Hil­lary’s cor­po­rate back­ers have long his­tory with Bill

Hil­lary’s jobs plan spon­sors have his­tory of en­rich­ing her hus­band

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - BY PHILLIP SWARTS

When Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton stepped in front of a podium this week to an­nounce an ini­tia­tive to train and hire un­em­ployed young Amer­i­cans, the back­ground was plas­tered with fa­mil­iar cor­po­rate lo­gos, in­clud­ing JPMor­gan Chase, Mi­crosoft and Court­yard Mar­riott.

These are house­hold names to many Amer­i­cans, but to for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and Mrs. Clin­ton, they are known as big-ticket en­tries in their per­sonal check­books.

Long be­fore get­ting be­hind Mrs. Clin­ton’s lat­est pub­lic ser­vice ef­fort, all three com­pa­nies en­riched Mr. Clin­ton with six-fig­ure speak­ing fees that turned the 1990s Arkansas mid­dle-class fam­ily into mil­lion­aires on the strength of his gilded tongue. Some of the com­pa­nies were also gra­cious spon­sors to the for­mer pres­i­dent’s Clin­ton Global Ini­tia­tive foun­da­tion that pro­vides him his day job in re­tire­ment from the White House.

The episode is the lat­est ex­am­ple of how the Clin­tons have in­ter­twined their pub­lic ser­vice and pri­vate gain, of­ten tap­ping the same sources for money that ben­e­fit them po­lit­i­cally, per­son­ally and char­i­ta­bly. That exclusive club of phil­an­thropic and cor­po­rate in­ter­ests also likely will be at the top of the list of com­pa­nies seek­ing fa­vor should Mrs. Clin­ton run for and win the White House.

“One of the big prob­lems in democ­racy is that these re­la­tion­ships are de­vel­oped over long pe­ri­ods of time,” said Sheila Krumholz, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Re­spon­sive Pol­i­tics, not­ing that po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties such as the Clin­tons or Bushes of­ten have long-term re­la­tion­ships with many people and cor­po­rate in­ter­ests.

“The pay­off may be far in the fu­ture,” she said. “That’s es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult for the press, re­searchers and ul­ti­mately the pub­lic to con­nect the dots.”

The some­times thin line be­tween na­tional lead­ers and cor­po­ra­tions of­ten has been a cause of con­cern among watch­dogs, es­pe­cially af­ter the Cit­i­zens United case and sev­eral other Supreme Court rul­ings that re­moved lim­its on con­tri­bu­tions to po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates’ cam­paigns.

Do­na­tions to a can­di­date’s per­sonal char­i­ties, ini­tia­tives or pri­vate work are of­ten more dif­fi­cult to dis­cern and track, but just as of­ten are used to gain ac­cess to those who hold power in Wash­ing­ton.

The com­pa­nies that are sup­port­ing Mrs. Clin­ton’s jobs push also have funded Mr. Clin­ton’s speak­ing tour. The for­mer pres­i­dent spoke at a Mi­crosoft event in Wash­ing­ton in July, 2010, gar­ner­ing $175,000. In Oc­to­ber 2012, he spoke to JPMor­gan in New York for $200,000. In June 2013, Mr. Clin­ton trav­eled to Or­lando, Fla., to ad­dress the gen­eral man­agers of var­i­ous Mar­riott ho­tels, likely pulling in his aver­age $200,000 speak­ing fee.

Pres­i­den­tial speak­ers of­ten com­mand high sums, but just how much usu­ally isn’t dis­closed. The pub­lic has a win­dow into Mr. Clin­ton’s mar­ket value thanks to re­quired dis­clo­sure forms filed by his wife while she served as a U.S. se­na­tor from New York and then sec­re­tary of state.

The com­pa­nies also have funded the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion. Records show that Mi­crosoft has do­nated $500,000 to $1 mil­lion. The group founded by the for­mer head of Mi­crosoft, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion, has been even more in­volved, con­tribut­ing more than $25 mil­lion.

When look­ing at politi­cians’ ac­tions — es­pe­cially joint char­ity-cor­po­rate en­deav­ors like the Clin­tons’ — the pub­lic needs to make some fine dis­tinc­tions, Ms. Krumholz said.

“On the one hand, we have to be wary of ex­ces­sive cyn­i­cism,” she said. “It’s great that politi­cians will use their clout to pro­mote char­i­ta­ble causes.”

On the other hand, that cyn­i­cism is of­ten war­ranted, Ms. Krumholz said, not­ing that cor­po­ra­tions and spe­cial-in­ter­est groups of­ten view such do­na­tions as short­cuts to achiev­ing their goals and gar­ner­ing sup­port for their leg­isla­tive agen­das.

“Com­pa­nies and or­ga­ni­za­tions may feel pres­sure to do this to get a com­pet­i­tive edge and to com­pete with other or­ga­ni­za­tions that are do­ing this,” she said. “The ones that are con­tribut­ing may use their sup­port as an at­tempt to curry fa­vor with the politi­cians.”

Cur­rently on tour pro­mot­ing her new book, “Hard Choices,” Mrs. Clin­ton shows she can com­mand just as large a fee for pub­lic speak­ing as her hus­band. Ne­vada news­pa­pers re­ported Mon­day that Mrs.

Clin­ton ac­cepted $225,000 from the Univer­sity of Ne­vada, Las Ve­gas, to deliver the key­note ad­dress at an Oct. 13 fundraiser.

De­spite ap­par­ently hav­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to pay for speeches, UNLV of­fi­cials also have an­nounced that they are rais­ing tu­ition prices by 4 per­cent per year for the next four years.

‘Dead broke’

Mrs. Clin­ton’s own fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion came into fo­cus re­cently af­ter she as­serted in an in­ter­view with ABC News that her fam­ily left the White House “dead broke.”

Al­though the fam­ily had large amounts of debt at the end of Mr. Clin­ton’s pres­i­dency, the state­ment has elicited crit­i­cism on both sides of the aisle from people who note that Mr. Clin­ton quickly started on a mul­ti­mil­lion­dol­lar speak­ing tour and Mrs. Clin­ton be­came a se­na­tor from New York.

The Clin­ton Foun­da­tion also has been ac­cused of help­ing fun­nel money and re­sources to the fam­ily’s pub­lic am­bi­tions.

An Au­gust piece by the New York Times found that some em­ploy­ees be­came con­cerned about the fi­nan­cial health of the foun­da­tion be­cause solid char­ity work was be­ing es­chewed in fa­vor of celebrity-fu­eled events fea­tur­ing the Clin­tons.

Many of the foun­da­tion’s lead­ers are mem­bers of the Clin­tons’ in­ner po­lit­i­cal cir­cles and pos­si­bly will be con­nected with the White House in the fu­ture. The ar­ti­cle said the foun­da­tion ran up a $40 mil­lion deficit in 2007 and 2008 when Mrs. Clin­ton ran for pres­i­dent — strapped for money from donors who were now fun­nel­ing funds into the po­lit­i­cal race in­stead.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion di­rected ques­tions to Mrs. Clin­ton’s per­sonal aides, who did not re­turn calls seek­ing com­ment.

The Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau has ques­tioned the foun­da­tion’s sus­pected con­flicts of in­ter­est, though it has given the char­ity a good rat­ing in that field.

Mrs. Clin­ton an­nounced the job pro­gram at the Clin­ton Global Ini­tia­tive Amer­ica an­nual con­fer­ence in Denver. The goal is to get com­pa­nies to prom­ise greater job train­ing and ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties to young people as part of the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion’s Job One ini­tia­tive.

“We’ve as­sem­bled a net­work of busi­ness pre­pared to com­mit to pro­vid­ing new op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Mrs. Clin­ton said. “We know we all have a lot of work to do.”

Job One launches with 10 com­pa­nies hav­ing promised to ex­pand paid in­tern­ships, job shad­ows and ca­reer men­tor­ing. Along with Mi­crosoft, JPMor­gan Chase and Court­yard Mar­riott, The Gap, Lifeway Foods, MDC Part­ners, Sales­force.com, Corn­ing, Ernst & Young and Sy­man­tec have made com­mit­ments.

The foun­da­tion hopes the Job One pro­gram will reach 150,000 young people.

Vot­ers must re­main vig­i­lant about close as­so­ci­a­tions be­tween politi­cians and spe­cial in­ter­ests, Ms. Krumholz said, be­cause money of­ten can “grease the skids on pol­icy that re­ally doesn’t de­serve to move for­ward.”

When money goes to char­i­ties, wor­thy causes are helped, politi­cians gain pres­tige and businesses can write off the do­na­tions as tax ex­penses while get­ting ac­cess to the coun­try’s lead­ers.

“Ev­ery­body wins ex­cept maybe the cit­i­zens who will reap poli­cies based on the money,” Ms. Krumholz said.

Time Sen­si­tive Pub­li­ca­tion: Mailed July 3, 2014

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

For­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton have de­vel­oped re­la­tion­ships with phil­an­thropic and cor­po­rate in­ter­ests that some­times in­ter­twine with their po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions.

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