Hillary’s corporate backers have long history with Bill
Hillary’s jobs plan sponsors have history of enriching her husband
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.
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.
Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton have developed relationships with philanthropic and corporate interests that sometimes intertwine with their political ambitions.