December 12, 2008: The Clinton Foundation makes an agreement with the White House over conflict of interest issues.

Bruce Lindsey (Credit: Win McNamee / Reuters)

Bruce Lindsey (Credit: Win McNamee / Reuters)

In late 2008, when it becomes clear that newly elected President Obama will nominate Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation presents a very large conflict of interest problem. There is a particular concern that foreign governments could use donations to the foundation to influence the Clinton-led State Department.

As a result, on December 12, 2008, the foundation’s CEO Bruce Lindsey signs a memorandum of understanding with Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of Obama’s transition team. It allows governments which had previously donated to the foundation to continue to do so, but only at existing yearly levels. It details an ethics review process for new donating countries or countries that want to “materially increase” their support. However, it does not prohibit foreign countries with interests before the US government from continuing to give money to the foundation.

The Washington Post will later report, “Some of the donations came from countries with complicated diplomatic, military, and financial relationships with the US government, including Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman. Other nations that donated included Australia, Norway, and the Dominican Republic.” The Post will also note, “Foreign governments and individuals are prohibited from giving money to US political candidates, to prevent outside influence over national leaders. But the foundation has given donors a way to potentially gain favor with the Clintons outside the traditional political limits.”

The agreement will expire when Clinton ends her tenure as secretary of state in February 2013. (The Washington Post, 2/25/2015(US Senate, 12/18/2008) The agreement covers the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP), a Canadian offshoot of the Clinton Foundation that some will later call a “slush fund” for the Clintons. The agreement will be broken in the case of the CGEP, as the Clinton Foundation will not reveal the names of those who donated through the CGEP. (Bloomberg News, 4/19/2015(Harper’s Magazine, 11/17/2015) 

The agreement will also be broken in other aspects. For instance, in 2015 it will be reported that the foundation didn’t disclose any foreign donors to the public, despite that being stipulated in the agreement. It will also emerge that no punishment was spelled out if the agreement was violated. (The Boston Globe, 4/30/2015)

December 17, 2008: The Clinton Foundation’s donor list includes foreign governments as well as business leaders.

Clinton pays an official visit to King Abdullah, in Saudi Arabia, on March 30, 2012. (Credit: Reuters)

Clinton pays an official visit to King Abdullah, in Saudi Arabia, on March 30, 2012. (Credit: Reuters)

Since it began in 1997, the Clinton Foundation had never revealed who its donors were, as it is not legally required to do so. But on this day, with conflict of interest an increasing issue due to Hillary Clinton about to become President Obama’s secretary of state, the foundation releases its list of donors for the first time. Over 200,000 people and entities gave over $500 million to the foundation since it was created. Some of these donations do show conflict of interest concerns, especially in relation to Hillary’s new secretary of state role.

In 2015, the Washington Post will report that the 2008 list of donors “included foreign governments, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which could ask the State Department to take their side in international arguments. And it included a variety of other figures who might benefit from a relationship—or the appearance of a relationship—with the secretary. A businessman close to the ruler of Nigeria. Blackwater Training Center, a controversial military contractor. And dozens of powerful American business leaders, including some prominent conservatives, such as Rupert Murdoch.” Additionally, “It appeared that some wealthy donors—who traveled with [Bill] Clinton or attended his events—also had made valuable business connections at the same time.” For instance, Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra “attended Clinton-related events and met the leaders of Kazakhstan and Colombia, countries where he would later make significant business deals.” (The Washington Post, 6/2/2015) (The New York Times, 12/18/2008)

Former US Treasury Department official Matthew Levitt says donations from “countries where [the US has] particularly sensitive issues and relations” will invariably raise conflict of interest concerns. “The real question is to what extent you can really separate the activities and influence of any husband and wife, and certainly a husband and wife team that is such a powerhouse.”

Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson says the disclosure of donors should ensure that there would be “not even the appearance of a conflict of interest.” (The New York Times, 12/18/2008)

January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: While Clinton is secretary of state, at least 181 companies, individuals, and foreign governments that donate to the Clinton Foundation also lobby Clinton’s State Department.

Clinton (right) texting while attending a dinner with Moroccan Foreign Minister Taib Fassi Fihri (center) and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini (left), in Marrakesh, Morocco, on November 2, 2009. (Credit: Abdelhak Senna / Agence France Presse)

Clinton (right) texting while attending a dinner with Moroccan Foreign Minister Taib Fassi Fihri (center) and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini (left), in Marrakesh, Morocco, on November 2, 2009. (Credit: Abdelhak Senna / Agence France Presse)

Bill Clinton also collects $26 million in speaking fees from Clinton Foundation donors. These numbers will be calculated by Vox in 2015. Vox will comment that no one “has produced anything close to evidence of a quid pro quo in which Hillary Clinton took official action in exchange for contributions to the Clinton Foundation.”

However, “public records alone reveal a nearly limitless supply of cozy relationships between the Clintons and companies with interests before the government. […] That’s not illegal, but it is scandalous.” Vox adds, “Ultimately, it is impossible to tell where one end of the two-headed Clinton political and philanthropic operation ends and where the other begins.” (Vox, 4/28/2015)

January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: While Clinton is secretary of state, tens of millions of foreign donations are given to a branch of the Clinton Foundation, yet are never submitted to State Department lawyers for review.

Ira Magaziner (Credit: Scott Kingsley)

Ira Magaziner (Credit: Scott Kingsley)

The branch is the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). Just before Clinton became secretary of state, an agreement was signed between the Clinton Foundation and the Obama White House in order to prevent conflict of interest problems with Clinton’s new position. During these years, the CHAI has a budget of over $100 million a year, making it worth nearly 60 percent of all of the Clintons’ charities. The agreement with the White House not only specified transparency rules that were ignored, but also prohibited any significant increase in foreign government giving over previous yearly levels. Yet foreign government grants to CHAI increases from $27 million in 2010 to $56 million in 2013.

In 2015, the CEO of CHAI, former Hillary Clinton adviser Ira Magaziner, will respond to some of the omissions, but will “decline to explain why no part of the pact [with the White House] was ever activated.” (The Boston Globe, 4/30/2015)

January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: The Clinton Foundation refuses any significant increases in donations from foreign governments while Clinton is secretary of state, but individuals with direct ties to foreign governments do increase their giving.

Clinton (center left) meets Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal (center right) upon her arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on February 15, 2010. (Credit: Reuters / Saudi Press Agency)

Clinton (center left) meets Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal (center right) upon her arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on February 15, 2010. (Credit: Reuters / Saudi Press Agency)

For instance, although the Saudi government doesn’t donate money to the foundation during this time, but prominent Saudis, including members of the Saudi royal family, do give millions. About a dozen foreign individuals and the foundations and companies they control collectively give between $34 million and $68 million during Clinton’s tenure. Another $60 million goes to charitable projects sponsored by the foundation. (The Wall Street Journal, 3/19/2015)

January 21, 2009—2014: While secretary of state, Clinton supports international business deals that benefit Boeing, a US-based airplane manufacturing company.

A $30 billion agreement was made on December 30, 2010, to sell advanced F-15SA Strike Eagle fighter jets (pictured) to Saudi Arabia. (Credit: The Wall Street Journal)

A $30 billion agreement was made on December 30, 2010, to sell advanced F-15SA Strike Eagle fighter jets (pictured) to Saudi Arabia. (Credit: The Wall Street Journal)

Meanwhile, Boeing and the foreign countries involved in the deals donate to the Clinton Foundation and pay for speeches given by Bill Clinton.

  • In early 2009, Clinton begins working with Boeing to open up new business in Russia. Later in the year, Clinton visits Russia and makes what she describes as a “shameless pitch” to a Russian airline to buy Boeing passenger jets. In 2010, Boeing gets the deal, selling 50 jets worth $3.7 billion.
  • In 2009, China is preparing to host the 2010 world’s fair. However, it seems the US exhibit promoting US businesses will have to be cancelled, since the private fundraising efforts are going poorly. A State Department official warns that there likely will be “extremely widespread” consequences to both diplomatic and commercial interests if the US effort fails. Emails show that Clinton and other State Department officials push Boeing and other US companies to donate, and Boeing eventually gives $2 million, helping make the exhibit a success. US exposition organizer Nick Winslow will later say that he didn’t feel any political pressure, but, “Knowing that it was important to the State Department, did that help? Of course it did.”
  • In August 2010, Boeing donates $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation to support education projects in Haiti.
  • In February 2011, Boeing wins a $35 billion tanker-refueling contract for the US Air Force. Clinton had supported the bid. When she hears Boeing won, she writes in an email, “I’m pleased.”
  • In 2011, the State Department approves a series of weapons deals between Boeing and the government of Kuwait. For instance, Boeing is the prime contractor in a $690 million deal to give Kuwait military transport planes.
  • Later in 2011, Bill Clinton is paid $175,000 by the Kuwait America Foundation for a speech. Boeing is a sponsor of the event. Kuwait also continues to donate millions to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary is secretary of state.
  • In late 2011, Clinton’s State Department approves an enormous weapons deal for Saudi Arabia. A consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing will deliver $30 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to that country, including 84 new F-15 fighter jets built by Boeing. The deal takes place despite strong opposition from Israel, as well as concerns about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and lack of democracy. But according to a State Department official, Clinton made the deal a personal “top priority.”
  • Saudi Arabia is prohibited from donating money to the Clinton Foundation during her time as secretary of state as part of a deal Clinton signed with the White House in 2008. But in previous years, the Saudi government gave at least $10 million to foundation. Additionally, private Saudi citizens and Saudi royals give millions to the foundation while she is in office. Then the Saudi government resumes donating to the foundation after she leaves office.
  • Boeing International President Shephard Hill (left) speaks alongside Hillary Clinton in Shanghai, China, on May 22, 2010. (Credit: Getty Images)

    Boeing International President Shephard Hill (left) speaks alongside Hillary Clinton in Shanghai, China, on May 22, 2010. (Credit: Getty Images)

    In early 2012, the State Department helps Boeing secure major deals in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

  • In July 2012, Boeing pays Bill Clinton $250,000 for a speech.
  • In September 2012, Bill Clinton gives another speech sponsored by Boeing. He is paid $200,000.
  • In 2013, Boeing sponsored an event in St. Louis called Clinton Global Initiative University. It’s not clear how much Boeing donates, but it gives between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, and the event is part of the foundation’s work.

Lisa Gilbert, of the government integrity watchdog group Public Citizen, will later say that what the Clintons were doing likely was not illegal. However, it seems “unsavory.” (The Seattle Times, 3/21/2016Similar patterns can be seen with other US weapons manufacturers, like Lockheed, and other foreign governments, like Oman and Qatar. Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics, will later say, “These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment. Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?” (The International Business Times, 5/26/2015)

January 1, 2010: The Clinton Foundation incorrectly lists no donations whatsoever from foreign governments in its yearly tax returns.

These three years are the only full fiscal years during Clinton’s term as secretary of state. In the immediately previous years, foreign governments donated tens of millions of dollars every year.

In 2015, Reuters will report that in fact foreign governments did continue to give tens of millions each year during this time. After Reuters discovers the discrepancies, the Clinton Foundation will acknowledge the oversight and claims it will refile at least five years of tax returns to fix it.

However, the Clinton campaign will also call allegations of corruption in the Clinton Foundation “absurd conspiracy theories.” (Reuters, 4/23/2015)

March 3, 2015: Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Reince Priebus suggests Clinton could have mixed diplomacy and private fundraising in her emails.

Reince Priebus (Credit: Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Reince Priebus (Credit: Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Responding to news reports that Clinton used only a private email and private server while secretary of state, Priebus attempts to tie them into previous reports scrutinizing the Clinton Foundation and its fundraising from foreign governments. “It makes you wonder: Did she use the private emails so she could conduct diplomacy and fundraising at the same time?” (Politico, 3/3/2015)

May 15, 2015: The Clinton Foundation announces that it will place new limits on its fundraising activities.

In the wake of numerous critical news reports, and just days after Hillary Clinton announced her second presidential campaign, the foundation says that it will limit foreign government donations to six countries that have already funded Clinton Foundation programs: Britain, Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway. Other countries that donated in the last year, including Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, are not included. The foundation also says it will suspend its future overseas conferences. (Politico, 4/15/2015)

The foundation placed voluntary limits on itself in 2008 shortly before Hillary became secretary of state, but those limits were secretly violated in a number of ways.

March 9, 2016: Attorney General Lynch shows no interest in the Clinton Foundation’s foreign donors.

Senator Thom Tillis (Credit: NC Political News)

Senator Thom Tillis (Credit: NC Political News)

Senator Thom Tillis (R) asks Attorney General Loretta Lynch if the Justice Department is looking into whether Bill and/or Hillary Clinton took funds from foreign governments while Hillary served as secretary of state. Presumably this refers to the Clinton Foundation, which accepted millions of dollars from foreign governments during that time. Lynch replies, “I’m not aware of any other issue along the lines of what you have outlined.” (Politico, 3/9/2016)