An upcoming book about the Clintons’ foreign donors has whipped the media into a frenzy. After presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) teased for weeks that the book contained scandalous revelations about Hillary Clinton’s actions in the State Department, many in the media are asserting its contents could “derail her campaign.”
Clinton Cash, by former Bush speechwriter and Breitbart.com contributor Peter Schweizer, is billed as a game-changer for Clinton’s candidacy, revealing that the Clinton State Department traded favors for big donations to the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees for Bill Clinton. “The author, Peter Schweizer, says he has evidence of a pay-to-play scheme,” Fox News’ Sean Hannity noted.
ThinkProgress obtained an advance copy of Clinton Cash, which will be released May 5. Schweizer makes clear that he does not intend to present a smoking gun, despite the media speculation. The book relies heavily on timing, stitching together the dates of donations to the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton’s speaking fees with actions by the State Department.
Schweizer explains he cannot prove the allegations, leaving that up to investigative journalists and possibly law enforcement. “Short of someone involved coming forward to give sworn testimony, we don’t know what might or might not have been said in private conversations, the exact nature of the transition, or why people in power make the decision they do,” he writes. Later, he concludes, “We cannot ultimately know what goes on in their minds and ultimately provide the links between the money they took and the benefits that subsequently accrued to themselves, their friends, and their associates.”
Though Schweizer is unable to provide direct evidence that State Department actions were influenced by Clinton Foundation donations, he does raise questions about unsavory donors and possible conflicts of interest, regardless of whether or not they dictated Clinton’s policy.
The book alleges the Clinton Foundation has failed to disclose some of its donors, digging up Canadian tax records as evidence of a $2 million donation from the Fernwood Foundation that Schweizer says went unreported. He also says he found a $40,000 donation in the form of stocks from the Dattels Family Foundation that was listed on their website but not on the Clintons’ donor list.
Schweizer also zeroes in on some of the foundation’s voluntarily disclosed but somewhat shady donors, including the Lundin Group, a mining, oil and gas company that was investigated for war crimes in Sudan and has reportedly reaped massive profits in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Lundin committed $100 million to the Clinton Foundation shortly after Hillary announced her presidential candidacy in 2007. Schweizer points to a 2006 law co-sponsored by Clinton and Obama, which gave the secretary of state powers to hold destabilizing forces in the DRC accountable, and notes that Clinton declined to employ those powers after Lundin’s donation.
Schweizer highlights another large donor to the Clinton Foundation, Mohammed al-Amoudi — Saudi Arabia’s second-richest man, who supposedly owed his fortune to his relationship with Ethiopia’s government. An Ethiopian American human rights group sent an open letter in 2009 to the Clinton Foundation and the Secretary of State’s Office warning that they believed Amoudi’s huge donation was funneled from the Ethiopian government, as Amoudi was not known for his philanthropy.
Another murky practice discussed in the book was the State Department’s use of the special government employee (SGE) rule, which allowed some staffers to simultaneously work for the State Department and non-government organizations, including the Clinton Foundation. The Senate Judiciary Committee is currently investigating Clinton’s use of the SGE after a ProPublica investigation found there were at least 100 State Department employees who worked for other organizations at the same time.
Schweizer also fingers Bill Clinton’s speaking fees, a favorite target in conservative circles, as a potential avenue to influence Hillary. He links the timing of the State Department’s generally positive report on the Keystone XL Pipeline with a slew of Clinton speeches paid for by TD Bank, a major shareholder in the project. As proof of how crucial Clinton’s support for the pipeline was to the bank, Schweizer quotes a press release that claimed TD Bank would “begin selling its $1.6 billion worth of shares in the massive but potentially still-born Keystone XL crude pipeline project” after Clinton left office. The press release was quickly revealed to be fake in 2013. Yet Schweizer, apparently unaware of the hoax, remarks, “Too bad for TD Bank. But the Clintons got paid regardless.”
As Media Matters has documented, Schweizer has a record of making inaccurate claims, factual errors, and retractions. Much of Clinton Cash also relies on previously reported issues. But the Clinton Foundation’s finances have come under scrutiny ever since President Obama asked the charity to disclose its donors as a condition of Clinton’s appointment as Secretary of State. The foundation also agreed to stop taking contributions from most foreign governments during Clinton’s tenure. Still, media investigations have raised concerns about potential conflicts of interests stemming from the charity’s private donors.
Clinton herself dismissed the book as a “distraction.” But the allegations may not go away anytime soon; in an unusual arrangement, several top media outlets have reportedly agreed to further investigate some of the issues raised in the book.