This Scarcely Required Clairvoyance, But Still . . .

Back at the end of February I linked to an article in The Washington Post about the failure of the Clinton Foundation to disclose some pretty hefty contributions from foreign governments and other foreign affiliates to the Clinton family’s slush fund charitable foundation, all at a time when Hillary Clinton was U.S. Secretary of State and those foreign governments or nationals were actively engaged in discussions with the United States, through the latter’s Department of State, for various sorts of things, generally involving trade concessions, greasing the skids for foreign business interests to do business in the U.S. or with U.S. companies, and so forth.

In my post on that article I lamented that the sleuths had followed the money trail only part of the way.  Specifically I noted that asking where the money came from is only part of the question, and that equally important is the issue of where the money has gone, since “charitable foundations” so easily lend themselves to what ordinary speakers of English would describe as money-laundering.

Some of that sleuthing has now been done, as well as additional digging on the sources of funds.  At the risk of understatement, what has come to light thus far is several orders of magnitude worse than what I’d have imagined back in February.

For starts there’s the Canadian mega-donor, who was flying Bill Clinton around on his private McDonnell-Douglas MD-87.  Frank Giustra first met the former president in 2005 and they quickly became buddies.  Over the years Giustra’s committed in the neighborhood of $100 million to the foundation, placing him firmly among the largest individual donors.  Since 2005 the plane has been used 26 times for foundation business, frequently ferrying Clinton around the world.  None of those trips, each of which is a contribution by a foreign donor, has previously been reported, by the way.  The Washington Post has a nice write-up on the plane and the connections between the Clintons and Giustra.

It’s about well more than an airplane, however.  It seems that Comrade Giustra set up his own “charity” in Canada.  That “charity” has donated quite a bit of money to the Clintons’ slush fund charitable foundation.  There was a 2008 written agreement between Hillary Clinton, the Clintons’ foundation, and the incoming administration of Dear Leader, in which Hillary was to serve as secretary of state, to disclose all foreign donations to the Clintons’ foundation.  Well . . . its seems that while the donations from Giustra’s foundation are disclosed, the identities of over 1,100 foreign donors to Giustra’s foundation remain secret.  Which is to say that without popping open the lid on the Canadian’s foundation we have no way of knowing on which foreign governments’ or actors’ payroll our former U.S. Secretary of State is.

But it gets better.  Ol’ Comrade Giustra owned huge uranium mining interests, including mines in Kazakhstan he acquired in 2005 in a $500 million deal . . . a deal finalized within days after he personally visited with the Kazakh president . . . in the company of one Wm. Jeff’n Clinton, erstwhile U.S. President.  Now, let’s not overlook that in 2005 Clinton was just a former president and his wife a junior senator from New York.  On the other hand, everyone and his cousin knew Hillary was running in 2008 and already three years earlier had been anointed with the mantle of “inevitability” (Dear Leader, of course, hadn’t got that memo).  The Kazakh deal made Giustra a major world-wide player in the uranium mining industry.  The next year Giustra made a $32.7 million donation to the Clintons’ foundation.  But of course Giustra and Clinton both deny Bill had anything to do with getting the deal closed.

Oh, but it gets better.  Let’s follow the thread some more.  In 2007, Giustra merged his uranium mining company — UrAsia — with a company called Uranium One.  Uranium One also happens to control about 20% of America’s domestic production of uranium, a strategic mineral.  Uranium One was headed by a buddy of Giustra’s.  During Hillary’s tenure as U.S. Secretary, Uranium One decided to sell itself to the Russian government in a series of transactions running from 2009 to 2013.  The sale of a company that controlled that much of American uranium required the approval of the U.S. Department of State.  While this deal was being reviewed by State, the chairman of Uranium One donated some $2.35 million to the Clintons’ slush fund foundation, and one of the Russian bankers working that end of it engaged Bill Clinton to deliver a speech in Moscow.  For a nice $500,000 fee, among the largest he ever got.  The State Department approved the deal.  During the deal, Comrade Giustra — remember him? — arranged for senior officials from Kazatomprom (it was involved in the deal from the Kazakh end of things) to visit with the former president at his house in New York.  Confronted with questions about the visit, the Clinton Foundation reflexively lied and said the visit had never occurred . . . until the reporter from The New York Times observed there existed a photograph taken at the meeting, at which point the story changed.  Yes, the meeting had taken place.

That same NYT reporter is the author of a pretty damning report . . . in The Grey Lady, of all places.  “Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal” is the headline, which pretty much sums it up.  Recall that this wasn’t a one-off thing.  It was sequence of transactions and during the entire period the cash kept flowing.  Moreover, the State Department was involved in substantially more than just signing off as Russia acquired control over 20% of U.S. production.  Remember those mines in Kazakhstan that Giustra had bought right after a visit from Bill Clinton to the Kazakh president?  Well, those mines were the crown jewels for Uranium One.  Rosatom (the Russian government’s entity) was only interested in the deal if it knew that it could get clear title to those mines.  There was only one problem, however:  In June, 2009, “Mr. Dzhakishev, the head of Kazatomprom, had just been arrested on charges that he illegally sold uranium deposits to foreign companies, including at least some of those won by Mr. Giustra’s UrAsia and now owned by Uranium One.”  Uranium One’s stock value dropped precipitously on the news.  Oopsies.  It turns out, by the way, as we now know from Wikileaks revelations, that the arrest was all part of a Russian move to force acquisition of those Kazakh assets.

So what do you do if you’re Uranium One?  Right:  You call up the U.S. embassy in Kazakhstan and pressure it to get involved.  From the NYT:  “It was against this backdrop that the Vancouver-based Uranium One pressed the American Embassy in Kazakhstan, as well as Canadian diplomats, to take up its cause with Kazakh officials, according to the American cables.  ‘We want more than a statement to the press,’ Paul Clarke, a Uranium One executive vice president, told the embassy’s energy officer on June 10, the officer reported in a cable. ‘That is simply chitchat.’ What the company needed, Mr. Clarke said, was official written confirmation that the licenses were valid.”  Remind me again why the United States embassy to a foreign country is being asked to vouch for the validity of mineral concessions in that foreign country, granted by that country to a corporation that is from yet another foreign country.  On June 10 and 11, 2009, those U.S. embassy officials met with the Kazakh government, and three days later Rosatom closed its first acquisition, of a 17% interest.

And who was the U.S. Secretary of State during this period?  Oh, right:  Hillary Clinton.

Less than a year later, Rosatom made an offer that would give it a 51% stake in Uranium One.  That created some waves in Washington.  There is, it seems, an outfit called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.  This not some toothless haven for people to whom the president owes the odd political favor.  The members of this committee include the U.S. Attorney General, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Director of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Energy . . . and the Secretary of State.  And they certainly take their jobs seriously.  From that same NYT article:  “When a company controlled by the Chinese government sought a 51 percent stake in a tiny Nevada gold mining operation in 2009, it set off a secretive review process in Washington, where officials raised concerns primarily about the mine’s proximity to a military installation, but also about the potential for minerals at the site, including uranium, to come under Chinese control. The officials killed the deal.”

The Russian deal sailed through, at a time when the Clintons were raking in millions of dollars from people directly interested in the transactions.
“Amid this influx of Uranium One-connected money, Mr. Clinton was invited to speak in Moscow in June 2010, the same month Rosatom struck its deal for a majority stake in Uranium One.”  That would be the $500,000 speaking fee.  But not to worry:  From the NYT, we learn that, “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.’”  Well, that’s reassuring.  Notice, by the way, that he does not say it didn’t happen; he says no one has “produced a shred of evidence” that it happened.  You really do have to parse these people’s words carefully.

If we want to find out if there is any evidence of such goings-on, I guess all we need to do is examine in detail the written record of Hillary’s tenure at State, including specifically all of her e-mails (given the amount of time she spent on the road while in office, she must have spent a phenomenal amount of time communicating by e-mail), and then maybe we’ll get a better feel for whether or not basic human nature and simple calendar-reading is misleading us here.  Oh, I forgot:  Hillary has destroyed all original evidence of her electronic correspondence while Secretary of State.  It was stored on a private computer server in a closet in her personal residence.  She has now wiped the hard drive, after having her personal staff — not even representatives from State — determine what to turn over and what not to.  As someone recently observed, not even Nixon physically destroyed the tapes.

[As an aside:  This computer server in the closet of one of the Clintons’ unused bedrooms (or wherever it was) was most emphatically not secured to the level required for cabinet-level correspondence.  As a practical matter what this means is that there are, in places like Russia, China, very likely India, and elsewhere complete images of that entire drive in the hands of people who are no friends to the United States.  Were — God forbid — Hillary to be elected president as she believes herself entitled, we would have the U.S. President subject to blackmail by any of several implacably hostile foreign countries (and that ignores the near-certainty that it’s not just those governments who have possession of the incriminating evidence, but also private criminal organizations).]

And the above is just one of the stories of where the money has come from.  Where is it going?

Well, damn little of it is going to charitable grants (“programmatic grants” in the language of the foundation’s Internal Revenue Form 990s) to third parties.  To be precise, from 2008 to 2012 inclusive, the foundation’s own disclosure show $500 million raised (and remember that number is dishonestly low, because they didn’t disclose many millions of dollars from foreign governments and others with business before Hillary’s State Department), and of that a whacking $75 million, or 15%, going to charitable grants.  Some $290 million, or roughly 60%, isn’t even categorized on the returns, it seems; it’s just listed as “other expenses.”  Really?  You have a charitable foundation that wants to toot its own horn for doing good — and they all do that, every last stinkin’ one of them — and yet it modestly declines to describe the charitable operations or purposes for 60% of its gross expenditures over a five-year period?  Please do not insult my intelligence.  Right at $110 million went to employee salary and benefits.  Color me skeptical, but I have a hard time accepting as reasonable that 20+% in wages, salaries, and benefits for an organization that does not produce or market anything of its own.

Well, don’t they do a huge amount in-house?  Must a charity implement its charitable purposes by giving money to other organizations?  Cannot it get down in the bilges and (in the words of the late Fleet Admiral Fisher) “stoop to oil their hands”?  Let’s take a look.  From the same author as the above-linked article in The Federalist, we have this article as well.  By the numbers:

“While some may claim that the Clinton Foundation does its charity by itself, rather than outsourcing to other organizations in the form of grants, there appears to be little evidence of that activity in 2013. In 2008, for example, the Clinton Foundation spent nearly $100 million purchasing and distributing medicine and working with its care partners. In 2009, the organization spent $126 million on pharmaceutical and care partner expenses. By 2011, those activities were virtually non-existent. The group spent nothing on pharmaceutical expenses and only $1.2 million on care partner expenses. In 2012 and 2013, the Clinton Foundation spent $0. In just a few short years, the Clinton’s primary philanthropic project transitioned from a massive player in global pharmaceutical distribution to a bloated travel agency and conference organizing business that just happened to be tax-exempt.”

Now, there was some reorganization behind the changes in those numbers.  In 2010, the Global Health Access Initiative, which had previously been within the umbrella of the Clinton Foundation and which had been the vehicle through which most of that pharmaceutical and care partner expenses were run, was spun off into its own entity.  The above numbers, showing those expenses going from $126 million in 2009 to $1.2 million in 2011, reflect that.

What was left?  Well, the Clinton Global Initiative, most of whose expenses are planning and staging the annual do of the . . . Clinton Global Initiative.  Then there is the Clinton Presidential Center, which is mostly the presidential library in Little Rock.  The other main programmatic expense is the Clinton Climate Initiative.  And what is its charitable function?  Well, the problem is that according to its CEO, Ira Magaziner (we first heard his name back in the early 1990s as one of the architects of Hillarycare), it’s not charitable at all.  Do what, you say?  Let’s let Ira tell it for himself.  From an article in The Atlantic in October, 2007:

“The climate initiative, in typical Magaziner style, has many moving parts, including technical assistance to cities, networks for sharing best practices, software to measure progress, financial support, and a full-time foundation staff member assigned to each city. But the make-or-break component is a plan to re-equilibrate the market for energy conservation. ‘What we’re doing is jump-starting— accelerating—market forces,’ Magaziner told me.

<snip>

That would be step one. Step two, in Magaziner’s vision, is to channel a Niagara of private capital into the effort. Energy-saving technologies typically cost more up front but less over time. ‘So what we’re going to be doing is setting up a financing mechanism,’ he told me. The foundation would help cities borrow in the securities markets against future energy savings. ‘The whole thing is bankable,’ Magaziner said. ‘It’s a commercial proposition. This is not charity. The whole concept of this is that the market itself over some period of time is going to deploy all these energy-saving things. The problem is it will happen slowly and gradually.’ The foundation hopes to reduce decades to years, and years to months.”

OK then.  Can anyone say, “unrelated business taxable income”?  Now, with the Clintons, as with all politicians, you have to ask yourself who is to benefit from the deal.  The Clintons are accepting all kinds of money from all manner of unsavory foreign donors.  They are turning it around and pumping it into — what? — his presidential library, an annual piss-up and meet-up, and some spectrum of “green technology” firms about which we know really nothing.  Where does it go from there?  Well, we have some idea of what may well be happening.  Our template is the Solyndra fiasco.  That was the one where the U.S. government subordinated $535 million in “loans” to the equity position of major donors to Dear Leader’s campaign and related supports.  Solyndra was a “green technology” start-up.  Or little Bobby Kennedy’s outfit (the name escapes me at the moment), the public filings of which indicate that its entire business plan is to live off government grants.

How much money goes to which firms, upon what terms, and what are the political donation patterns of the principals and senior management of these operations?  That will need to be the next step, drilling down to find out how much of this cash gets recycled back to the Clintons, either in “speaking fees” for Bill, or contributions to Hillary’s presidential bid.

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