The Clintons have always had an uneasy relationship with money.
Bill never had any money. And although Hillary had a comfortable upbringing, she didn’t take the path to riches that her Yale Law degree might have provided, choosing instead to do public interest law right out of law school and marry a man with great political ambition.
But, clearly, both Bill and Hillary wanted the good life — and the money it takes to provide it. Nothing wrong with that, but the means by which they’ve enriched themselves have been unsavory at best.
And all this makes suspicious the recent revelations that Bill and Hillary have become fabulously rich through the former president’s speeches paid by individuals, corporate interests and governments who stood to benefit from their relationship with a former president married to a U.S. senator who then became secretary of state.
Between 2001 and 2013, Bill Clinton earned more than $100 million in speaking fees, $26 million of which came from donors to the Clinton Foundation. What’s more, the foundation itself has accumulated $250 million in assets, much of it from foreign donors, The New York Times has reported. The Times, in a lengthy investigative piece based in part on the forthcoming book “Clinton Cash” by Peter Schweizer, described the “special ethical challenge” the foundation faced accepting huge sums of money “even as (Bill Clinton’s) wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors.”
The Times piece focused on the possible role that cash paid to the foundation and to Bill Clinton personally might have played in a deal that handed Russia effective control of 20 percent of the United States’ uranium reserves.
The story, which is long and complex, involves Bill Clinton, Canadian businessmen, the authoritarian president of Kazakhstan, a Kazakh state-run uranium agency, the Russian government, and a little-known federal interagency group, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, on which Hillary Clinton sat as secretary of state.
Over a four-year period between 2005 and 2009, one of the Canadian businessmen at the heart of the story, Frank Giustra, developed a close relationship with Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, to which he has donated $31.3 million as of 2008. According to the Times, Giustra flew Clinton on his private jet to Kazakhstan for a dinner with President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev in 2005. Within days, Giustra’s small company acquired stakes in three uranium mines controlled by the Kazakh uranium agency.
Giustra later merged his company with a large South African uranium company, Uranium One, whose chairman, Ian Telfer, also became a big donor to the Clinton Foundation. Between 2009 and 2013, Telfer used his family foundation to donate at least $2.35 million to the foundation, Canadian records show. According to the Times’ report, “those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors.”
But the story doesn’t end there. Uranium One’s stock plummeted in 2009 when the head of the Kazakh state uranium agency was arrested on corruption charges, which included selling uranium deposits to Giustra’s company. Meanwhile, Russia was trying to acquire a stake in Uranium One, and the company pressed the U.S. embassy in Kazakhstan to assure Russia that the Kazakh uranium licenses were still valid.
The pressure apparently succeeded, and U.S. energy officials met with their Kazakh counterparts on June 10 and 11. Three days later, the Russian government acquired 17 percent of Uranium One. Within a year, the Russians made a bid for 51-percent control of Uranium One — but first they needed approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, on which Hillary Clinton served, because of Uranium One’s U.S. acquisitions.
Shortly after the Russians announced their intent, Bill Clinton flew to Moscow for a speech for which he was paid $500,000 by “a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock,” according to the Times. The committee approved the Russian deal despite the fact that it gave the Russians control over uranium mines and exploration in several Western states. As a result, Russia now controls 20 percent of U.S. uranium.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign would like to ignore this story. But it is unlikely — with The New York Times, The Washington Post and other mainstream media now looking into it — that they can sweep it entirely under the rug.
But who knows? Does anyone even remember that the Whitewater investigation was sparked not by sex between a president and a White House intern, but by a land deal meant to enrich then Gov. Bill Clinton and his wife?
Linda Chavez is a nationally syndicated columnist.