That’s $50 million in four years — not bad for a couple that now wants people to know they’ve struggled in government service. The Associated Press reviewed State Department records to see what level of scrutiny went into ethics reviews of proposed Bill Clinton speeches. The answer? Not much, especially in one case where the Clintons pocketed two-thirds of a million dollars from a bank in the middle of a Justice Department probe:
State Department officials under Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton moved quickly when aides to Bill Clinton asked them in March 2010 to approve plans for the former president to address clients of a multinational British bank, Barclays. Within four days, the department’s ethics office signed off on the request — as it did for hundreds of others from the former president during his wife’s four-year tenure leading the agency.
Its standard response, fired off in a short memo: “We have no objection.”
That decision remained unchanged even after the Justice Department announced just months later, in August 2010, that Barclays Bank agreed to pay nearly $300 million in penalties for violating financial sanctions against Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Libya and Burma. The long-running case had hardly been a secret: Barclays had openly acknowledged in its annual reports — as recently as the same month as Clinton’s 2010 request — that it was under investigation by the Justice Department and others for sanctions violations, and it cautioned that the impact on its profits “could be substantial.”
In November, the former president mingled with top Barclays executives and clients at a bank-sponsored question session in Singapore. A little more than two months later, he again joined Barclays officers and clients at an exclusive dinner in Davos, Switzerland. The two appearances for Barclays netted Bill Clinton $650,000.
In all, State approved 220 paid appearances by Bill Clinton in four years — averaging 55 a year, or more than four appearances a month. The average speaking “honorarium” during this period would have been $225,000, or about four and a half times the average annual household income in the US. Bear in mind that the Clintons had received well over $10 million in guaranteed advances for their first memoirs by this time, too. They hardly needed to leverage Hillary Clinton’s status at State to cash in themselves.
Bill Clinton disagrees:
Barclay’s wasn’t the only problematic call made by State, the AP’s Lisa Lerer and Stephen Braun report. Bill Clinton took $200,000 from HSBC while the British bank was under investigation for money laundering, a rather ironic happenstance to be sure. That pales in comparison to the $840,000 UBS paid Bill for five events just two years after UBS admitted to “a massive tax evasion scheme aiding American clients and paid $780 million in penalties.”
Those are bad enough, but it gets worse. The UAE paid Bill $600,000 for an appearance in 2011, which seems highly problematic in the context of ethics, as his wife was at the time in charge of US diplomacy. Is it customary for other nations to stick cash into the family pocket of a Secretary of State? How did that get past the “ethics” review at State? Actually, we already have that answer:
Hillary Clinton’s State Department aides were sometimes consulted “as a practical matter” during the independent review process of President Bill Clinton’s lucrative global appearances and business deals to get “additional perspective,” a State Department official acknowledged to POLITICO.
In one instance, the department’s top ethics lawyer Jim Thessin decided to consult with the secretary’s close aides about a 2010 request from the former president to accept an invitation to speak in China, according to documents obtained by POLITICO….
It’s unclear with whom Thessin discussed the proposed Bill Clinton appearance, one of several with Chinese-government sponsors, but thousands of pages of State Department ethics-review records obtained by POLITICO under the Freedom of Information Act show that Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff and longtime aide Cheryl Mills was copied on virtually all requests.
In some instances, the records show Thessin and Mills exchanged emails about Bill Clinton’s proposed speeches or travels. The substance of those emails was deleted from the records released by the State Department, which cited a need to preserve internal deliberations.
Just payin’ the Bill … which means all of these people were also payin’ the Hillary. And everyone knows it.