Renova Group

July 31, 2016 – Opinion: The Clinton Foundation, State and Kremlin Connections

The Skolkovo Innovation Center opens in 2010 and is often referred to as Russia’s “Silicon Valley.” (Credit: Valeny Meinkov/Sputnik)

By Peter Schweizer

“Hillary Clinton touts her tenure as secretary of state as a time of hardheaded realism and “commercial diplomacy” that advanced American national and commercial interests. But her handling of a major technology transfer initiative at the heart of Washington’s effort to “reset” relations with Russia raises serious questions about her record. Far from enhancing American national interests, Mrs. Clinton’s efforts in this area may have substantially undermined U.S. national security.

Consider Skolkovo, an “innovation city” of 30,000 people on the outskirts of Moscow, billed as Russia’s version of Silicon Valley—and a core piece of Mrs. Clinton’s quarterbacking of the Russian reset.

Following his 2009 visit to Moscow, President Obama announced the creation of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission. Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state directed the American side, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov represented the Russians. The stated goal at the time: “identifying areas of cooperation and pursuing joint projects and actions that strengthen strategic stability, international security, economic well-being, and the development of ties between the Russian and American people.”

The Kremlin committed $5 billion over three years to fund Skolkovo. Mrs. Clinton’s State Department worked aggressively to attract U.S. investment partners and helped the Russian State Investment Fund, Rusnano, identify American tech companies worthy of Russian investment. Rusnano, which a scientific adviser to President Vladimir Putin called “Putin’s child,” was created in 2007 and relies entirely on Russian state funding.

What could possibly go wrong?

Soon, dozens of U.S. tech firms, including top Clinton Foundation donors like Google, Intel and Cisco , made major financial contributions to Skolkovo, with Cisco committing a cool $1 billion. In May 2010, the State Department facilitated a Moscow visit by 22 of the biggest names in U.S. venture capital—and weeks later the first memorandums of understanding were signed by Skolkovo and American companies.

By 2012 the vice president of the Skolkovo Foundation, Conor Lenihan —who had previously partnered with the Clinton Foundation—recorded that Skolkovo had assembled 28 Russian, American and European “Key Partners.” Of the 28 “partners,” 17, or 60%, have made financial commitments to the Clinton Foundation, totaling tens of millions of dollars, or sponsored speeches by Bill Clinton.

Russians tied to Skolkovo also flowed funds to the Clinton Foundation. Andrey Vavilov, the chairman of SuperOx, which is part of Skolkovo’s nuclear-research cluster, donated between $10,000 and $25,000 (donations are reported in ranges, not exact amounts) to the Clinton’s family charity. Skolkovo Foundation chief and billionaire Putin confidant Viktor Vekselberg also gave to the Clinton Foundation through his company, Renova Group.

Amid all the sloshing of Russia rubles and American dollars, however, the state-of-the-art technological research coming out of Skolkovo raised alarms among U.S. military experts and federal law-enforcement officials. Research conducted in 2012 on Skolkovo by the U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Program at Fort Leavenworth declared that the purpose of Skolkovo was to serve as a “vehicle for world-wide technology transfer to Russia in the areas of information technology, biomedicine, energy, satellite and space technology, and nuclear technology.” (Read more: Wall Street Journal, 7/31/2016)

May 14, 2010 – Emails show Clinton ties to Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, owner of Renova Group and head of the Skolkovo deal

Viktor Vekselberg (Credit: Dmitry Lovetsky/The Associated Press)

“New emails show Clinton Foundation staff pushed Hillary Clinton’s State Department to approve a meeting between Bill Clinton and a powerful Russian oligarch as her agency lined up investors for a project under his purview.

The Clintons’ relationship with Viktor Vekselberg, the billionaire whose name appears in the documents, has taken on new significance amid an expanding criminal investigation into his company. Last week, authorities raided the offices of Vekselberg’s firm, Renova Group, following allegations of bribery from several of Renova’s subsidiaries.

Vekselberg had been named head of a partnership dubbed the “Russian Silicon Valley” just three months before a Clinton Foundation employee began pushing the State Department to approve Bill Clinton’s proposed meeting with Vekselberg and a handful of other Russian executives.

(…) Vekselberg’s Renova Group has donated between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, donor records show. Another firm associated with Vekselberg, OC Oerlikon, donated $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

Renova’s interests in mining, oil and telecommunications have helped Vekselberg become one of Russia’s wealthiest individuals and an influential figure within the Kremlin.

Beginning in May 2010, Amitabh Desai, a Clinton Foundation employee who acted as a frequent liaison to the State Department on behalf of Bill Clinton, asked agency officials if they had any objections to the former president’s plan to meet with a handful of Russian executives on an upcoming swing through the country.

“Would State have concerns about WJC seeing any of these folks?” Desai wrote on May 14, 2010, using Bill Clinton’s initials. Vekselberg’s name appeared on the list of Russian businessmen.

After receiving no reply, Desai asked senior members of Hillary Clinton’s staff again 10 days later for their thoughts on Bill Clinton’s proposed meetings. On June 3, 2010, Desai said he and the former president “urgently need feedback” about what he had described as a “possible trip to Russia.”

Finally, after Desai entreated the State Department for a response to the list of names for the fourth time on June 7, 2010, Jake Sullivan, a top aide to Hillary Clinton, forwarded the request to another State Department official and asked: “What’s the deal [with] this?”

In April of that year, Bill Clinton’s staff had submitted to the State Department ethics office a request for the former president to deliver a paid speech in Moscow on June 28, 2010, an engagement that necessitated the trip to Russia that Desai described.

Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment bank, paid Bill Clinton $500,000 for that speech, according to his wife’s financial disclosures from 2010. The State Department had given its approval for the trip just two days after Bill Clinton’s office filed its request.

The former president’s travel to Russia for the speech and potential meetings with Vekselberg and others came as Hillary Clinton’s State Department labored to drum up interest in a technology-sharing project, led by Vekselberg, called Skolkovo.” (Read more: Washington Examiner, 9/12/2016)