December - 2008

December 17, 2008 – The Clinton Foundation reveals its donor list

Bill Clinton  (Credit: Bloomberg News)

“Former President Bill Clinton has collected tens of millions of dollars for his foundation over the last 10 years from governments in the Middle East, tycoons from Canada, India, Nigeria and Ukraine, and other international figures with interests in American foreign policy.

Lifting a longstanding cloak of secrecy, Mr. Clinton on Thursday released a complete list of more than 200,000 donors to his foundation as part of an agreement to douse concerns about potential conflicts if Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is confirmed as secretary of state in the Obama administration.

[…]”Saudi Arabia alone gave to the foundation $10 million to $25 million, as did government aid agencies in Australia and the Dominican Republic. Brunei, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar and Taiwan each gave more than $1 million. So did the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Foundation, both based in the United Arab Emirates, and the Friends of Saudi Arabia, founded by a Saudi prince.

Also among the largest donors were a businessman who was close to the onetime military ruler of Nigeria, a Ukrainian tycoon who was son-in-law of that former Soviet republic’s authoritarian president and a Canadian mining executive who took Mr. Clinton to Kazakhstan while trying to win lucrative uranium contracts.

In addition, the foundation accepted sizable contributions from several prominent figures from India, like a billionaire steel magnate and a politician who lobbied Mrs. Clinton this year on behalf of a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement between India and the United States, a deal that has rankled Pakistan, a key foreign policy focus of the incoming administration.” (Read more: New York Times, 12/18/2008)

December 17, 2008 – The Clinton Foundation reveals their donor list which includes foreign governments as well as business leaders.

Clinton pays an official visit to King Abdullah, in Saudi Arabia, on March 30, 2012. (Credit: Reuters)

“In 2015, the Washington Post will report that the 2008 list of donors “included foreign governments, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which could ask the State Department to take their side in international arguments. And it included a variety of other figures who might benefit from a relationship—or the appearance of a relationship—with the secretary. A businessman close to the ruler of Nigeria. Blackwater Training Center, a controversial military contractor. And dozens of powerful American business leaders, including some prominent conservatives, such as Rupert Murdoch.” Additionally, “It appeared that some wealthy donors—who traveled with [Bill] Clinton or attended his events—also had made valuable business connections at the same time.” For instance, Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra “attended Clinton-related events and met the leaders of Kazakhstan and Colombia, countries where he would later make significant business deals.” (The Washington Post, 6/2/2015) (The New York Times, 12/18/2008)

“Former US Treasury Department official Matthew Levitt says donations from “countries where [the US has] particularly sensitive issues and relations” will invariably raise conflict of interest concerns. “The real question is to what extent you can really separate the activities and influence of any husband and wife, and certainly a husband and wife team that is such a powerhouse.”

Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson says the disclosure of donors should ensure that there would be “not even the appearance of a conflict of interest.” (The New York Times, 12/18/2008) (Read more: Thompson Timeline)

December 12, 2008 – The Clinton Foundation makes an agreement with the White House over conflict of interest issues

Bruce Lindsey (Credit: Clinton Foundation)

“In late 2008, when it becomes clear that newly elected President Obama will nominate Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation presents a very large conflict of interest problem. There is a particular concern that foreign governments could use donations to the foundation to influence the Clinton-led State Department.

As a result, on December 12, 2008, the foundation’s CEO Bruce Lindsey signs a memorandum of understanding with Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of Obama’s transition team. It allows governments which had previously donated to the foundation to continue to do so, but only at existing yearly levels. It details an ethics review process for new donating countries or countries that want to “materially increase” their support. However, it does not prohibit foreign countries with interests before the US government from continuing to give money to the foundation.

The Washington Post will later report, “Some of the donations came from countries with complicated diplomatic, military, and financial relationships with the US government, including Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman. Other nations that donated included Australia, Norway, and the Dominican Republic.” The Post will also note, “Foreign governments and individuals are prohibited from giving money to US political candidates, to prevent outside influence over national leaders. But the foundation has given donors a way to potentially gain favor with the Clintons outside the traditional political limits.” (Read more: Thompson Timeline)