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WikiLeaks’ open spigot spills ‘Bill Clinton Inc.’ emails

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the 10th anniversary of his secrecy-spilling group. (AP photo by Markus Schreiber)

Is there a ‘Hillary Clinton Inc.?’

October 26, 2016

Another week, another round on the leaked emails carousel in our national news cycle.

The latest, is courtesy, of course, of WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group, and Citizens United, a conservative research organization. It involves a former Clinton aide referring to the former president as “Bill Clinton, Inc.” when discussing his personal business ventures.

On Wednesday, WikiLeaks exposed to the public a 2011 email memo that lays out some of the complicated ties that link Mr. Clinton’s personal business endeavors to fundraising for the Clinton Foundation, a charity that has raised nearly $2 billion from governments, corporations, and individuals for charities working on climate change, economic development, women’s and health issues, and other missions.

The dealings of the author of the memo, Doug Band, demonstrate the difficulty in delineating where Mr. Clinton’s not-for-profit interests end and where his for-profit interests begin. Mr. Band was a longtime presidential aide to Clinton who later played a pivotal role in building the Clinton Foundation. He co-founded the Clinton Global Initiative, the foundation’s annual forum and fundraising event.

And five months before the leaked memo, he founded a private consultancy firm called Teneo along with Declan Kelly, a retired U.S. State Department envoy. According to Time.com’s Massimo Calabresi, Mr. Band wrote that Teneo “provided merchant and investment banking services, corporate restructuring, public relations and communications services and strategic services to 20 clients, including Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, UBS, Barclays and BHP Billiton.” Over the same time, according to Mr. Band, Teneo raised $8 million for the Clinton Foundation.

Mr. Band also personally organized money-making opportunities for Mr. Clinton. Some of these came from the same companies and donors that contributed money to the Clinton Foundation. In a section of the 12-page memo under a heading of “For-Profit Activity of President Bill Clinton (i.e. Bill Clinton, Inc.),” Mr. Band claimed he had helped secure more than $50 million in for-profit activity for President Clinton.

Many of those activities included books, speeches, and “advisory service engagements.” The memo shows, for instance, Clinton was paid $1 million to speak at two one-hour sessions at an event in Hong Kong. That fee included $400,000 for a private plane. In 2011, Mr. Clinton earned $13,454,000 in speaking fees, according to his tax returns.

These hacked emails further prove what so many already knew: Bill Clinton, in his time since stepping out of the White House, has leveraged celebrity, and personal and business connections to accumulate millions of dollars for himself, his family and his philanthropic efforts.

But the more important question for voters is: To what extent, if any, did Hillary Clinton do the same while she held office as U.S. senator (2001-2009) and secretary of state (2009-2013)?

Some news pundits believe a new batch of leaked emails, obtained by Citizens United, sheds light on this question. They show Band’s correspondence with Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s top State Department advisor.

In April 2011, Mr. Band asked Ms. Abedin to invite Diego Donoso, an executive with Dow Chemical’s offices in Japan, to a diplomatic session between Hillary Clinton and Japan’s prime minister at the time, according to Chuck Ross of The Daily Caller, a D.C.-based conservative news and opinion website.

Dow Chemical was a client of Teneo, having paid Mr. Band’s firm $18.8 million in 2011-2012 for consultancy services, Ross wrote. At the same time, Bill Clinton was an honorary chairman of Teneo, set to be paid $3.5 million for the position (though he later returned all but $100,000 of what he was paid). Dow Chemical was also a donor to the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative.

Mr. Ross adds another email obtained by Citizens United that provides evidence that during an overseas diplomatic visit, access was granted to Hillary Clinton contingent on Clinton Global Initiative donor status.

In it, Paul McElearney, CGI’s head of member of development, emailed Ms. Abedin to request a meeting with Mrs. Clinton on her trip to Ireland two days later. Ms. Abedin said Mrs. Clinton could do that, and “then asked if several other people, including two CGI sponsors, could also meet Clinton. McElearney forwarded four names for Abedin’s consideration.”

Upon seeing the names, Ms. Abedin asked Mr. Band and two other Bill Clinton aides: “Are these legit cgi people? I know denis o brian [an Irish billionaire who donates to Clinton causes] but not the others. Everyone is asking to see her.”

Mr. Ross’ interpretation of this email as evidence of quid pro quo arrangements by Hillary Clinton and/or her staff is far from universal. Many of the stories published on this issue in more mainstream national media outlets don’t mention these emails obtained by Citizens United. All the same, they raise new questions that will dog Mrs. Clinton in these next couple weeks until election.

As for Doug Band, the Clintons ultimately parted ways with him and his company. The 2011 WikiLeaked memo shows personal relations between he and the family were then already fraying. In an email to John Podesta, Mr. Clinton’s former chief of staff who is now chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, Mr. Band complained he had to adhere to stricter conflict-of-interest policies than did William Jefferson Clinton.

“Oddly,” he wrote, “wjc does not have to sign such a document even though he is personally paid by 3 CGI sponsors, gets many expensive gifts from them, some that are at home etc.”

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