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ICYMI: Bill and Hillary Inc.

- September 29, 2016

Excerpts from The Economist

“The Clintons’ activities have three pillars. First, their role as politicians and the holders of public office. Second, their private income-generating activities, mainly ‘for-profit’ speeches that they give for their own gain rather than for the foundation or other causes. The Economist estimates that, based on their tax returns and other disclosures, the couple have given 728 such talks since Mr. Clinton left office in 2001, making $154m of fee income. Of this, 86% came from Mr. Clinton. Mrs. Clinton gave no for-profit speeches while in office, but because of Mr. Clinton’s speaking tours, $49m, or 32% of the couple’s for-profit speech revenue, was made while she was secretary of state in 2009-13. Some gigs echoed the banality of the campaign trail—try the American Camping Association in Atlantic City. Others were far-flung, with visits to Moscow, Jeddah and Beijing. About 43% of total revenue came from events abroad.

“After the crisis of 2008-10 concerns rose about banks ‘capturing’ regulators and politicians, so payments from these firms are controversial. The frequency of the Clintons’ for-profit speaking appearances at some banks does raise eyebrows: 13 talks for Toronto Dominion, 12 for Goldman Sachs and ten for UBS. Of the 23 Western banks that regulators classify as systemically important, 12 have paid the Clintons on a for-profit basis. Still, overall only 15% of the Clintons’ cumulative speech income came from financial firms. Mrs Clinton’s campaign declined to comment on the figures in this article.

“The foundation’s expansion and operating performance have been impressive. But its governance, sources of capital and approach to related parties are flawed.

“Mr. Clinton wanted a philanthropic empire, but unlike America’s tycoons he had to do it with other people’s money. The foundation is mainly financed by the pillars of society, for example the Gates Foundation. But an estimated $181m, or 9%, of its cumulative revenues has come from foreign governments and $54m of that, or 3% of the total, from autocratic states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. A further 40% has come from other foreign sources, including multilateral bodies and companies. Donations are either earmarked for specific projects, or go into a general kitty.

“An obvious question is what ancillary benefits donors thought they were getting, and here the Clintons’ sloppy approach to conflicts of interest is evident, with the three pillars of their activities—public, private and charitable—colliding. Donors to the foundation attempted to get, and on occasion may have got, favours from Mrs. Clinton while she was secretary of state. Most of these requests appear to have been for meetings with her. There was a flow of communication between donors, aides and Mrs. Clinton’s government office.

“The $154m that the Clintons have made from for-profit speeches also involves potential conflicts of interest. You might expect the cost of hiring an ex-president for an evening to atrophy over time as his proximity to power declines. But Mr. Clinton’s for-profit speaking fees have risen since Mrs. Clinton became a big political figure in her own right, especially for events abroad (see chart). The benign explanation is that there has probably been a general inflation in the fees famous speakers get over the past decade. But the Clinton Foundation has sustained Mr. Clinton’s profile. And some customers may have perceived that Mr. Clinton’s marriage gave him an insight into the government while Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state...”

Read the full article here.

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