Bill Clinton recently defended his high-priced speeches by explaining that he’s “gotta pay our bills,” but Peter Schweizer’s much-discussed forthcoming book Clinton Cash suggests that there’s a sense in which Hillary Clinton has been the real family breadwinner of late.
“The really troubling thing about Bill’s speeches is the apparent correlation between his fees and Hillary’s decisions during her tenure as secretary of state,” Schweizer writes in the book, which comes out tomorrow. “The timing of the payments, the much higher than average size of some of them, and the subsequent actions taken by Hillary raise serious questions about just what those who underwrote these exorbitant fees were actually paying for.”
Schweizer’s “podium economics” chapter starts with a project that conservatives actually support — the Keystone XL pipeline. TD Bank, a Canadian company, is the “single-biggest shareholder” in the pipeline, and the single-biggest source of speaking fees for Bill Clinton.
“TD Bank paid Bill $1.8 million for ten speeches over a roughly two-and-a-half year period from late 2008 to mid-2011,” he writes. When Bill Clinton submitted these speeches to the State Department ethics officials, he “didn’t indicate that TD Bank was a major investor in Keystone XL.” The construction of the pipeline, of course, required a permit from the State Department.
After leaving the White House, Bill Clinton gave 13 speeches for which he was paid $500,000 or more; eleven of them took place while Hillary was in charge of the State Department.
Did the speeches affect the outcome of the pipeline permitting process? “In August 2011, the State Department released a final environmental impact statement that was seen as largely supportive of the pipeline,” the book notes. Bill Clinton endorsed its construction in 2012, and even Hillary Clinton “touted the project on the grounds of ‘energy security,’” according to Schweizer. Unfortunately for TD Bank, President Obama has refused to approve the pipeline.
Schweizer then turns his attention to Ericsson, a Swedish telecom company that was providing services to the Iranian government, despite its sponsorship of terrorism, at a time when the State Department was cracking down on such deals.
“Ericsson decided to sponsor a speech by Bill Clinton and paid him more than he had ever been paid for a single speech: $750,000,” Schweizer writes. “According to Clinton financial disclosures, in the previous ten years Ericsson had never sponsored a Clinton speech. But now it apparently thought would be a good time to do so.” Clinton gave the speech on November 12, 2011. “One week later, on November 19, the State Department unveiled its new sanctions list for Iran,” the book continues. “Telecom was not on the list.” Even when Obama imposed sanctions on telecom sales by executive order in 2012, “ those sanctions did not cover Ericsson’s work in Iran.”
#related#If Schweizer’s theory is correct, Obama’s rapprochement with Iran paid dividends for the Clintons more than once. Just as the United Arab Emirates’ royal family started to worry that the U.S. and Iran would cut a deal that would endanger the tiny country, Bill Clinton received $500,000 from the Emirati government to give a speech in Abu Dhabi.
“What is striking about the speech is not what Clinton said but the timing of the payment,” Schweizer writes. “Even as Bill was being introduced to the audience by the crown prince of the UAE, the prince’s brother (the foreign minister) was en route to Washington for meetings with none other than Hillary.”
Did the Clintons also benefit from the “pivot to Asia” in Obama’s first term? “At this critical time for U.S.-China relations, Bill Clinton gave a number of speeches that were underwritten by the Chinese government and its supporters.” One speech alone netted him $550,000. “Prior to Hillary’s appointment as secretary of state, Bill had given only two speeches on the Chinese mainland, for a total of $450,000.”
“They make large payments and favorable actions are taken,” Schweizer said in a recent interview. “I don’t think that coincidences occur that frequently.”
Schweizer notes that the ethics officers reviewing these speeches had a tough job. “Bill Clinton’s office never provided anything but a cursory description of who was paying for each speech,” the book says. “For good measure, all correspondence pertaining to Bill’s speeches between his office and the ethics office was copied to Cheryl Mills, Hillary’s chief of staff and Bill’s longtime friend.”
The list provided in the “podium economics” chapter of Schweizer’s book is by no means exhaustive. After leaving the White House, Bill Clinton gave 13 speeches for which he was paid $500,000 or more; eleven of them took place while Hillary was in charge of the State Department. “They make large payments and favorable actions are taken,” Schweizer said in a recent interview. “I don’t think that coincidences occur that frequently.”
— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.