Hillary Clinton has her hands full with the e-mail scandal and the repeated mishandling and unlawful retention of classified material, but that doesn’t mean other controversies have disappeared. ABC News’ Jonathan Karl reports this morning that e-mails uncovered by Citizens United expose just how, er, enthusiastic Bill Clinton was about his speaking career. Clinton’s speaking agency got an offer for Clinton to travel to the Congo and speak in front of two of the worst dictators in Africa, advising him to decline it immediately. Apparently unwilling to dismiss a $650,000 payday, Clinton instead tried wheedling the State Department to let him do it as long as the money went — wait for it — to the Clinton Foundation:
One email sent in June 2012 to Clinton State Department chief of staff Cheryl Mills from Amitabh Desai, a foreign policy director at the Clinton Foundation, passed on an invitation for a speaking engagement in Brazzaville, Congo.
The catch? The dictators of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo would both be attending — and required photos with Bill Clinton. The speaking fee? A whopping $650,000.
The Harry Walker Agency, which worked with Clinton on coordinating his speeches, recommended declining the invite, noting the particularly grim human rights record of the Democratic Republic of Congo and its leader, Joseph Kabila.
“Given President Kabila and others invovlement [sic] we anticipate you’ll want us to quickly decline” the Harry Walker representative wrote.
Or so you’d think. Hillary Clinton spent this week comparing her Republican opponents to terrorists for their criticism of Planned Parenthood and demands to end federal funding for it, attempting to breathe new life into the “war on women” meme. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the real thing. Just two years earlier, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict called the DRC the “rape capital of the world“:
“Women have no rights, if those who violate their rights go unpunished,” Ms Wallstrom told the UN Security Council on her return from DR Congo.
“If women continue to suffer sexual violence, it is not because the law is inadequate to protect them, but because it is inadequately enforced,” she said.
Instead of immediately turning down the gig, Clinton instead asked State if he could give the speech for the foundation, rather than directly for the Clintons’ own profit. “WJC wants know what state thinks of it if he took it 100% for the foundation,” Desai wrote to Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills. The answer, apparently, was no; the speech never took place.
One month earlier, Desai had asked about a speaking event “related to North Korea,” perhaps the world’s most oppressive regime — and a particular thorn in Clinton’s side during his presidency. Mills bluntly told Desai to “decline it,” but Desai wrote back three weeks later asking for reconsideration. After all, it was Hillary Clinton’s brother Tony Rodham who had arranged the invitation, and “Tony is seeing WJC in a couple hours,” Desai wrote.
That speech also never took place. Karl notes that Clinton defenders will use this as evidence that the vetting system for Bill’s speeches worked, but that’s not really the point here. The Clintons don’t have any trouble selling themselves out even to the world’s worst dictators, as long as it puts lots of cash either in their pockets or their foundation, which they use to extend their political power and influence. Karl puts it well:
The emails — which have come to light because of a public records request by the conservative group Citizens United, which sued the State Department to get the documents — show just how far Bill Clinton was willing to go to earn those lucrative fees — seeking approval for appearances with ties to two of the most brutal countries in the world.
The Clintons don’t believe the rules apply to them. All of these scandals originate from that fundamental reality about the Clintons.