgan Stanley has also given money to six different programs through the Clinton Global Initiative.
— Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers, a national teachers union that has backed and funded Clinton's presidential run and allied political action committees. Under Weingarten, the AFT donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation and pledged partnership commitments with other interests in four separate Clinton Global Initiative programs. Weingarten had two private meetings with Clinton in 2009 and 2012 and also joined her at a photo shoot in 2010. Her union also lobbied federal agencies on education, work, safety and other issues. In emails, Weingarten aide Tina Flournoy — now a top deputy for Bill Clinton — told Hillary Clinton in September 2009 that she and Weingarten "would like to visit you re: child labor issues." Less than a month later, the two women met with Clinton for a half-hour. A union spokeswoman later told AP that Weingarten spoke with Clinton about refugees, global education and child labor abuses.
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