Bill Clinton's Donor List, Including Foreign Governments, May Pose Conflicts for Hillary
Friday, December 19, 2008
Former president Bill Clinton's disclosure yesterday that foreign governments and state-sponsored agencies have donated between $75 million and $165 million to his foundation highlighted a series of potential conflicts that Hillary Rodham Clinton could face should she become secretary of state.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia made one of the largest contributions, between $10 million and $25 million, as did the Australian government's overseas aid program and a Dominican Republic agency that fights AIDS. The William J. Clinton Foundation also raised more than $1 million each from the governments of Brunei, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.
The former president had resisted releasing the list of donors during his wife's presidential campaign, but he agreed to do so when it became a possible issue as President-elect Barack Obama was considering whether to make her part of his Cabinet.
The list -- containing more than 200,000 donor names -- shows the extent to which Bill Clinton relied on foreign governments, especially those of Middle Eastern oil states, to establish his foundation over the past decade. In many cases, those governments have national interests that have routinely come before the State Department and other U.S. government agencies.
Obama transition officials believe Clinton's disclosure "goes above and beyond in preventing conflicts," spokesman Tommy Vietor said. "Past donations to the Clinton Foundation have no connection to Senator Clinton's prospective tenure as secretary of state. Going forward, all donors will be disclosed on an annual basis, and new donations from foreign governments will be scrutinized by government ethics officers."
The release of the Clinton donors shows for the first time the scope of his international fundraising and charitable efforts since leaving the White House in 2001. Norway and the national charitable lottery of the Netherlands gave more than $5 million, for example, and the Swedish lottery also donated. The Jamaican and Italian governments each contributed more than $50,000.
"It is going to be complex to disassociate the specialized interests of the foundation of Bill Clinton from certain foreign interests that are represented by the U.S. government," said James Thurber of American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. "But I think they can do it. I don't think it is a major issue yet, but you never know, when it comes to Bill Clinton, what might come out."
Since it was established in 1997, the Clinton Foundation has raised more than $500 million, which has financed construction of Clinton's presidential library in Little Rock as well as charitable programs in global health, poverty, climate change and education. The donations have gone to an estimated 150 countries and provided medication to some 1.4 million people living with AIDS, according to foundation staff. In partnership with former president George H.W. Bush, the foundation also raised millions of dollars for recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.
The list released yesterday includes some controversial figures and companies. Affiliates of the Korean conglomerate Hanwha -- Hanwha L&C, Hanwha Engineering and Construction, and Hanwha Stores -- donated about $1 million after Clinton traveled to Seoul in 2003 and appeared with Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn. Kim has been charged and jailed in Korea on public corruption allegations.
Another donation followed Clinton's trip to Kazakhstan in 2005 on the private jet of Frank Giustra, a financier of mining ventures. On the trip, Clinton praised Kazakhstan's authoritarian president, and Giustra later entered into agreements to invest in uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan's government. Giustra donated $10 million to $25 million, and the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative gave between $1 million and $5 million.
A donation of more than $25,000 came from Andre Agapov, a Russian mining company owner who allegedly worked with the Russian secret police for President Boris Yeltsin.
Other contributors include Friends of Saudi Arabia and the Dubai Foundation, as well as Saudi businessman Nasser Al-Rashid, each giving more than $1 million. Haim Saban, the Egyptian-born media tycoon who funds many Israeli initiatives, gave more than $5 million.