First published at the Washington Examiner, July 30, 2014.
By Micah Morrison and Luke Rosiak
A joint investigation by the Washington Examiner and the nonprofit watchdog group Judicial Watch found that former President Clinton gave 215 speeches and earned $48 million while his wife presided over U.S. foreign policy, raising questions about whether the Clintons fulfilled ethics agreements related to the Clinton Foundation during Hillary Clinton‘s tenure as secretary of state.
According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch and released Wednesday in an ongoing Freedom of Information Act case, State Department officials charged with reviewing Bill Clinton’s proposed speeches did not object to a single one.
Some of the speeches were delivered in global hotspots and were paid for by entities with business or policy interests in the U.S.
The documents also show that in June 2011, the State Department approved a consulting agreement between Bill Clinton and a controversial Clinton Foundation adviser, Doug Band.
The consultancy with Band’s Teneo Strategy ended eight months later following an uproar over Teneo’s ties to the failed investment firm MF Global.
State Department legal advisers, serving as “designated agency ethics officials,” approved Bill Clinton’s speeches in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Panama,Turkey, Taiwan, India, the Cayman Islands and other countries.
The memos approving Mr. Clinton’s speeches were routinely copied to Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s senior counsel and chief of staff.
Mills is a longtime Clinton troubleshooter who defended the president during his impeachment. In the Benghazi affair, Mills reportedly berated a high-ranking official at the U.S. embassy in Libya for talking to a Republican congressman.
Under State Department protocols, a “designated agency ethics official” is assigned to advise the secretary of state about “potential or actual conflicts of interest.”
In a December 2008 memorandum of understanding, the protocols were expanded to Bill Clinton, the Clinton Foundation and related initiatives — specifically, to reviewing Bill Clinton’s proposed speeches and consulting deals.
In an accompanying letter to the State Department legal adviser, Clinton lawyer David Kendall noted that Bill Clinton would disclose proposed consulting deals and, for speeches, provide “the identities of the host(s) (the entity that pay the speaker’s fee)” so that the State Department “in consultation with the White House as appropriate, may conduct a review for any real or apparent conflicts of interest with the duties of the Secretary of State.”
But an inspection by the Examiner and Judicial Watch of donations to the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton’s personal financial disclosure forms, and the State Department conflict-of-interest reviews shows that at least $48 million flowed to the Clintons’ personal coffers from many entities that clearly had interests in influencing the Obama administration — and perhaps currying favor with a future president as well.
Saudi Arabia, for example, was a key Clinton benefactor. The oil-producing giant has had a relationship with the Clintons dating back to Bill Clinton’s time as governor of Arkansas.
In 1992, while running for president, then-Gov. Clinton secured a $3.5 million Saudi donation for a Middle East studies program at the University of Arkansas.
A few weeks after Clinton was inaugurated president, the Saudis kicked in another $20 million. Both deals were brokered by a close Clinton friend, David Edwards.
Overall, the Clinton Foundation has received staggering sums from Saudi benefactors — between $18 million and $50 million. (The foundation’s donations are reported in ranges, not specific numbers.)
While Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state, Bill Clinton gave two speeches in Saudi Arabia, earning a total of $600,000.
In January 2011, for example, Bill Clinton spoke at a global business forum in Riyadh founded by the Saudi Investment Authority and sponsored by the Dabbagh Group, a commercial colossus with close ties to the Saudi royal family.
His fee for the speech: $300,000.
During Hillary Clinton’s time at the State Department, Bill Clinton also gave four speeches in the United Arab Emirates, earning $1.1 million. For two speeches in Egypt, he earned $425,000.
UAE-linked entities also have donated at least $2.7 to $11.5 million to the Clinton Foundation, and Egyptian entities have donated at least $250,000 to $750,000.
While the State Department did not object to Bill Clinton’s speeches in the Arab world — or anywhere else — it did turn down a proposed consultancy with a longtime Clinton friend and supporter, the Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban.
In turning down the consultancy, a February 2009 State Department memo noted that Saban “is actively involved in foreign affairs issues, particularly with regards to the Middle East, which is a priority area for the secretary.”
The consultancy with Teneo and Band, the longtime Clinton adviser, was outlined in a June 2011 memo from Band himself, writing “on behalf of President Clinton,” to a State Department legal adviser. Bill Clinton would advise Teneo on “geopolitical, economic and social trends.”
Band requested a response within 10 business days. He got it in seven. “Please be advised that we have no objection,” the State Department wrote.
Bill Clinton also was active in China, as was Hillary Clinton, who championed the notion of a “pivot” toward Asia during her time as secretary of state.
In the period after Hillary Clinton signed the ethics agreement, Bill Clinton gave four speeches in China or to Chinese-sponsored entities in the U.S., earning $1.7 million.
By comparison, between 2001 through 2007 — just after he left office, when a former president is normally most in demand — he gave seven speeches in China, earning $1.4 million.
Groups with interests in China also donated between $750,000 and $1.75 million, at a minimum, to the Clinton Foundation.
Taiwan took an interest in Bill Clinton as well. In November 2010, he spoke on global warming and social inequality at a Taipei event sponsored by Singapore-based UNI Strategic. His fee? $400,000.
The Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office donated close to $1 million to the Clinton Foundation, and the Taiwan Mobile Foundation and a semiconductor manufacturer also contributed.
Turkish sponsors paid Bill Clinton $1 million for three speeches, including one to an Arab stock exchange.
In Russia, Bill Clinton gave two speeches for $625,000. One was to the Russian investment bank, Renaissance Capital, at a 2010 event titled “Russian and the Commonwealth of Independent States: Going Global.”
The State Department background memo described the bank as “focused on the emerging markets of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Sub-Saharan Africa.”
The Russian Standard Bank also donated to the foundation.
In India, Bill Clinton collected $300,000 for two speeches. He also gave speeches to Indian companies and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce in Toronto, New Jersey and Disney World.
At one, a “conference on business process outsourcing/off-shoring,” hosted by an outsourcing firm, the discussion centered around “the benefits and disadvantages of outsourcing IT,” according to a State Department document.
In Panama, Bill Clinton earned $325,000 for one speech. And in the Cayman Islands — a notorious offshore money haven — $225,000 for a speech, noted a State Department document, “at a ticketed event that will target the business community in Grand Cayman.”
Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Luke Rosiak is a senior watchdog reporter at the Washington Examiner. To link to the Judicial Watch documents in this story, please read here.