Over the last few weeks, we’ve noted the bemusement of Hillary Clinton supporters when asked to name a major accomplishment of the presumed Democratic frontrunner for the 2016 presidential nomination. Yesterday, the Washington Post managed to succeed where most analysts failed. The former Secretary of State turned out to be very good at selling Boeing jets — and then reaping the windfall afterward, political and otherwise:
On a trip to Moscow early in her tenure as secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton played the role of international saleswoman, pressing Russian government officials to sign a multibillion-dollar deal to buy dozens of aircraft from Boeing.
A month later, Clinton was in China, where she jubilantly announced that the aerospace giant would be writing a generous check to help resuscitate floundering U.S. efforts to host a pavilion at the upcoming World’s Fair.
Boeing, she said, “has just agreed to double its contribution to $2 million.”
Clinton did not point out that, to secure the donation, the State Department had set aside ethics guidelines that first prohibited solicitations of Boeing and then later permitted only a $1 million gift from the company. Boeing had been included on a list of firms to be avoided because of its frequent reliance on the government for help negotiating overseas business and concern that a donation could be seen as an attempt to curry favor with U.S. officials.
The jet deal took place in November 2009. Notably, this was several months after the “reset button” fiasco with Sergei Lavrov that all but shrugged off efforts by the previous administration to get tough with Moscow after the invasion of Georgia in the summer of 2008. The Post’s Rosalind Helderman mentions this deal as the Obama administration’s “enticing symbol” of their diplomatic “reset.”
What isn’t mentioned in this piece was the cancellation of the US missile shield program with Poland and the Czech Republic two months earlier than the Boeing sale. Russia had long opposed the missile-shield program in eastern Europe, pushed by the Bush administration as a response to Iranian development of both its missile and nuclear-weapons programs. At the time, no one could quite figure out what we got in trade for this retreat. Now it appears all we got was a sale of some commercial airliners to Aeroflot.
But that’s not all Hillary got:
In 2010, two months after Boeing won its $3.7 billion Russia deal, the company announced a $900,000 contribution to the William J. Clinton Foundation intended to rebuild schools in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The foundation, which Hillary Clinton now helps lead with her husband and daughter, has become a popular charity for major corporations.
The company’s ties came into play again this month when its in-house lobbyist, former Bill Clinton aide Tim Keating, co-hosted a fundraiser for Ready for Hillary, the super PAC backing her potential presidential run.
What did Boeing cough up for its $3.7 billion sale? It donated $2 million to the State Department’s World Fair pavilion a few months later, plus another $900,000 for the Clinton’s foundation — and apparently a bundler for Hillary 2016. That seems like a great swap for national security, no?
Small wonder Google is ramping up its lobbying presence in Washington these days:
The rise of Google as a top-tier Washington player fully captures the arc of change in the influence business.
Nine years ago, the company opened a one-man lobbying shop, disdainful of the capital’s pay-to-play culture.
The company gives money to nearly 140 business trade groups, advocacy organizations and think tanks, according to a Post analysis of voluntary disclosures by the company, which, like many corporations, does not reveal the size of its donations. That’s double the number of groups Google funded four years ago.
This summer, Google will move to a new Capitol Hill office, doubling its Washington space to 55,000 square feet — roughly the size of the White House.
Google’s increasingly muscular Washington presence matches its expanded needs and ambitions as it has fended off a series of executive- and legislative-branch threats to regulate its activities and well-funded challenges by its corporate rivals.
It’s prudent to plan for the future, after all.