Author Peter Schweizer was busy making the rounds over the weekend talk shows touting his new book suggesting that donors to the Clinton Foundation received preferential treatment from Hillary Clinton when she served as Secretary of State. The foundation’s acting president on Sunday moved to pre-empt some of the criticism being leveled at it with an admission of error in reporting donations it has received.
Schweizer’s book, Clinton Cash, which will be published in May, is already generating a huge amount of press attention because it suggests that individuals and organizations -- some closely connected to foreign governments -- made significant donations to the Clinton Foundation, or paid up to half a million dollars to have former President Bill Clinton deliver a speech. In exchange, the book implies they received favorable treatment when they brought business before the State Department.
The allegations are almost all completely circumstantial. Schweizer is not alleging criminal wrongdoing, but argues strongly that his findings should precipitate an official investigation. However, his book does appear to reveal some inconsistencies in the way the Clinton Foundation disclosed – or in one case failed to disclose – information about its donors.
On Sunday morning Maura Pally, the acting CEO of the Clinton Foundation, published a blog post on the foundation website explaining the relationship between the Clinton Foundation and a Canadian charity called the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership. Frank Giustra, who founded the charity, is a Canadian billionaire whose company received permission to sell U.S. uranium-mining rights to a Russian company heavily influenced by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The sale has been strongly criticized by Republicans in particular as against the national interest, which has sharpened interest in Giustra’s connection to the Clintons.
While the Clinton Foundation disclosed money it received from the Partnership, it did not disclose the names of those who gave money to the Partnership in the first place. Many, it turned out, were business people affiliated with Giustra’s company.
Pally defended the foundation’s level of disclosure, writing, “This is hardly an effort on our part to avoid transparency – unlike in the U.S., under Canadian law, all charities are prohibited from disclosing individual donors without prior permission from each donor.”
However, she also addressed other inconsistencies with the foundation’s bookkeeping, some of which will require it to refile years’ worth of tax forms with the IRS.
“I also want to address questions regarding our 990 tax forms,” she writes. “We have said that after a voluntary external review is completed we will likely refile forms for some years. While some have suggested this indicates a failure to accurately report our total revenue, that is not the case. Our total revenue was accurately reported on each year's form – our error was that government grants were mistakenly combined with other donations. Those same grants have always been properly listed and broken out and available for anyone to see on our audited financial statements, posted on our website.”
She continues, “So yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps to ensure they don't happen in the future. We are committed to operating the Foundation responsibly and effectively to continue the life-changing work that this philanthropy is doing every day.”
Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Schweizer continued to press for more information about the Clinton Foundation’s dealing with foreign donors, and the decision-making process at the State Department during Clinton’s tenure there.
He pointed out that after Hillary Clinton took office as Secretary of State, former president Bill Clinton’s speaking fees spiked. He was paid up to half a million dollars for an appearance 11 times while she was in office, after seeing that sort of payday only twice in the eight years prior.
“Well, I think the real question…is when you ever have an issue of the flow of funds to political candidates whether that's to their campaigns, whether that's to private foundations, whether that's to their spouse, is there evidence of a pattern of favorable decisions being made for those individuals?” Schweizer said. “And I think the point that we make in the book is that there is a troubling pattern.”
He added, “There are dozens of examples of that occurring. Some people, I think particularly the Clinton camp, would say these are all coincidence…I think you're talking trend.”
Speaking on Fox News earlier in the morning, Schweizer said that he has also begun investigating the activities of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and said that he has already uncovered similar information.
“It’s a common story, unfortunately,” he told host Chris Wallace. “There’s no question that we’ve seen a similar pattern emerging.”
The Clintons declined offers to be interviewed on several Sunday shows, but former White House Counsel to Bill Clinton, attorney Lanny Davis, appeared on Fox to claim that the former president’s speeches were simply what the market would bear.
“He’s worth that amount of money,” he told Wallace. And as for allegations that donations to the Clinton Foundation might have influenced the State Department’s decisions, Davis dismissed the utterly. Bill Clinton, he said, “religiously” avoided discussing State Department business with his wife during her tenure there.
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