Quid pro, uh oh: Hillary stopped opposing trade deal after Clinton Foundation's foreign donations

Another day, another scandalous tale involving the Clinton Foundation’s suspect ethics.

The number of controversial practices in which the Clinton Foundation is alleged to have engaged is growing too numerous to recount in a single post. Just this week, former President Bill Clinton conceded that his family’s foundation might benefit from some internal reforms, but only if Hillary Clinton wins the White House in 2016. Unethical fundraising practices, the misuse of taxpayer dollars, the violation of memoranda of understanding with the administration, and the appearance of selling influence to foreign governments are a few disturbing patterns of conduct that might need to be addressed.

If you thought Hillary Clinton would deign to acknowledge the concerns of the little people ahead of her inevitable coronation, you thought wrong. “The Clinton Foundation is accepting a major donation from a Moroccan government-owned company to hold a high-profile conference next month in Marrakech with the king of Morocco — an event likely to reignite concerns about the foundation’s acceptance of foreign money just as Hillary Clinton prepares to announce her presidential candidacy,” Politico reported on Thursday.

Clinton had been scheduled to appear at the meeting in Marrakech, dubbed the Clinton Global Initiative Middle East and Africa Meeting, on May 5-7. But an official with the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation told POLITICO it’s “unlikely” the former secretary of state will join her husband, Bill. He is still expected at the event, as is Moroccan King Mohammed VI.

The event is being funded largely by a contribution of at least $1 million from OCP, a phosphate exporter owned by Morocco’s constitutional monarchy, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the event.

Clinton’s lack of caution might have finally caught up with her. According to an investigative report in the International Business Times, the Foundation accepted millions from a Clinton-linked Colombian oil company. Months later, the secretary of state dropped her objections to a trade deal with Columbia that was supposedly prompted by the nation’s alleged disrespect for human rights and abuses of labor activists.

The Hill summarized the expansive and damning report:

The report centers on donations from Frank Giustra and the oil company that he founded, Pacific Rubiales. In a Wall Street Journal story from 2008, Giustra is described as a “friend and traveling companion” of former President Clinton who donated more than $130 million to Clinton’s philanthropies. He’s also a Clinton Foundation board member and has participated in projects and benefits for the foundation.

When workers at Pacific Rubiales decided to strike in 2011, the Columbian military reportedly used force to stop the strikes and compel them to return to work, IBT reports, citing the Washington office of Latin America, a human rights group. Those accusations of human rights violations were part of the criticism of the United States-Colombia Free Trade Promotion Agreement, which was passed by Congress later that year. Pacific Rubiales has repeatedly denied charges that it infringed on workers’ rights.

On the campaign trail in 2008, Hillary Clinton, along with then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, opposed the deal as a raw deal for workers, according to IBT. The pair changed their tune after the election and publicly supported the trade agreement. As Secretary of State, Clinton’s State Department certified annually that Colombia was “meeting statutory criteria related to human rights.”

The IBT casts some doubt on Clinton’s claim to have genuinely changed her mind about the extent of the South American nation’s human rights abuses. The implication being that a $1 million donation from Giustra to his joint Sustainable Growth Initiative venture with the Clintons helped smooth over any lingering concerns about Bogota’s commitment to basic rights.

Though Clinton has never explicitly explained her change of position on the U.S.-Colombia trade pact, she acknowledged “concerns” about Colombian “human rights abuses, violence against labor organizers, targeted assassinations, and the atrocities of right-wing paramilitary groups” in her 2014 book, “Hard Choices.” But, she asserted, “By the time I visited Bogota in June 2010, violence was down dramatically.” She said that she met up with her husband while he “was traveling through Colombia on Clinton Foundation business” and the couple “went out for dinner with friends and staff at a local steakhouse, and toasted Colombia’s progress.”

Human Rights Watch reported that in the same year Clinton visited Bogota, “threats against unionists — mostly attributed to paramilitaries’ successor groups — have increased since 2007” and that “impunity in such cases is widespread.” The Colombian human rights group PASO International reported that in 2011, Pacific Rubiales “workers were forced off picket lines at gunpoint by members of the Armed Forces during [a] strike and only allowed to return to work when they had renounced the union.” In 2012, a Colombian journalist covering protests against Pacific Rubiales died after being detained by the police. A year later, a report from two Democratic members of the Congressional Monitoring Group on Labor Rights in Colombia found “murders and threats against union members and harmful subcontracting persist in Colombia largely unabated.”

On Thursday, liberal icon Sen. Elizabeth Warren advised her fellow Democrats that it wouldn’t be prudent to hand her party’s presidential nomination to Clinton too prematurely. Ideally, the Bay State senator and other progressives would like the opportunity to nudge Clinton to the left over the course of the primaries, but her advice would also help Democrats learn if they are nominating a time bomb that could go off well before November of next year.

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