Early 2009: The State Department can’t find out if sponsors of Bill Clinton’s paid speeches donated to the Clinton Foundation.

Jim Thessin (Credit: public domain)

Jim Thessin (Credit: public domain)

When Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Clintons agreed with the White House that State Department ethics officials would review all offers for Bill Clinton to give paid speeches, to avoid potential conflicts of interest. When the first few speech requests come in, Jim Thessin, the department’s top ethics approver, writes in an email: “In future requests, I would suggest including a statement listing whether or not any of the proposed sponsors of a speaking event have made a donation to the Clinton Foundation and, if so, the amount and date.”

However, Politico will report in 2015, “released documents show no evidence that the question was addressed.” (Politico, 2/25/2015)

September 21, 2009: Clinton’s meeting with major business leaders on this day is just one of dozens of meetings later not listed on her official calendar.

Clinton attends a meeting with New York Stock Exchange president Duncan Niederauer and various business leaders on September 21, 2009. (Credit: public domain)

Clinton attends a meeting with New York Stock Exchange president Duncan Niederauer and various business leaders on September 21, 2009. (Credit: public domain)

In June 2016, the Associated Press will finally gain access to some planning schedules from when Clinton was secretary of state. A comparison of these planning schedules with Clinton’s official calendar from that time will show that at least 60 meetings with Clinton’s donors and other outside interests were omitted. The Associated Press will give one specific example of a meeting on this day that is omitted from the calendar, even though the names of attendees to other meetings on the same day are not. Clinton meets with 13 major business leaders for a private breakfast discussion at the New York Stock Exchange:

  • David M. Cote, CEO of Honeywell International Inc.;
  • Fabrizio Freda, CEO of the Estee Companies Inc.;
  • Lewis Frankfort, chair of Coach Inc.;
  • Robert Kelly, CEO of the New York Bank of Mellon;
  • Ellen Kullman, CEO of DuPont;
  • Harold McGraw III, chair of McGraw Hill Companies;
  • Duncan Niederauer, CEO of  the New York Stock Exchange;
  • Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo;
  • Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks Corp;
  • Steven Schwarzman, chair of the Blackstone Group;
  • James Taiclet, chair of the American Tower Corp.;
  • James Tisch, president of Loews Corp.; and
  • John D. Wren, CEO of Omnicom Group.

All the companies represented except Coach Inc. lobby the US government in 2009. Four companies—Blackstone, Honeywell, Omnicom, and DuPont—lobby the State Department that year. All the companies except for American Tower and New York Bank of Mellon donate to the Clinton Foundation, and two attendees—Schwarzman and Frankfort—personally donate to the foundation. Four of the companies—PepsiCo, the Blackstone Group, DuPont, and Honeywell International Inc.—also donate to what the Associated Press calls “Clinton’s pet diplomatic project of that period,” the US pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo. (The Associated Press, 6/24/2016)

February 25, 2015: Bill Clinton won’t tell the State Department how much he’s being offered to give speeches, making it difficult for the department to reject any offers.

Richard Painter (Credit: Harvard Center for Ethics)

Richard Painter (Credit: Harvard Center for Ethics)

Politico reports, “In hundreds of documents released to Politico under the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA], not a single case appears where the State Department explicitly rejected a Bill Clinton speech.” They raised serious questions about only two speech proposals. “Instead, the records show State Department lawyers acted on sparse information about business proposals and speech requests and were under the gun to approve the proposals promptly.”

The Clintons made a deal with the White House to require State Department ethics officials to give their approval of all of Bill Clinton’s paid speech offers. However, the deal didn’t require Clinton to reveal how much he would be paid for any speech, and he didn’t voluntarily disclose this, so the officials were unable to judge if he was being overpaid and thus essentially bribed. He also didn’t reveal potential conflicts of interests with those paying for the speeches, such as donations to the Clinton Foundation or other relationships with the Clintons.

Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer, says that since the department officials didn’t know the specific speech fees in advance, he doesn’t see how they could have fairly judged whether to approve the speech or not. “That would be a gap if they didn’t find out at all.” (Politico, 2/25/2015)

August 11, 2015: One Clinton investigation has expanded to investigate Clinton’s top aides.

The State Department inspector general’s office says it is reviewing the use of “personal communications hardware and software” by Clinton’s former top aides, after requests from Congress. In March 2015, three Republican Senate committee chairs—Richard Burr, Ron Johnson, and Bob Corker—requested an audit of some of her aides’ personal emails.

Douglas Welty, a spokesperson for the inspector general’s office, says, “We will follow the facts wherever they lead, to include former aides and associates, as appropriate.” However, the office won’t say which aides are being investigated.  (McClatchy Newspapers, 8/11/2015)

May 5, 2016: Some of Clinton’s emails may remain private because of a legal precedent involving former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger participate in "Conversations on Diplomacy, Moderated by Charlie Rose,” at the Department of State in Washington, DC, on April 20, 2011. AFP Photo/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Clinton and Henry Kissinger in Washington, DC, on April 20, 2011. (Credit: Jewel  Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Kissinger made transcripts of some of his work-related phone calls. After he left office in January 1977, he took the only copies with him and eventually had them transferred to the Library of Congress, with tight restrictions on who could access them. A watchdog group sued for access, but the US Supreme Court ruled in a five-to-two decision that the State Department had no obligation to search for documents that had been removed, even if they had been improperly taken.

However, there is a footnote written by Justice William Rehnquist that the ruling might not apply when someone is actively trying to thwart the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In two ongoing civil suits, judges have granted discovery to Judicial Watch in part to determine if Clinton or her aides had actively tried to thwart FOIA. That opens the possibility of a judge eventually ordering Clinton to hand over even the emails she deemed personal, if she still has them. (Time, 5/5/2016)

June 24, 2016: Clinton’s official calendar omits dozens of meetings with donors and other outside interests.

A sample of a meeting with donors and loyalists that were omitted from Clinton’s official calendar. (Credit: The Associated Press)

In August 2013, the Associated Press (AP) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for Clinton’s calendar and schedules from the State Department. After years of delays and denials, AP recently got about one-third of Clinton’s planning schedules from when she was secretary of state, and will be getting more.

A comparison of the planning schedules with Clinton’s 1,500-page official calendar shows “at least 75 meetings with longtime political donors, Clinton Foundation contributors, and corporate and other outside interests that were not recorded,” or for which the names of those she met were omitted. At least 114 outsiders attended these meetings. Only seven meetings were replaced on the calendar by other events, while more than sixty meetings were either omitted entirely or described briefly as “private meetings” without mention of who attended. The missing meetings involve “private dinners and meetings with political donors, policy sessions with groups of corporate leaders, and ‘drop-bys’ with old Clinton campaign hands and advisers.”

For instance, meetings with controversial Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal are not mentioned, nor are meetings with billionaire Haim Saban, a major donor to Clinton’s political campaigns who also has given at least $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. A Clinton spokesperson says this merely shows that some records are more detailed than others. But AP points out that on the same days the names of donors Clinton meets with are omitted, the names of all the participants in other meetings are given.

Five former State Department logistics officials say that some previous secretaries of state omitted some details from their official calendars, but only for special occasions, such as medical appointments, and not meetings with donors or political interests. It is not known who edited Clinton’s official calendar. It also does not appear any federal laws were broken, although there are department rules against altering or deleting information.

Danielle Brian, executive director of the nonpartisan watchdog group the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), comments: “It’s clear that any outside influence needs to be clearly identified in some way to at least guarantee transparency. That didn’t happen. These discrepancies are striking because of her possible interest at the time in running for the presidency.” (The Associated Press, 6/24/2016)