This is a review I wrote today about one of the most interesting books i've read in months.
Canada is known as a resource-rich country. Apparently we're also rich in mining moguls who figure in this fascinating book:
Clinton Cash, by Peter Schweizer, (Harper Collins, 256 pages, $27.99 US, hardcover).
It’s hard to imagine that Hillary Clinton can win the election to be the Democratic Party presidential candidate, let alone winning the subsequent election, after this book came out May 5.
It links stunning political reversals Hillary made as U.S. Secretary of State that were closely associated with multi-million-dollar donations to the Clinton Foundation. There are also similar links between favourable U.S. government decisions and extremely lucrative speaking engagements for Bill – up to $700,000.
Among his high-paid speeches were $500,000 worth for the Toronto-Dominion Bank at a time when Hillary’s State Department was pondering the fate of Keystone XL, a proposal from TransCanada Pipelines in which TD held substantial shares and to which it loaned a lot of money.
The book leads off with the story of how the Clintons helped smooth relations with Nursultain Nazarbaye, president of Kazakhstan since 1990 and reputed to be one of the richest men in the world. Frank Giustra of Vancouver ended up with 30 per cent ownership of one uranium mine and 70 per cent of another even though his novice company, UrAsia Energy, was bidding against seasoned titans in the mining industries of South Africa and Australia. Guistra donated $31.5 million to the Clinton Foundation after that deal went through in 2005.
But he needed another favour a few years later to win Nazarbaye’s approval for a merger between UrAsia Energy and Uranium One. Nazarbaye wanted his own favour – Clinton endorsement for his country’s bid to head the Organization for Security and Cooperation, which was set up mainly as a human rights organization as part of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. That was a daunting challenge because Nazarbaye’s human rights record has been condemned by many.
But two days after Guistra, Bill Cliinton and Nazarbaye had a dinner meeting, the mining-company merger was approved and then Giustra donated $100 million to the Clinton Foundation. And Bill Clinton invited Nazarbaye to a prestigious gala in New York where he praised him; soon after Kazakhstan got to be head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation.
Ian Telfer, another Vancouver-based mining mogul, also figures in the stories, partly because he got 2.2 million shares of Uranium One before it was taken public. He and Giustra set up their own charitable foundation, one of two that Giustra used to funnel money to the Clinton Foundation. He apparently wanted a charitable-donation tax receipt for a donation to a Canadian foundation, explaining why the money went from one foundation to another.
Giustra did another big deal with help from both Clintons. He landed the rights for his Flagship Industries company to cut timber in Columbia; Columbia got Clinton support for a free-trade deal at a time when many politicians were raising questions about the human-rights record of the country. Hillary Clinton pushed for the trade deal and said nothing about the human rights issues.
And then there’s the tale of Lukas Lundin, another Canadian mining mogul, who controlled First Quantum Mineral Ltd. which landed the Lorshi mine in the Congo without competitive bidding. Hillary Clinton decided to not use her powers to frustrate mining deals in the Congo that often involve corruption and violence; Lundin committed $100 million to the Clinton Foundation. In 2012, Quantum sold the mine for $1.25 billion.
There is sleaze piled on sleaze. Marc Rich, once on the FBI’s most-wanted list and owing $48 million in back taxes, received a Clinton pardon on his last day as U.S. President. Rich shows up later in the book as a partner with Gilbert Chagoury and Clinton lobbying for mining rights in Nigeria. Chagoury contributed close to $500,000 to Clinton election campaigns, but ended up with a Swiss conviction for money laundering. He escapes prison by serving as St. Lucia’s envoy to UNESCO in New York.
Schweizer is cautious throughout to say he can’t prove that these characters made multi-million-dollar donorations, or paid up to $700,000 for a speech, in return for specific political favours. But the inferences are compelling.
The Clintons said they were broke when Bill left the White House in 2001. Schweizer says they have garnered more than $135 million since then for themselves and the Clinton Foundation.
Oh, yes, and just what has the Clinton Foundation done? Not much, at least not directly; most of what it has done is via donations to other organizations, raising the question of why the donors, if they really had charity in mind, didn’t simply give directly to those organizations.