Remember John Houseman’s TV ads for brokerage firm Smith Barney in the 1980s? Houseman would look ponderously into the camera and declare, “They make money the old-fashioned way. They earn it.”
Bill Clinton made millions the old old-fashioned way, by peddling his connections to power and influence, as documents from the Clinton Foundation have made clear. His $18 million haul from Laureate Education alone amply proves that, but a memo from foundation exec Doug Band makes the point excruciatingly clear. Defending himself against Chelsea Clinton’s complaints about him cashing on his access to the former president, Band reminded his correspondents of his contributions to “Bill Clinton Inc,” including using the foundation for his personal profit:
Band acknowledged the “unorthodox nature” of his and fellow foundation staffer Justin Cooper’s relationships to Clinton over the years, as both aides had served overlapping roles at the foundation and in pursuit of personal profit for the Clinton family.
“Independent of our fundraising and decision-making activities on behalf of the Foundation, we have dedicated ourselves to helping the President secure and engage in for-profit activities – including speeches, books, and advisory service engagements,” Band wrote.
He dubbed those for-profit pursuits “Bill Clinton, Inc.” The resulting deals often involved a mix of foundation donations, paid speeches and consulting contracts for Bill Clinton, lumping charitable and personal financial work together in ways that may have crossed ethical boundaries.
When a reporter asked Tim Kaine to comment on these arrangements, Hillary Clinton’s running mate responded that Bill was “entitled to the money he has earned.” Oh, no one doubts that the Clintons are entitled:
Uh … sure, Senator. Perhaps Kaine can answer this: How exactly did Bill earn $18 million as an honorary chancellor at Laureate over five years? What work did Bill do, what value was provided that didn’t relate to Hillary’s status as Secretary of State?
The Wall Street Journal’s editors wonder what happened to the IRS. A non-profit profiting its founder? Isn’t that the kind of issue that the agency’s non-profit department cares about, when they’re not trying to keep conservative groups from organizing?
This excerpt and all the potential conflicts it describes, plus Chelsea’s warning about business “hustling” at foundation events, would seem more than ample cause to trigger an IRS audit of the foundation. For that matter, why aren’t the IRS and prosecutors already on the case? Any normal foundation has to keep records to show it is separating its nonprofit activity from any for-profit business.
Mr. Band’s memo confirms that donors were not seeking merely to help the sick and the poor. He explains that the Clinton Foundation had “engaged an array of fundraising consultants” over the past decade but “these engagements have not resulted in significant new dollars for the Foundation.” In other words, it wasn’t working as a conventional charity.
Mr. Band then explains how he and his Teneo partner Declan Kelly had to carry the fundraising load, and did so by packaging foundation solicitations with other services such as a meeting with Bill Clinton, $450,000 speeches or strategic advice. Many of the donations, from U.S. companies like Coca-Cola and Dow Chemical and foreign firms like UBS and Barclays, occurred while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.
Why exactly were donors writing checks? The Band memo makes clear that donations untied to additional Clinton or Teneo services weren’t all that appealing to potential supporters. This is significant, because the large grant-making foundations in the U.S. are almost entirely run by Clinton voters. So you know they weren’t turned off by the brand name. They’d contribute more if they thought they were also buying goodwill and influence with a current Secretary of State and a potential future President.
Don’t get too hung up on “Chelsea’s warning,” either. As Daniel Halper wrote two years ago in Clinton Inc and reported by Maureen Callahan at the New York Post, she didn’t shy away from demanding her own income stream from Bill Clinton Inc. When she didn’t get it, that’s when the issue of potential conflicts of interest arose — and got leaked to the media:
All was well until an early meeting with Bill; when Band arrived, he was surprised to find Chelsea and her husband in the room. According to Halper, the couple wanted not just equity in Teneo but a salary for Chelsea. She saw Band — not inaccurately — as selling access to her father.
When Band refused her, the book notes, he was not long for ClintonWorld.
“A number of articles began to appear, in The New York Times and elsewhere, about financial improprieties at Clinton’s various foundations,” Halper writes. “All of them were one way or another overseen by Doug Band.”
As Halper notes, a particularly damaging piece on Band was written by Amy Chozick, one of the only journalists who was given access to do a profile of Chelsea.
Suddenly, the media-averse Chelsea was allowing her thoughts on the matter to leak: A September 2013 piece in The New Republic said that “Chelsea, who once felt only fondness for Band as a trusted member of her family’s circle, came to worry that the overlap between the foundation and Band’s business interests could backfire on the Clintons,” with another source saying, “I don’t think Chelsea was wrong.”
The Clintons all make money the old-fashioned way, it seems, but they don’t earn it.
Update: Here’s one of the first of Houseman’s ads in this series, from 1979: