JUNE 24, 2015
Short of a corpse turning up in Chelsea’s office, the notion of a criminal or Congressional investigation into the Clinton Foundation is far-fetched. Who would conduct it? The Justice Department? The IRS? Those brave souls in the Senate? A House probe would play right into the hands of Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, rallying the base and raising sympathy for poor Hillary.
Which leaves the media to tackle the sprawling operations of Clinton Inc. The Clintons are no fools. They’ve been at this game a long time—money for the family business (politics) was at the heart of both Whitewater and the 1996 campaign finance scandal. The latter came to mind recently as CNN’s Jake Tapper tried to get some answers out of Bill Clinton about controversies surrounding the Clinton Foundation and Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.
Mr. Clinton brushed him off. “I had no idea who was doing business before the State Department,” he said. He added that Secretary of State Clinton’s job was in part to “advance America’s economic interests around the world,” citing global aircraft giant Boeing Corp. as an example. Mr. Clinton noted a Boeing contribution to the Clinton Foundation, but said he “never thought about whether there was any overlap” between Boeing’s interests and the foundation’s.
Boeing has been in the news lately as Exhibit A in the case for permanently shuttering the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The end of the line for Ex-Im could come as early as this week. But Ex-Im has powerful friends in Washington, Boeing among them. Boeing has had a long, lucrative relationship with the bank. In the last fiscal year, Ex-Im provided Boeing with more than $7 billion in loan guarantees. That was about 25% of the bank’s entire business for the year. In some years, Boeing accounted for more than 40% of the bank’s business. To its detractors, Ex-Im is a perfect example of crony capitalism at work, undermining the competitiveness of the free market.
The Boeing-Clinton connection runs deep. In a lengthy investigative piece last year, the Washington Post last year explored this “mutually beneficial relationship.”
As the Post reported, in Moscow in 2009, Secretary of State Clinton pushed the Russians to close a $3.7 billion deal to buy Boeing aircraft. A month later, Boeing contributed $2 million to a Clinton pet project, a U.S. pavilion at an upcoming World’s Fair in Shanghai. State Department rules had to be bent to allow such a donation from a business with significant business before the U.S. government, but nevermind.
In 2010, two months after Boeing won the Russia deal, it made a $900,000 contribution to the Clinton Foundation for Haiti earthquake relief. Students of Clinton Inc. will note that a pattern seems to be emerging—U.S. government action followed by large donations to the Clinton Foundation and/or speech fees to Mr. Clinton. The pattern has appeared in the Kazakh uranium deal and activities in Colombia related to Clinton crony Frank Giustra. It’s a trail worth following.
Is there a connection, an unspoken quid pro quo, between government actions and monies directed to the Clintons? “You never know what people’s motives are,” Mr. Clinton told CNN. “And I don’t think Hillary would know either. But in this case [the Boeing donation], I’m pretty sure everybody that gave to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake saw what they saw on television, were horrified and wanted to make a difference.”
Well, yes, and why not do well for oneself while doing good for others? If an underlying rationale for crony capitalism is needed, that’s pretty much it.
As the Post went on to report, objections to the Clinton connection were raised at a Boeing shareholder meeting. “Assuming that building schools was a key goal of this company’s philanthropic program in 2010,” asked David Almasi of the National Center for Public Policy Research, “why was it so important to support this work specifically through the Clinton Foundation and not one of the many other reputable, independent charities then working in Haiti?”
Mr. Almasi called the donation a “clear conflict of interest” that seemed “reckless and dangerous.” Boeing CEO James McNearney rejected that assertion as “beyond the pale” and noted the company’s appreciation of Mrs. Clinton’s efforts as secretary of state.
Those of us with long memories recall that Boeing figured in the 1996 campaign finance scandal as well, with China money bagman Charlie Trie attending a White House event with Boeing representatives, and a Boeing executive attending two of the controversial White House fundraising “coffees.” According to sources in Washington, Boeing also had a seat on a sketchy Commerce Department trade mission to China—a junket that included individuals who would later figure in the campaign finance affair, a shadowy saga of Chinese espionage allegations and illegal international money flowing to the Clinton political efforts.
Sound familiar? Journalists digging into the Clinton Foundation would profit by taking a look at the earlier scandal. The leopard does not change its spots. In the campaign finance affair, recall, both a special prosecutor (Charles LaBella) and the director of the FBI (Louis Freeh) called for an independent counsel. Attorney General Janet Reno refused. The Clinton stonewall held. Will it hold again?