When the scandal first broke about the Clinton Foundation taking millions from foreign governments while Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State, Clinton apologists took an end-justifies-the-means defense. Sure, the foundation took $500,000 from Algeria without notifying the State Department, but it went to Haiti to help the poor! Why would anyone object to helping the poor, after all?
According to the Washington Post’s Kevin Sullivan and Rosalind Helderman, many Haitians would challenge the premise of that defense. In fact, they see the Clintons as “part of the elite class who are operating to exploit the Haitian people,” and not without reason:
Controversy surrounding the Clintons only deepened with the recent revelation, contained in an upcoming book by Peter Schweizer, that Tony Rodham — Hillary Clinton’s younger brother — serves on the advisory board of a U.S.-based company that in 2012 won one of Haiti’s first two gold-mining permits in 50 years. After objection from the Haitian Senate, the permits have been placed on hold.
The Clintons come in with one hand to help out, and with another to help themselves, in other words. There aren’t too many ways to exploit a nation more clearly than to take its gold out of its ground for the benefit of politically connected outsiders. It’s also not the first time Tony Rodham has been connected to attempts to exploit his sister’s political connections for his own benefit. Rodham’s Gulf Coast Funds participated in GreenTech Automotive, which Terry McAuliffe ran, and which came under scrutiny for its connection to Alejandro Mayorkas and an alleged corruption of investor-visa applications.
The Haitians are less than impressed with the Clintons and their high-profile projects:
The country has long had a fraught relationship with foreigners who come to invest and provide aid. Haitians often regard them with gratitude for desperately needed resources and, at the same time, with suspicion that their motives are more to make a profit in Haiti than to help it.
Nevertheless, the Clintons are facing a growing backlash that too little has been accomplished in the past five years and that some of the most high-profile projects they have backed — including a just-opened Marriott, another luxury hotel and the industrial park — have helped foreign investors and Haiti’s wealthy elites more than its poor.
“Bill Clinton is a good guy and well-intentioned, but the people here don’t think so — they think he’s here making money,” said Leslie Voltaire, a former government official who worked with Clinton on post-earthquake reconstruction. “There is a lot of resentment about Clinton here. People have not seen results. . . . They say that Clinton used Haiti.”
In January, Haitian expatriates picketed the Clinton Foundation’s New York headquarters, demanding to know why more progress has not been made with the billions in international aid pledged after the quake.
The Post’s reporters paint a nuanced picture of the Clintons’ efforts in Haiti. There have been success stories as well, attempts to harness market forces to produce charitable ends, some of which have panned out. Others have been less successful, but seem to have been an honest attempt to create more opportunity. It’s worth the time to read the entire report to grasp both the scope of the effort and the scope of the despair in Haiti, 20 years after Bill Clinton ordered American forces to Port-au-Prince to reverse a coup.
The focus on building high-end luxury hotels, and especially to get Haiti’s gold into Tony Rodham’s pockets, looks like something else entirely. Those projects appear ready made to both burnish the Clintons’ standing with the “elites” by catering to them at the expense of ordinary Haitians, and in the case of the gold, to burnish a few family bank accounts along the way. Sullivan and Helderman explore this latter effort in more detail separately:
Tony Rodham’s involvement with the mine, which has become a source of controversy in Haiti because of concern about potential environmental damage and the belief that the project will primarily benefit foreign investors, was first revealed in publicity about an upcoming book on the Clintons by author Peter Schweizer.
In interviews with The Washington Post, both Rodham and the chief executive of Delaware-based VCS Mining said they were introduced at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative — an offshoot of the Clinton Foundation that critics have long alleged invites a blurring of its charitable mission with the business interests of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their corporate donors.
Asked whether he attends CGI meetings to explore personal business opportunities, Rodham responded, “No, I go to see old friends. But you never know what can happen.”
Well, literally, thanks to Hillary’s choice of e-mail systems. This kind of commingling of interests is why the Clinton Foundation and especially its CGI offshoot is a much bigger problem for Hillary in the long run than the e-mail scandal, which is bad enough and potentially connected to the Foundation. (How many of those 32,000 “private” e-mails discussed CGI business?) Both scandals, though, point to one overriding conclusion about the Clintons expressed this morning by Ron Fournier:
— Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) March 21, 2015
Indeed. In fact, Hillary all but explicitly stated that in her press conference last week, claiming that her “convenience” trumped the law and communications security. The Haitians have learned it the hard way. Hopefully, Americans will recall when we learned it the hard way, too, fifteen years ago.