The size and scope of the symbiotic relationship between the Clintons and their donors is striking. At least 181 companies, individuals, and foreign governments that have given to the Clinton Foundation also lobbied the State Department when Hillary Clinton ran the place, according to a Vox analysis of foundation records and federal lobbying disclosures.
The following chart shows entities that donated to the foundation and lobbied the State Department during Hillary Clinton's tenure. The totals include funding for the foundation from both corporate and charitable arms of listed companies that lobbied State, even though the charities themselves don't necessarily lobby. One exception: The Gates Foundation, co-chaired by Microsoft co-founder and board member Bill Gates, is not Microsoft's charitable arm (that's another group) and does not register to lobby. The chart does not account for contributions made by executives, and it may omit some companies who made contributions or lobbied through subsidiaries.
|Clinton Foundation donor||Gave between this much*||And this much* |
|Microsoft/Gates Foundation (Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates is a co-founder and member of the board of Microsoft, which is a separate entity. Both donate to the Clinton Foundation. Only Microsoft reported lobbying the State Department.) ||$26,000,000||No limit reported|
|Walmart/Walton Family Foundation (Similarly, the Walton Family Foundation is distinct from Walmart and does not lobby. Both are run by the Walton family.) ||$2,250,000||$10,500,000|
|State of Qatar and related entities||$1,375,000||$5,800,000|
|Duke Energy Corporation||$1,002,000||$5,010,000|
|Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa||$1,000,000||$5,000,000|
|Open Society Institute||$1,000,000||$5,000,000|
|Procter & Gamble||$1,000,000||$5,000,000|
|Arizona State University||$500,000||$1,000,000|
|Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies||$150,000||$350,000|
|American Cancer Society||$100,000||$250,000|
|Int'l Brotherhood of Electrical Workers||$100,000||$250,000|
|Lions Clubs International||$100,000||$250,000|
|United States Pharmacopeial Convention||$100,000||$250,000|
|Washington University, St. Louis||$100,000||$250,000|
|Feed the Children||$50,000||$100,000|
|The American Institute of Architects||$50,000||$100,000|
|Trilogy International Partners||$50,000||$100,000|
|S.C. Johnson & Son||$50,000||$100,000|
|New Venture Fund||$25,000||$50,000|
|Rotary International ||$25,000||$50,000|
|United Technologies Corporation||$25,000||$50,000|
|Wildlife Conservation Society||$25,000||$50,000|
|American Iron and Steel Institute||$10,000||$25,000|
|Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc.||$10,000||$25,000|
|BHP Billiton Limited||$10,000||$25,000|
|Chesapeake Energy Corporation||$10,000||$25,000|
|Delphi Financial Group||$10,000||$25,000|
|Entertainment Software Association||$10,000||$25,000|
|Hermitage Capital Management||$10,000||$25,000|
|Levi Strauss & Co.||$10,000||$25,000|
|Motion Picture Association of America||$10,000||$25,000|
|NASDAQ OMX Group||$10,000||$25,000|
|The Pew Charitable Trusts||$10,000||$25,000|
|TV Azteca, S.A. DE C.V.||$10,000||$25,000|
|US Chamber of Commerce||$10,000||$25,000|
|Oneida Indian Nation||$10,000||$25,000|
|American Public Health Association||$5,000||$10,000|
|Florida International University||$5,000||$10,000|
|Girl Scouts of the USA||$5,000||$10,000|
|Santa Monica College||$5,000||$10,000|
|Boston Scientific Corporation||$1,000||$5,000|
|Cablevision Systems Corporation||$1,000||$5,000|
|Chicanos Por La Causa||$1,000||$5,000|
|Deere & Company||$1,000||$5,000|
|Edison Electric Institute||$1,000||$5,000|
|George Mason University||$1,000||$5,000|
|Laborers Int'l Union of North America||$1,000||$5,000|
|Northrop Grumman Corporation||$1,000||$5,000|
|Association for Manufacturing Technology||$1,000||$5,000|
|Tohono O'odham Nation||$1,000||$5,000|
|Oracle (matching grant program)||$250||$1,000|
|Nova Southeastern University||$250||$1,000|
* The Clinton Foundation reports contributions in ranges.
That's not illegal, but it is scandalous.
There's a household name at the nexus of the foundation and the State Department for every letter of the alphabet but "X" (often more than one): Anheuser-Busch, Boeing, Chevron, (John) Deere, Eli Lilly, FedEx, Goldman Sachs, HBO, Intel, JP Morgan, Lockheed Martin, Monsanto, NBC Universal, Oracle, Procter & Gamble, Qualcomm, Rotary International, Siemens, Target, Unilever, Verizon, Walmart, Yahoo, and Ze-gen.
The set includes oil, defense, drug, tech, and news companies, as well as labor unions and foreign interests. It includes organizations as innocuous as the Girl Scouts and those as in need of brand-burnishing as Nike, which was once forced to vow that it would end the use of child labor in foreign sweatshops. This list of donors to the Clinton foundation who lobbied State matters because it gives a sense of just how common it was for influence-seekers to give to the Clinton Foundation, and exactly which ones did.
Author Peter Schweizer, whose book Clinton Cash is due out May 5, took his best shot but couldn't prove — or even assert — that Hillary Clinton took any official action because of contributions to the Clinton Foundation. I haven't read the book, but even Schweizer concedes that what he's identified is a "pattern of behavior," not hard evidence of corruption.
Still, the Clintons have shown they can't police themselves.
The foundation's acting CEO, Maura Pally, acknowledged problems with reporting on federal 990 tax forms in a statement issued Sunday, in which she contended that information about donors was available but not appropriately listed in filings with the government.
Before working for the foundation, she was a deputy assistant secretary under Hillary Clinton at State.
"So yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps to ensure they don't happen in the future," Pally said.
Bringing good things to life?
Scrutiny of the foundation's practices, and of Clinton's work at State, has intensified in recent weeks, due in large part to Schweizer's book and his effort to get news outlets to write about his research.
The New York Times published a thorough report last week on the sale of uranium mines to a company connected to the Russian government by a group of Canadians who poured millions of dollars into the Clinton Foundation. The Washington Post, also working from Schweizer's research, reported that Bill Clinton collected $26 million in speaking fees from donors to the Clinton Foundation. And Newsweek reported that a company owned by Victor Pinchuk, one of the top donors to the Clinton Foundation, has shipped goods to Iran.
Public records alone reveal a nearly limitless supply of cozy relationships between the Clintons and companies with interests before the government.
General Electric, for example, has given between $500,000 and $1 million in cash to the foundation, and it helped underwrite the US pavilion at the Shanghai Expo in 2010, a project for which top Clinton family fundraisers were tapped by the State Department to solicit contributions from the private sector.
GE lobbied the State Department on a variety of issues when Hillary Clinton was secretary, including trade and energy tax breaks, according to its filings with the federal government.
In her most recent memoir, Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton details how she went to bat for GE in Algeria, a country that donated $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation in violation of the charity's agreement with the Obama administration to place restrictions on contributions from foreign governments.
"When the government decided to solicit foreign bids to build power plants and modernize its energy sector, I saw an opportunity for advancing prosperity in Algeria and seizing an opportunity for American business. General Electric was competing for the more than $2.5 billion contract," she wrote. Clinton personally lobbied President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to bless the GE contract.
The kicker: Clinton allies have said she will use her work to create business for US companies overseas on the campaign trail as she runs for president. She's now in position to visit GE sites in the US and talk about how she worked to strengthen the company.
The Washington Post reported earlier this year that the Clinton Foundation failed to seek approval from the State Department when it accepted a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government for Haitian earthquake relief in 2010.
From the perspective of the Clintons' defenders, the GE deal is a win all around. The US strengthens its ties to an important geopolitical player in North Africa. GE opens up a new market. American workers benefit from the expansion of a major manufacturer. Hillary Clinton gets to campaign as a job creator. And in her defenders' view, the donations to the Clinton Foundation are unrelated to any action Hillary Clinton took on behalf of GE.
Likewise, Coca-Cola has given between $5 million and $10 million to the foundation. The company announced an investment of $200 million in Burma after Hillary Clinton worked to lift sanctions on that country. Even unions that blame Bill Clinton's NAFTA deal for killing American jobs, including the AFL-CIO, pop up on the crosstab of companies that donate to the foundation and lobbied Hillary's State Department. Coke, of course, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of NAFTA, which opened up Mexico, the country with the highest per-capita Coca-Cola consumption in the world.
Still, no one — no one — has produced anything close to evidence of a quid pro quo in which Hillary Clinton took official action in exchange for contributions to the Clinton Foundation. If anyone did, Clinton would cease to be a candidate and become a defendant.
The 'trust us' model is broken
It's unthinkable that Hillary Clinton would intentionally undermine the interests of the United States as secretary of state, not because she is above question but because she planned to run for president.
Clinton allies make no secret of their model of using the family brand to leverage other people's money, intellectual capital, products, celebrity, and political networks to serve the Clintons' ends. They believe those ends are just and often noble — like providing clean drinking water in developing countries — and that the Clintons are beyond reproach. But it's reasonable, and necessary, to ask whether the business interests of the benefactors are incidental or central to their motivation for giving.
It should come as no surprise that the folks who have a lot of cash to give are also those who have the most at stake in decisions made by the federal government. That's why politicians get so much money from special interests. It's also why the voting public should be aware, and wary, of the flow of money from special interests to candidates and elected officials. Transparency is not an antidote to corruption, so that money flow deserves intense scrutiny.
Ultimately, it is impossible to tell where one end of the two-headed Clinton political and philanthropic operation ends and where the other begins. The "trust us" model is insufficient for the public. It's also an ongoing political liability for Hillary Clinton. Both she and the public would benefit from greater controls. She's not the first politician forced to defend contributions to her charity. Tom DeLay, the legendary former House majority leader and whip, was hammered by the left for taking donations for his children's charity from corporations and lobbyists with business before Congress.
On one level, there's little difference between special interests donating money to politicians' campaigns and donating to their charities. The nature of the objections raised by the Clintons taking money from interested parties also applies to their solicitation of contributions to her presidential campaign — and to similar asks made by every other politician. On another level, though, a politician's charity is a special avenue of access.
Politicians' charities are an attractive place for special interests to funnel money. They can give much larger sums to charities than they can in hard campaign dollars. Because the charities are, by definition, nonpartisan, the contributions look less political. The politician who runs the charity usually has a pretty strong emotional tie to its sustainability and often benefits from payment in the form of travel and accommodations in conjunction with the charity's activities. Last but not least, donations to the charity are tax-deductible, in contrast to campaign contributions.
Candidates for office should seek to set the bar for their own conduct higher than the level required by current law. More important, at a time when the American public has rightly lost confidence that politicians serve the public first, foremost, and exclusively, Hillary Clinton has fallen short of that standard.
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