by I.K. Mullins
Copyright©2015 I.K. Mullins. All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the author.
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**************************There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.
When the release of Schweizer’s book was announced, the Clinton presidential campaign dismissed his book as a partisan attack. Meanwhile, The New York Times, The Washington Post, POLITICO, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal and other news media published their reports on the Clintons’ wealth, attempting to prove that the money Bill Clinton had accepted as the head of the Clinton Foundation influenced some of Hillary Clinton’s actions taken when she was Secretary of State.
The Wall Street Journal’s article entitled ““Gifts to Hillary Clinton’s Family Charity Are Scrutinized in Wake of Book” describes findings that agree with Schweizer’s book about a hidden foreign donation of two million shares in Polo Resources made to the Clinton Foundation by Stephen Dattels, a Canadian mining executive. The Wall Street Journal confirmed that the Clinton Foundation did not disclose this donation. The Journal’s research found that approximately two months after the donation was made, the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh persuaded the energy adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to ‘open pit mining,’ including those mines in which Polo Resources has interest.
According to Jonathan Allen’s article, “Exclusive: Clinton charities will refile tax returns, audit for other errors,” published in Reuters on April 23, 2015, the Clinton Foundation did not report foreign donations in its federal tax filings of 2010, 2011, and 2012. Consequently, charities run by the Clintons have to re-file at least five annual federal tax returns while the list of the Clinton Foundation’s donors is being scrutinized.
In turn, Clinton aides argue that the Clinton Foundation complies with the established standards and that the foundation’s web site displays information about donors and their contributions. Consequently, though, the Clinton Foundation announced that it had revised its policy and that from now on it will accept donations from Germany, Canada, the Netherlands and Great Britain and it will disallow donations from the nations in the Middle East.
In the article, “Bill Clinton Cashed In When Hillary Became Secretary of State,” published by ABC News, Matthew Mosk and Brian Ross confirm Schweizer’s report that a large number of individuals and businesses paid Bill Clinton for speeches when their business interests were pending before Hillary Clinton’s State Department.
In her article, “For Clintons, speech income shows how their wealth is intertwined with charity,” published in The Washington Post on April 22, 2015, Rosalind S. Helderman reports that the Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars in donations from US-based businesses, as well as foreign corporations and seven foreign governments during the period when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.
The Washington Post also reports that Microsoft and Cisco Systems donated at least 1 million dollars each to the Clinton Foundation, and paid Bill Clinton 1.02 million dollars in speaking fees. Some of the donations originated from countries such as Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman, which are known to have complicated relations with the U.S. government. Other nations that donated money to the Clinton Foundation included Norway, Australia, and the Dominican Republic.
Helderman’s report confirmed Schweizer’s findings, stating that Bill Clinton was paid more than $100 million for speeches between 2001 and 2013; at least 26 million dollars of this money came from companies and organizations that are also large donors of the Clinton Foundation. Such major financial institutions as Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs donated between 2.75 million and 11.5 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation.
Whereas Hillary Clinton usually discloses only the primary sponsor of each speech in her filings, she was not required to report the sub-sponsors in her annual filings. According to The Washington Post, Boeing, for example was one of such “sub-sponsors.” In 2009, during her trip to Russia, Hillary Clinton mentioned Boeing, encouraging a state-owned airline to buy Boeing jets.
When it comes to the India-U.S. nuclear deal, Schweizer reports a few facts, but he leaves readers to draw links between those facts and to make conclusions. The U.S. Congress first considered the issue of a civilian nuclear trade deal with India in 2006, passing legislation required to change existing atomic energy law so that it would permit the negotiations to move forward. In 2008, after a series of negotiations, the U.S. Congress approved the final deal, allowing the US to export nuclear fuel and technology to India. Hillary Clinton, who was a founding member of the Senate India Caucus, supported both measures.
In 2006, she released a public statement in favor of the legislation and voted for some limitations in the form of amendments made to the deal. One amendment required India to terminate its military cooperation with Iran, another amendment required assurances that India would not use the deal to develop nuclear weapons, and the third amendment declared support of a U.N. resolution regarding nuclear disarmament. In 2008, when the final bill was voted, it did not have these amendments included. In addition, the vote was not recorded in 2008, and Clinton did not make any public statements about her vote.
In her article, “Five Questions About the Clintons and a Uranium Company,” published in The New Yorker on April 24, 2015, Amy Davidson confirms that, as Clinton Cash claims, Bill Clinton was paid 500,000 dollars for a speech that he made in Moscow. The money was paid by a Russian investment bank which allegedly had ties to the Russian government at the time of the Uranium One deal.
In April 2015, several news sources published articles implying that Hillary Clinton benefited financially during her tenure as Secretary of State in dealings that involved Uranium One. The stories alleged that control over massive amounts of uranium was moved from the U.S. to Russia in return for foreign donations made to the Clinton Foundation and speaking arrangements for Bill Clinton. For example, The New York Times published a story proposing that the donations—which Giustra and other investors made to the Clinton Foundation—could have impacted a U.S. government decision to approve a buyout of Uranium One by Rosatom.
Even though Schweizer does not have a direct proof that the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal, he alleges in his book that Hillary Clinton was responsible for the approval of the acquisition of a few uranium mines in the US by Uranium One. Yet, in an interview that was released on the day of his book, Clinton Cash, launch, Schweizer admitted that he overstretched his assessment of Hillary Clinton’s role in approving Uranium One deal.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) asserts that American uranium is meant for domestic use only and that the owner of Uranium One cannot export uranium from the US without a special NRC license. Additionally, Sergei Novikov, the Rosatom spokesman, stated that Uranium One was much more interested in acquiring uranium mines located in Kazakhstan, which are more valuable asset than those in Wyoming.
Uranium One is a Canadian uranium mining company with its headquarters in Toronto and operations in Australia, Canada, the US, Kazakhstan and South Africa. The company was founded in January 1997 as Southern Cross Resources Inc. In 2005, Southern Cross Resources Inc. and Aflease Gold and Uranium Resources Ltd merged under the name SXR Uranium One Inc.
In 2007, Uranium One acquired a controlling interest in UrAsia Energy, a Canadian company with interests in uranium operations in Kazakhstan, from Frank Giustra. Prior to that, UrAsia Energy acquired its Kazakhstan uranium interests from Kazatomprom (after Bill Clinton and Giustra traveled to Kazakhstan for a meeting with Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan). Schweizer writes in his book that Giustra subsequently made considerable donations to the Clinton Foundation.
In January 2013, Rosatom, the Russian atomic energy agency, purchased a 100 percent stake in Uranium One through ARMZ Uranium Holding, which is a subsidiary of Rosatom. The transaction was reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US. In December 2013, Uranium One was made a direct subsidiary of Rosatom. The Uranium One takeover gave Russia control of 20 percent of U.S. uranium production that comes from the Willow Creek uranium mine, projects in the Powder River and Great Divide basins in Wyoming. (In 2011, the US mined 9 percent of the uranium consumed by its nuclear power plants. The remainder was imported, principally from Russia (50 percent), Australia and Canada.)
Schweizer argues in his book that the uranium deal gave Russia control of much of the world’s supply of uranium. However, a hypothesis perpetrated by Schweizer and the media, which suggests that the approval of acquisition of a few uranium mines in the US by Uranium One poses a threat to the U.S. national security, is debatable.
For instance, in his book, White House Special Handbook: How to Rule the World in the 21st Century, Mikhail Kryzhanovsky discusses the question of exporting uranium in detail. The story goes back to the U.S.—Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation that was created by Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin during their meeting in Vancouver, Canada, in April 1993. Later, it became known as the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission (GCC).
Janine Wedel writes in her book, Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market, that in the early 1990s, the U.S. government “appointed” the Harvard Institute for International Development to guide the transition of Russia from a public economy (i.e., a socialist economy) to a private economy (i.e., a capitalist economy). The Harvard Project was led by Andrei Shleifer, Jonathon Hays and Anatoly Chubais, a Russian politician and businessman. Wedel describes how these people gained a lot of power over the privatization process in Russia and enriched themselves and Russian oligarchs, using their insider access to various types of information. Members of this ‘Chubais-Harvard Institute for International Development’ group were also part of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission.
Kryzhanovsky writes in his book, White House Special Handbook: How to Rule the World in the 21st Century, that the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission enabled Russian-American Agreement on HEU (highly enriched uranium) deal according to which HEU from dismantled Russian nuclear warheads were to be sold to customers in the US through the United Stated Enrichment Company (the USEC).
Under this agreement President Yeltsin sold to the US 500 metric tons of Russia’s military uranium, which is practically the whole stock of Russia’s military uranium, for one thousands of its actual cost. The actual cost of 500 metric tons of Russia’s military uranium was about 8 trillion dollars, and it was sold to the US for about 12 billion dollars. (Kryzhanovsky explains in his book that “one ton of military grade uranium is equivalent to 100 million tons of oil — or several Persian Gulfs.”)
Kryzhanovsky also comments in his book that three Russian statesmen, who attempted to investigate the sale of Russia’s military uranium that drastically impaired Russia’s national security, were murdered.
Russian-American agreement on HEU profoundly strengthened the U.S. national security. Moreover, it turned out to be extremely lucrative in financial terms for the US and financially disastrous for Russia. Hence, it remains to be seen why Schweizer discounts the significance of the Russian-American agreement on HEU and exaggerates the role of the Uranium One deal.
Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s second presidential campaign, accused Schweizer’s book of being part of the Republicans’ attack on Hillary Clinton. The book’s release is certainly scheduled to match the beginning of her campaign. It relies on tax records and government documents, emphasizing the fact that the payments made to Bill Clinton for his speeches increased during the time that Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State. In response to Schweizer’s book, Hillary Clinton’s campaign cites the fact that the book is backed by a billionaire family that is sponsoring Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.
Hillary Clinton’s campaigners also point out that during her tenure as Secretary of State, she was not as influential inside the White House as Schweizer depicts her to be in his book. Therefore, the policy changes discussed in Schweizer’s book cannot be linked solely to her influence. They also contend that Hillary Clinton had to work on foreign policies with Joe Biden, and their views were not the same on all the matters. For example, Obama disagreed with Clinton’s proposal regarding operations in Afghanistan and sided with Biden, facilitating the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Schweizer’s story tells us how the growth of the Clintons’ wealth followed Bill Clinton’s presidency. However, Bill Clinton is not the only former president whose wealth increased with the help of speaking fees and book royalties after he left office. For example, George W. Bush allegedly received an advance of about 7 million dollars for his memoirs. Bush also earns a large income from speaking arrangements, charging between 100,000 and 150,000 dollars per speech. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Bush earned approximately 15 million dollars in the course of the first 15 months after he left office.
One thing for certain is that times change and people change too. For example, after Harry Truman—who served as the U.S. President from 1945 until 1953—left office, he lived on the money he saved from his salary and on a 112.56-dollars monthly pension that he was paid as a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. Truman rejected any fees for speaking arrangements or consulting activities. He considered this kind of revenue as financial exploitation of the presidency.
Today, the U.S. Presidency can make presidents very rich, and this does not feel right to many Americans. Schweizer’s book could have done a great service by researching the sources of wealth of several former presidents and their relatives, seeking and revealing common patterns in the system that allows financial exploitation of the presidency, and proposing ways to change the system. Unfortunately, Schweizer does not do any of that in his book.
Without such comparative analysis, Schweizer’s investigative undertaking on the Clintons remains partial and biased. This becomes particularly obvious in the light of the findings reported by Martin Gilens, Professor of Politics at Princeton University, and Benjamin I. Page, Gordon S. Fulcher Professor of Decision Making at Northwestern University, in their article entitled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.” The article describes the results of their empirical research incorporating data for 1,779 policy issues in the US that span over 20 years.
Their study demonstrates that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”
In their article, Gilens and Page write, “Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association.… But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”
Therefore, it is a one-sided approach to attack a small number of political figures, as Schweizer does in his book, leaving out the fact that the system has been influenced by big businesses and the wealthy long before these particular politicians reached White House.
As for the untold story of how and why foreign governments and businesses can influence the U.S. politicians, Schweizer book misses out many important issues.
For example, let me remind you how the U.S. government handled the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which was described as “the worst environmental disaster in American history.” At 9:45 p.m. local time on April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig had killed 11 workers and left 17 workers injured. As a result of the explosion, the Macondo well had blown apart, releasing huge amount of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and endangering the Gulf and the coastal areas from Texas to Florida.
As the disaster was escalating, the Obama administration gave away control over the situation with the spill to BP, a British company. That is, the government surrendered the control over handling the worst environmental disaster in American history to a foreign company that was responsible for the disaster in the first place.
Subsequently, BP contaminated the Gulf with Corexit, a toxic substance. (According to a scientific study published in the Environmental Pollution journal Nineteen months after the explosion, crude oil becomes 52 times more toxic when combined with Corexit).
Another serious concern is the fact that foreign countries and private banks hold U.S. government debt (i.e., the debt of the nation). According to Treasury data, for example, over the past year, Japan’s U.S. debt holdings increased by 13.6 billion dollars. Japan currently owns even more U.S. government debt than China. The Federal Reserve, a cohort of privately owned banks owns about 2.5 trillion dollars’ worth of Treasuries.
These examples bring another question: is it accidental that in his quest for exposing political wrongdoings, Schweizer ignores certain issues that seriously influence well-being of the nation?
Finally, any study of the sources of presidential and post-presidential wealth is incomplete without an exhaustive investigation of the sources of money spent on presidential campaigns and their impact on elections and presidential decisions. This issue becomes more serious as presidential campaign spending continues to grow. For example, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that the total amount of money spent by the Obama campaign in 2008 equals 730 million dollars, which is almost twice as much money as the money raised for the Bush presidential campaign in 2004.
The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission allowed record-high amounts of spending in the 2010 and 2012 elections. The case caused the creation of super PACs and acceptance of unlimited contributions from corporate world and from individuals. The super PACs spent more than 600 million dollars in the 2012 elections. The inside of these processes is well explained in Kenneth P. Vogel’s book, Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp—on the Trail of the Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics.
In my opinion, when it comes to elections, the right thing to do is to prohibit any donations to presidential campaigns and use federal resources to allocate an equal amount of “on-air” time for each candidate so that all the presidential candidates have an equal opportunity; a means of addressing voters and the opportunity to explain their presidential platforms.
Regrettably, this is only wishful thinking. In reality, running for president of the United States has become so expensive that only wealthy individuals, organizations and big businesses can afford to finance presidential campaigns, thus influencing presidential elections and policies. In this twisted arrangement, the presidential candidates with the greatest financial resources have the greatest opportunity to reach out to the voters and influence their votes.
But is it democratic that someone‘s money decides which candidate will be heard more and which candidate will be heard less?