• Peter Schweizer, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Business Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, Harper, 2015, 243 pages, $27.99.
Old-line establishment writing on America’s ruling class has come to resemble the unctuous hagiography of the British royals. In contrast, Peter Schweizer’s Clinton Cash is more along the lines of investigative journalism. The book attracted considerable attention before its publication in May, but the story is not new.
The author recalls Denise Rich, who donated $100,000 to Hillary Clinton’s senate campaign, $450,000 to the Clinton Library, and $1 million to the Democratic Party. Then, on the last day of his presidency, Bill Clinton pardoned Denise’s husband Marc Rich, a billionaire fugitive. That drew widespread bipartisan condemnation and prompted columnist Maureen Dowd to call the Clintons “grifters.” Bill and Hillary didn’t care. Like Monica Lewinsky flipping up her skirt in the Oval Office, the pardon sent a strong signal to those abroad seeking influence in American policy. On that front, the Clintons were open for business.
Legally, foreigners cannot contribute to American campaigns, but as Schweizer notes, the most troubling thing about Washington isn’t what’s illegal but what isn’t. Bill and Hillary Clinton, both lawyers, often take money from foreign entities in the form of donations to the Clinton Foundation or speaking fees. These turn out to be much larger than any campaign contribution.
As the author lays it out, one spouse accepts money from foreign governments and businesses while the other charts American foreign policy. One conducts sensitive negotiations with foreign entities while the other collects large speaking fees from some of those same entities. And in the author’s view, the scope of this activity is unprecedented in American politics.
To the Clintons’ default response that this is all about charity, the author cites the late Christopher Hitchens, hardly a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy. Hitchens wondered why third word oligarchs didn’t donate their money to charities in their own countries “rather than distributing it through the offices of an outfit run by a seasoned ex-presidential influence peddler.” That’s how high rollers like Canadian Frank Giustra perceive Bill Clinton.
“All of my chips, almost, are on Bill Clinton,” said Giustra. “He’s a brand, a worldwide brand, and he can do things and ask for things that no one else can.”
Schweizer charts one of Giustra’s Canadian associates, Ian Telfer, who controls the Fernwood Foundation. While Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, Fernwood contributed more than $2 million to the Clinton Foundation, which does not list Fernwood as a donor.
Telfer is also chairman of Uranium One, a Canadian company that controls a large share of U.S. uranium assets. In 2010, Uranium One negotiated a deal to be purchased by a “private” subsidiary of Russia’s state nuclear agency. As Schweizer notes, this proved troubling to a bipartisan group of congressmen, who believed that Russia could not be trusted to allocate U.S. uranium consistent with U.S. interests.
That was not the view of Hillary Clinton. The secretary of state serves on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Hillary could have blocked the deal or kicked it up to the president, forcing President Obama to make the final call, but she did neither. On Oct. 22, 2010, CFIUS approved the Russian purchase of Uranium One, transferring half of America’s projected uranium production to a private company controlled by a Russian government agency.
That is the major caper in Clinton Cash, but the story hardly ends there. Schweizer does not neglect Clinton praise for Kazakhstan’s dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev right after his rigged election. Clinton favorites include Meles Zenawi from Ethiopia and Paul Kagame in Rwanda. The Clinton Foundation praised Kagame, but the United Nations accuses his militias of raping and slaying thousands of Hutus.
Dictators, spies, and warlords jostle in these pages, and the alert producer will find material for several movies. The account is veritable directory of the rich and powerful, with their intrigues over gold, diamonds, minerals, and oil. Readers also will find a guide to Clinton cronies such as Ira Magaziner, evangelist of Hillarycare, and now a boss at the Clinton Foundation. This outfit effectively functions as a shadow government.
The Clintons claimed they were flat broke when they left the White House. They weren’t, and by Schweizer’s count, in the next seven years they pulled in a cool $109 million. The money flow accelerated when Hillary became America’s chief diplomat, and the biggest payments came from countries where bribery and corruption are common. When his wife was secretary of state, Bill gave 11 speeches, each for a fee of $500,000. Ron Fournier of National Journal, also not a member of the right-wing conspiracy, tagged Hillary’s State Department activity “donor maintenance.”
Schweizer, who has been featured on CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” notes where policy changes conform to the interests of Clinton donors. The pattern of behavior is too blatant to ignore and, the author says, “deserves legal scrutiny by those with investigative capacities that go beyond journalism.” Some questions only Hillary and Bill can answer, so those with subpoena power will here find a clear mandate. The book also illuminates key realities that often escape notice.
Election to public office does not confer wisdom or morality on anyone, and winning an election does not eliminate character flaws. Political power has a way of amplifying those flaws, which do not drop by the wayside when someone leaves public office. Flaws and influence remain, and the opportunities to cash in may well increase.
As Hillary Clinton might say, “What difference does it make?” Readers of Clinton Cash will know the answer.
Lloyd Billingsley is a contributor to Carolina Journal.