As suggested by its subtitle, The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, the book is an unrestrained attack on the former president and first lady.
Across its slender 245 pages, it seeks to show that since they left the White House in 2001 the Clintons have engaged in a succession of seedy dealings with shady characters around the world, amassing more than $130m for themselves in exchange for favors.
From Russia to Colombia, Haiti to India and the Congo, the couple has repeatedly blurred the lines between private endeavor, public service, philanthropy and friendship – exposing themselves to blatant conflicts of interest, the book alleges. While Hillary Clinton was working as Barack Obama’s secretary of state, America’s top diplomat, Bill was commanding exorbitant speaker fees as high as $750,000 and attracting multimillion-dollar donations to the family charity (now known as the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation), often concurrently and in the same corrupt countries.
“Who else in American politics would be so audacious as to have one spouse accept money from foreign governments and businesses while the other charted American foreign policy?” Schweizer asks.
The accusation is powerful. But the pushback from the Clinton camp has also been formidable. Well ahead of publication day, the legendary Clinton rebuttal machine cranked into gear, bombarding news outlets with talking points, mobilizing liberal media watchdogs and denouncing the book as a “smear project”.
Compared with previous nemeses such as Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who stalked Bill Clinton during his White House years, the man at the center of the current furor makes for a relatively easy opponent. For a start, Schweizer is unashamedly partisan. His previous books – How Big Government Liberals Wrecked the Global Economy, Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy, Reagan’s War: The Epic Story of His Forty-Year Struggle and Final Triumph over Communism – speak for themselves, as does the fact that he used to work as a speechwriter for George W Bush and as foreign affairs tutor to the then Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
He also makes the Clintons’ job easy for them by admitting in several places in the book that he has discovered no smoking gun.
If his aim were to show that Hillary Clinton was swayed in her decision-making while US secretary of state by money flowing to the Clintons from foreign governments and elites, then he has failed – by his own admission – to have found the key evidence that proves it.
“We cannot ultimately know what goes on in their minds and ultimately prove the links between the money they took in and the benefits that subsequently accrued to themselves, their friends, and their associates,” Schweizer writes in the book’s conclusion.
In an interview with the sympathetic Fox News (owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Harper, the publisher of Clinton Cash) it was put to Schweizer that he hadn’t “nailed” his thesis. “It’s hard for any author to nail it – one of the strategies of the Clinton camp is to set a bar for me as an author that is impossible to meet,” he replied.
Then there have been the errors. The most cringe-inducing involves a passage in the book in which Schweizer draws from a press release from TD Bank in which the Canadian financial institution supposedly announced its divestment from the contentious Keystone XL oil pipeline. The author suggests TD Bank tried to persuade the US government to back the pipeline using Bill Clinton as a conduit – an attempt that eventually failed when Obama kicked the decision down the road until after the 2012 presidential election, leading to TD Bank’s decision to divest.
Yet the press release was revealed to be a fake the same week it was circulated.
Similarly, Schweizer attempts in the chapter on the Haiti earthquake, Disaster Capitalism Clinton-Style, to link three lucrative speeches given by Bill Clinton in Ireland for a total of $600,000 to the awarding of a major contract in Haiti to Digicel, the telecoms company owned by Irish magnate Dennis O’Brien who had arranged Clinton’s appearances.
But as Buzzfeed pointed out, Bill Clinton was not paid on those occasions.
Perhaps the most seriously misleading element of the book involves the purchase by the Russian State Atomic Nuclear Agency (Rosatom) of a Canadian company, Uranium One, that had a large stake in US uranium output. Schweizer claims that a “central role” in the decision of the US government to approve the purchase was played by Hillary Clinton at the State Department at the same time as large donations were being made to the Clinton Foundation by individuals directly involved in the deal.
Yet in this case, as Time has shown, the State Department was only one of nine members of the inter-agency committee that made the final call, and even then there is no evidence that Clinton herself ever took part in the discussions.
Such errors and omissions have given the Clintons scope to revive, albeit in more muted language, the famous claim made by Hillary in 1998 that they were victims of a “vast rightwing conspiracy”. On Monday Bill Clinton told NBC News while on a Clinton Foundation tour of Africa with daughter Chelsea that the book and its enthusiastic embrace by Republicans was part of a “very concerted effort to bring the foundation down”.
David Bennett, professor of modern American history at Syracuse University and author of a 2014 biography of Bill Clinton, said he was wholly unsurprised by what had happened – both in terms of the Schweizer attack and the Clintons’ response to it.
“There’s a new Clinton coming forward for the presidency, and all this is to be expected given what happened to Bill in the 1990s. He was accused of corruption of money and corruption of power, but nothing was ever found. Filegate, Travelgate, Whitewater: everybody was digging deeply but as one Clinton aide put it ‘there was no there there’.”
But now that Clinton Cash has finally been published, and the American voting public can read it for themselves, the question remains: this time round is there any “there, there”? While some of the boldest claims in the book have been shown to be erroneous or unsubstantiated, does the charge that the Clintons exposed themselves to real or perceived conflicts of interests stand up?
Certainly, pundits were warning about the problem of the large sums of money flowing into the Clinton Foundation’s coffers even before Hillary Clinton took up her position as Obama’s global emissary-in-chief. A month before she became secretary of state, the Washington Post warned in an editorial that her husband’s fundraising activities were problematic. “Even if Ms Clinton is not influenced by gifts to her husband’s charity, the appearance of conflict is unavoidable.”
Since the foundation was formed in 2001, some $2bn has been donated, mainly in big lump sums. Fully a third of the donors giving more than $1m, and more than a half of those handing over more than $5m, have been foreign governments, corporations or tycoons. (The foundation stresses that such largesse has been put to very good use – fighting obesity around the globe, combating climate change, helping millions of people with HIV/Aids obtain antiretroviral drugs at affordable prices.)
Schweizer may have made mistakes about aspects of Bill Clinton’s fees on the speaker circuit, but one of his main contentions – that the former president’s rates skyrocketed after his wife became secretary of state – is correct. Politifact confirmed that since leaving the White House in 2001 and 2013, Bill Clinton made 13 speeches for which he commanded more than $500,000; all but two of those mega-money earners occurred in the period when Hillary was at the State Department.
Though Schweizer has failed to prove actual corruption in the arrangement – at no point in the book does he produce evidence showing that Bill’s exorbitant speaker fees were directly tied to policy concessions from Hillary – he does point to several glaring conflicts of interest. Bill Clinton did accept large speaker fees accumulating to more than $1m from TD Bank, a major shareholder in the Keystone XL pipeline, at precisely the time that the Obama administration, and Hillary Clinton within it, was wrestling with the vexed issue of whether to approve it.
It is also true that large donations to the foundation from the chairman of Uranium One, Ian Telfer, at around the time of the Russian purchase of the company and while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, were never disclosed to the public. The multimillion sums were channeled through a subsidiary of the Clinton Foundation, CGSCI, which did not reveal its individual donors.
Such awkward collisions between Bill’s fundraising activities and Hillary’s public service have raised concerns not just among those who might be dismissed as part of a vast rightwing conspiracy. Take Zephyr Teachout, a law professor at Fordham university who has written extensively on political corruption in the US.
Teachout, who last year stood against Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic party nomination for New York governor, points out that you don’t have to be able to prove quid pro quo for alarm bells to ring. “Our whole system of rules is built upon the concept that you must prevent conflicts of interests if you are to resist corruption in its many forms. Conflicts like that can infect us in ways we don’t even see.”
Teachout said that the Clintons presented the US political world with a totally new challenge. “We have never had somebody running for president whose spouse – himself a former president – is running around the world raising money in these vast sums.”
The threat of conflict of interest is all the greater today, she said, as Hillary Clinton begins to put flesh on the bones of her policy pledges in her presidential bid. “Her policy is being formed as we speak, and how are we to know that the generosity of donors to the Clinton Foundation will not depend on a particular policy outcome?”
Though Bill Clinton insisted this week that his charity has done nothing “knowingly inappropriate”, that is unlikely to satisfy the skeptics from left or right. They say that a family in which one member is vying for the most powerful office on Earth must avoid straying into even the unintentionally inappropriate.
In the wake of Clinton Cash, the foundation has admitted that it made mistakes in disclosing some of its contributions. It has also implemented new rules that will see its financial reporting increase from once annually to four times a year, while large donations from foreign governments will be limited in future to six countries including the UK and Germany.
But with Bill refusing doggedly to give up his speaker engagements – “I gotta pay our bills” – and foreign corporations and super-rich individuals still able to donate to the family charity, it looks like this controversy may run and run. Politically, too, Hillary Clinton is confronted with a potential credibility gap between her appeal to ordinary Americans on the presidential campaign trail and the millions that continue to flow to the foundation.
“Is she going to be in touch with the needs and dreams of poor America when her spouse and daughter are working with the world’s global elite?” said Dave Levinthal of the anti-corruption investigative organization, the Center for Public Integrity. “That’s a question she will have to answer, every step of the way.”
On the other side of the aisle, meanwhile, it was on official record that the Bush family was in business (in the Carlisle Group) with the bin Laden family — and the first thing George W. Bush did about Osama bin Laden when he took office was call off the FBI pursuit of Osama that Bill Clinton had ordered. No conflict of interest? Bush himself got into office on a 5-4 Supreme Court decision, in which two Justices whose immediate family members worked for George W. Bush (one for his campaign, one for his transition committee) neglected to recuse themselves. No conflict of interest? These facts were fully on record, not in dispute, not denied, simply ... ignored. Tell me about fairness and balance.
Illegal or not, those are the facts.
How many Secretaries of State can get a country to give her foundation half a million dollars?
Why is this not on the front page of all newspapers daily?
The Clintons are opportunistic scum. Fine. Just don't try to further this by running for president!
There are other well-qualified Democrats. All that is needed is a scintilla of courage.
18 months to go.
Take a step back and ignore their last name.
Why would foreigners, including foreign governments, give obscene amounts of money to a pair of private US citizens?
In the ENTIRE history of the USA is their any one or two US citizens who have received hundreds of millions of donated dollars from foreigners for doing nothing in return?
Is there any US citizen who has been donated hundreds of millions of dollars from foreigners for rendering some personal service in return?
Is there any private citizen of the USA who has been donated hundreds of millions of dollars by foreigners, including foreign governments, for any reason?
The total so far uncovered hovers near a BILLION dollars.
This is beyond a donation.
This is the Marshall Plan by foreign governments to the Clintons.
The amount of money just HANDED to these two is beyond comprehension.
To claim that there is no expectation of something in return for that enormous pile of money is beyond comprehension
and beyond belief.
1. A foreign government donating 2 million dollars to a charity in exchange for, at best, the approval of ONE of NINE separate government departments for a purchase=TOTAL CORRUPTION!!
2. Two brothers give 92 million dollars directly to one party in exchange for their continued support of an obsolete century-old technology that will kill us all=FREE SPEECH!
(From the book "The Survivor," by John Harris, p. 382 - Hillary in her 2000 Senate campaign)
Hillary Congenital Clinton Lies:
She “removed” a boatload of stuff from the White House and called it a clerical error, returning everything.
She didn’t know that her staff would fire the travel staff….she told them to do so.
She lied about her missing billing records which “showed up” on their own.
She was “always” a Yankees Ball team fan when she was running for NY senator.
She lied as a member of the house judiciary committee.
She lied about flying into Bosnia under sniper fire but admitted the falsehood later.
She misrepresented her record opposing the Iraq war—she actually voted for it.
She lied about being named after Sir Edmund Hillary.
She lied about her role in passing Family and Medical Leave Act.
She lied about the “uninsured” woman who died after childbirth.
Like we asked of Nixon;
“Would you buy a used car from her?"
Who wants a lying U.S. president?
John Labovitz, who shared office space with her said Hillary gave “erroneous legal opinions” and tried to “deny Nixon representation by counsel.”
Hillary Rodham was fired by her supervisor, lifelong Democrat Jerry Zeifman.
When asked why Hillary Rodham was fired, Zeifman said in an interview,
“Because she was a liar. She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer, she conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee, and the rules of Confidentiality.”
Hillary wrote a “fraudulent legal brief” and “confiscated public documents.” Zeifman fired her and wouldn’t give her a letter of recommendation. Zeifman later wrote a book stating that “Hillary Clinton is ethically unfit to be either a senator or president.”
Now she wants us to believe her?
Really, the actual Watergate NOW!!!!
The fact alone that she is a political dinosaur would discredit her amongst most die-hard 'progressives', save for having a vagina of course which gives her a free pass. She's rich, entitled and out of touch...yet more issues that should discredit her from the left entirely BUT of course she's a woman so none of those facts matter either.
She's completely evil yet the lefties will vote her into the presidency for the simple reason they'd cut off their left hand just to spite the right.
The author said it himself: there is no smoking gunsThey convict white collar criminals and insider traders with just circumstantial evidence all the time. There is an abundance of circumstantial evidence here.
Just because you can't find a smoking gun doesn't mean that there is no case.