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We’re Living ‘The Hunger Games’ — And We Need To Change That

Most of us are familiar with The Hunger Games — the story of a fictional future society where an elite has everything and is oblivious to the suffering all around them, beyond an occasionally peek at their ubiquitous screens to see the tragedies unfolding beyond their borders.

I founded Lions Gate Entertainment, which distributed that dystopian film to the world eight years ago. I never thought it would become a reality, but I’m afraid it has.

After spending three days in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where I was doing some desperately needed humanitarian work to help Christians terrorized by ISIS, I returned to my home in Vancouver. By habit, I opened my Instagram account and mindlessly browsed through postings of people I knew, to see what had happened while I was gone.

It was like leaving The Hunger Games’ District 13 and returning to the privileged life of Panem. As I gazed at photo-shopped selfies, hot vacation spots, and cute pets, I realized I just couldn’t connect with them. And I realized that most of the friends on my Instagram account couldn’t connect to the devastation I’d witnessed just hours before.

What I saw in Mosul was the aftermath of the nine-month battle to liberate the city, often called the birthplace of Christianity, from its ISIS captors — who had held the city’s civilians hostage for the preceding three years.

After the biggest urban battle since World War II, eight million tons of rubble is pretty much all that is left of the western part of this ancient city. It was mind-boggling to walk the streets, knowing there are still many undiscovered bodies buried beneath the bombed-out buildings. As many as 40,000 people may have died in the battle for Mosul. (Neither the Iraqi government nor the US coalition will acknowledge any total number of casualties).

Now in the safety of Vancouver, browsing through those Instagram photos, I realized that our society faces a profound challenge.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t fault the folks who posted those pretty photos; I’ve posted plenty of my own. But we are in an existential crisis, absorbed with life in our comfortable, social-media driven bubbles, a phenomenon that isolates us from the world’s major challenges.

Until three years ago I was equally isolated. Then I visited Lesbos, Greece, and saw refugees landing on the beaches. That personal moment, which I could never have experienced on social media, motivated me to immerse myself in doing something to help the 65 million-plus human beings who are now refugees.

Since I began that work, I have grown increasingly frustrated that our social media addiction is making us like the citizens of The Hunger Games’ Panem — clueless to what is happening in the world around us.

But why?

Partly it is a matter of what media choose to cover — and what we choose to follow — in an era fueled by political scandal and celebrities. When was the last time you turned on any cable news outlet and saw a report about the thousands of civilians killed during the recapture of Mosul? Or a story about the millions of Yemenis now on the brink of starvation because of a US-backed, Saudi-led campaign against Houthi rebels in their country? How much coverage have you seen of the Russian-backed Assad regime’s brutal campaign against its own citizens that has killed hundreds of thousands and left half the population displaced?

My guess would be that you haven’t seen much.

But our growing isolation from these brutalities can’t be blamed only on the paucity of coverage, because media does provide some reporting of these tragedies. The broader problem is that we are being anesthetized by the technology now shaping our society and its discourse.

We increasingly get most of our information from social media, where we select the kind of information or opinions we want. To make matters worse, we allow the algorithms used by these platforms to reinforce our preferences and make those decisions for us. In this way, we can easily tune out the hard-core reality of what’s happening in the world.

Why should we care about what seems like an unstoppable trend? So what if we choose to exist in our comfortable bubble, paying little heed to the problems of people on the other side of the planet? We’re just civilians. We can’t fix wars, can we?

Perhaps not, but we should still worry about one very dangerous result of our intellectual and social isolation. Tyrants are now taking advantage of this public-interest vacuum to perpetrate astonishing atrocities against civilians, destabilizing whole societies and holding power — as the International Crisis Group outlined in its recent paper, Misery as a Strategy.

A dumbed-down public can be manipulated, fooled, and distracted more easily, allowing those in power to get away with murder, quite literally and on a massive scale. Robespierre said it best: “The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”

While we live in a world where the rules of conduct are melting away at a dizzying pace, there is a solution to this growing entropy on the international stage. We must change our social media behavior.

Accompanying me in Mosul was my friend, the global philanthropist Amed Khan. One of his ideas is to invite Vice President Mike Pence to come to Mosul and witness the plight of Christians there. We can hope that Pence and other leaders will take Amed up on that invitation.

But I would extend it even further.

We don’t have to give up Instagram or any other platform. But we do need to log off from time to time, to take personal responsibility to engage with the world beyond the screen. When we choose to live within an isolated bubble, allowing barbarism to prevail, everyone will lose eventually.

The Hunger Games teaches us that, too.

Founder of the Radcliffe Foundation, which sponsors his continuing work on refugee issues, Frank Giustra is the former chair of Yorkton Securities and the co-founder of Lionsgate Entertainment. He is also an active executive member of the International Crisis Group and created the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership with former president Bill Clinton. 

IMAGE: Displaced Iraqi civilians who fled Mosul gather at Khazer camp, Iraq December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

 

Excerpt: Behind The Secretly Funded Right-Wing Attack On The Clinton Foundation

This excerpt from Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton opens in the spring of 2015, just before the publication of Clinton Cash – a book created in a shadowy right-wing think-tank to wound Hillary Clinton — then considered the most formidable potential Democratic presidential nominee — by attacking the Clinton Foundation. With Democratic nominee Clinton and her relationship with the foundation likely to come under renewed scrutiny during the final weeks of the presidential campaign, it seems equally appropriate to examine its most determined and least scrupulous critics, who are now closely associated with Donald Trump’s campaign.

—– 

Few American authors would dare to imagine the publicity bonanza that the editors of the New York Times bestowed on Peter Schweizer’s Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich. During the weeks leading up to its publication in early May—and only days after Hillary announced her presidential candidacy—the Times published not one but two articles promoting and implicitly endorsing the book—which, as its title indicated, purported to expose the Clintons’ enrichment by foreign interests.

It was the kind of publicity that money literally could never buy.

On April 19, the paper led its politics section with a story by Amy Chozick that described Clinton Cash as “the most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle still in its infancy.” The author’s background as a Republican partisan and former speechwriter for George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, wrote Chozick, would be used by Clinton supporters to discredit him as yet another in a long line of biased critics—but that might be more difficult, she added, because Schweizer “writes mainly in the voice of a neutral journalist and meticulously documents his sources . . . while leaving little doubt about his view of the Clintons.”

Beyond that affirmation of his methods, Chozick reported that both the Times and the Washington Post—as well as Fox News Channel—had entered into “exclusive” deals with Schweizer to pursue “story lines” in his book. To anyone in the Clinton camp who remembered the Whitewater “scandal,” which began with investigative stories in the Times and the Post, this collaboration between the two leading print outposts of the “liberal media” and hostile Republican sources looked all too familiar.

Scores of readers noticed the incongruous arrangement in Chozick’s story and protested to Margaret Sullivan, the Times public editor. Sullivan posted a column four days later, expressing her distaste for the “exclusive” deal with Schweizer, while expressing complete faith in the paper’s editors to handle such material properly.

But that same day, Sullivan’s mild demurral was overshadowed as the Times presented the fruit of its collaboration with Schweizer on the front page of its print edition and in the top spot on its website—a 4,400-word story vaguely headlined “Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal,” by investigative reporters Jo Becker and Mike McIntire, which explored the disposition of uranium mining rights in Kazakhstan and the United States by a group of Canadian investors that had once included foundation donor Frank Giustra—and that left those strategic reserves in Russian hands.

Before joining the Times staff, Becker had shared a Pulitzer Prize at the Washington Post. She also had shared a byline on the January 2008 Times investigation of Giustra’s uranium deal in the Central Asian nation and his connections with Clinton. Whatever other motives might have inspired the paper’s deal with Schweizer seven years later, the Times editors leapt at a chance to revisit that story—which had provoked an embarrassing public correction in Forbes magazine.

The April 23 story revisited the first Times investigation in detail, even repeating one of its most easily checked errors: the claim that Giustra and Clinton had flown together on Giustra’s jet to Almaty, the Kazakh capital. (Actually, Clinton and his staff had arrived four days later on another friend’s plane.)

But the new story hinted at a more serious accusation: Through a complicated series of deals, Russia had gained control of a portion of U.S. uranium reserves through a Vancouver-based firm called Uranium One, while the Canadian investors who profited had given millions to the Clinton Foundation. The Russian acquisition of those American mines had been approved by the Clinton-led State Department, while those Canadian donations “flowed.”

The story noted that any such deal required the approval of “a number of United States government agencies.” It mentioned that some of the story’s information had been “unearthed” by Schweizer, “a former fellow at the right-leaning Hoover Institution and author of the forth- coming book Clinton Cash,” who had “provided a preview of material in the book to the Times,” which added its own extensive reporting.

“Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown,” the reporters acknowledged. But on the pages of the Times, even the suggestion that donations from Giustra or other investors influenced Hillary amplified Schweizer’s theme. They also reported that Bill Clinton had received $500,000 for a speech delivered in Moscow to a bank connected with Uranium One.

The story’s insinuation was bolstered by the reporters’ discovery that $2.3 million from the Uranium One investors had not been disclosed on the foundation’s website, but made public only in Canadian tax records. A Times editorial the same day complained about the “messiness” of Hillary’s connection with her husband’s foundation, and urged her to impose tighter restrictions on its fundraising.

The question that the Times failed to raise, let alone answer, is why anyone interested in the Russian uranium deal would have sought to influence the secretary of state—when her department had only one vote out of nine on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States that had to approve the deal.

While Clinton Cash attributed a “central role” to Hillary, she hadn’t participated at all in the Uranium One deliberations. According to the assistant secretary of state who represented her on the panel, “Mrs. Clinton never intervened with me on any CFIUS matter.” Knowledgeable observers of CFIUS believe its decisions are dominated by the Pentagon and the Treasury Department, which chairs the committee, not State. And the nine agencies on CFIUS had unanimously approved the sale of the remainder of Uranium One to the Russians in 2013, several months after Hillary had left the government. That sale also required additional approvals from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Canadian regulators.

In short, cultivating the Clintons would have guaranteed nothing for the Uranium One investors. They had given well over $2 million during a period of several years, but a foundation spokesman—and Giustra—insisted that Canadian and provincial tax laws forbade disclosure of their names without their specific consent.

As for Giustra, the Uranium One investors were his friends and former partners, and he was assuredly a very big Clinton donor. But he had divested all of his Uranium One stock almost three years before the Russian sale went through.

Yet somehow all those exculpatory details were ignored in the subsequent coverage on cable TV and talk radio, where Clinton’s opponents talked loosely of “bribery”—often during interviews with Schweizer, whose book debuted on May 24 as the number two Times nonfiction bestseller and stayed on the list for several weeks.

The Times’s promotion of Schweizer encouraged a seemingly endless series of attacks on the Clinton Foundation from almost every direction. Journalists who had paid only fleeting attention to the foundation’s work over more than a decade proclaimed their concern about its finances, transparency, and efficiency.

Commentators with very little knowledge of any of the foundation’s programs, still unable to distinguish the Clinton Global Initiative from the Clinton Health Access Initiative, confidently denounced the entire operation as dubious. Others glancingly recognized the good achieved by the foundation before moving on to denounce the Clintons’ “greed.” And media stars who had eagerly participated in Clinton Global Initiative events, broadcasting gushy interviews with Bill Clinton, suddenly voiced angry suspicions, unproven accusations, and inventive theories.

Much of the most damning material in Clinton Cash, however, turned out to be either factually inaccurate, melodramatically exaggerated, or both. Within weeks after publication, major media outlets reported significant errors discovered in its pages.

Time magazine debunked Schweizer’s chapter on the Uranium One deal, noting that his book had mustered “little evidence” of outside in- fluence on government decision-making, and offered “no indication of Hillary Clinton’s personal involvement in, or even knowledge of, the [CFIUS] deliberations.”

According to ABC News’ investigative team, its “independent review of source material . . . uncovered errors in the book, including an instance where paid and unpaid speaking appearances were conflated,” although “those same records supported the premise that former President Clinton accepted speaking fees from numerous companies and individuals with interests pending before the State Department.” Yet ABC also found that the book “offers no proof that Hillary Clinton took any direct action to benefit the groups and interests that were paying her husband [for speeches].”

NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell poked gaping holes in a section that implied Hillary had promoted Boeing’s multibillion-dollar sale of aircraft to Russia, in exchange for the company’s $900,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation two months later.

As Mitchell pointed out, the aviation giant had donated to the foundation’s Haiti projects for years, and the State Department had been promoting Boeing interests abroad long before Hillary took over. On camera, the Sunlight Foundation’s Bill Allison said, “There’s no—there’s no evidence that she changed the policy based on, you know, the donations to the foundation.”

BuzzFeed found five major errors in a chapter on Haiti, which purported to show that Digicel entrepreneur Denis O’Brien had received a large State Department contract after arranging hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees for Bill Clinton. But the dates were wrong, the State Department project had been funded mostly by the Gates Foundation, and it turned out that Clinton had delivered most of the listed speeches for free—except one that earned a donation to the foundation.

Yahoo News derided as “circumstantial” a chapter claiming that the mobile phone manufacturer Ericsson had been exempted from Iran sanctions by the State Department, after paying Bill Clinton $750,000 to deliver a speech at a Hong Kong telecom conference. The Obama White House, not State, had made the sanctions decision.

Perhaps the ugliest distortion involved Schweizer’s misuse of two truncated quotes from Clinton’s own colleagues to minimize the role he had played in combating the AIDS pandemic. To suggest slyly that Clinton “may take a little more credit than he is due,” the author plucked that phrase out of a much longer quote from former State Department official Princeton Lyman, who had praised Clinton effusively and felt outraged by the misrepresentation of his words.

Schweizer played a similar trick with a quote he lifted from a long statement by World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, a founder of Partners in Health. His aim was to portray Clinton as a mere “middle- man”—when in fact Kim declared the former president “absolutely one of the most important people in the global response to HIV/AIDS.”

Beyond the most hostile political circles, the verdict on Clinton Cash was that Schweizer had failed to prove the corrupting influence of speaking fees or foundation contributions on Hillary’s decisions as secretary of state. “We cannot ultimately know what goes on in their minds and ultimately prove the links between the money they took in and the benefits that subsequently accrued to themselves, their friends, and their associates,” his book conceded in the end. Instead, he urged authorities with more investigative power than a mere journalist could muster to bring the Clintons to justice. But no prosecutor, and not even a Republican-led congressional committee, showed any inclination to accept that challenge.

If Schweizer was not the world’s most competent journalist, however, he was prolific and ideologically reliable, as indicated by the tendentious titles of his previous books listed on Amazon: Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy (Doubleday, 2005); Architects of Ruin: How Big Government Liberals Wrecked the Global Economy— And How They Will Do It Again if No One Stops Them (Harper, 2009); and Makers and Takers: Why Conservatives Work Harder, Feel Happier, Have Closer Families, Take Fewer Drugs, Give More Generously, Value Honesty More, Are Less Materialistic and Envious, Whine Less . . . and Even Hug Their Children More than Liberals (Doubleday, 2008). For several years he had written agitprop for the extreme right-wing Breitbart News websites.

For conservative funders seeking to take down the most formidable Democratic presidential contender, Schweizer offered not just audacity and experience but his own nonprofit. As president of the Government Accountability Institute in Tallahassee, Florida, he could accept millions of dollars in tax-exempt funds for research, promotion, and expenses (including his $200,000 annual salary) from foundations and individuals.

And unlike the Clintons, who had disclosed decades of tax returns and more than 300,000 foundation donors, Schweizer didn’t have to reveal any of his funders.

When the Government Accountability Institute first appeared on the scene during the 2012 election cycle, the new “nonpartisan” entity almost immediately launched a series of harsh attacks on President Obama that were later determined to be inaccurate by the Washington Post fact-checkers. Eventually, researchers uncovered at least one important source of the money behind the “institute”—an eccentric right-wing hedge-fund executive named Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, based in New York, whose family foundation had given millions of dollars to Schweizer in 2013 and 2014.

The extent of Mercer’s specific support for Clinton Cash is not known, although it seems to have been the main project of GAI during that period. But when HarperCollins editor Adam Bellow, a friend of Schweizer, brought in the book, Schweizer alerted the publisher that GAI’s wealthy supporters were prepared to spend big to promote the book. Without seeking approval from HarperCollins for ads or media outlets, the GAI ran its own Clinton Cash publicity campaign.

The GAI has yet to release its 990 IRS form for 2015, so any specific expenditures on advertising for Clinton Cash remain secret. So does the disposition of the book’s advance and royalties. If Schweizer spent his nonprofit’s money promoting a book whose proceeds accrued to him personally, that would appear to represent precisely the kind of self-dealing for which he had indicted the Clintons. In 2013, the organization disclosed spending more than $100,000 for advertising on the Breitbart website—a company that happened to be chaired by Stephen Bannon, who also chairs the GAI board [and in August 2016 was appointed by Donald Trump to manage his presidential campaign].

 

Excerpted from Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton, by Joe Conason. Copyright © 2016 by Joe Conason. Used by permission of Simon & Schuster.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

 

Vendetta Or Paranoia? The ‘Times,’ The ‘Beast,’ And The Clintons

When Lloyd Grove of The Daily Beast showed up in my email yesterday, asking me to talk about the New York Times and the Clintons, I should have known what to expect. I’m sure Grove did his best (and I appreciate the link to our new e-book, The Hunting of Hillary), but his post left much to be desired.

Grove’s fundamental mistake is to skew the discussion of alleged Times bias against the Clintons as Pulitzer-winning Times editors and staffers versus “diehard Clinton loyalists” and “allies.” Evidently, anyone who criticizes media coverage of Bill and Hillary Clinton falls in that latter category — and so he condescends to describe me as such. Whatever my views about the Clintons, however, my concern is fairness and accuracy, not loyalty to any politician. Are James Fallows, Rachel Maddow, Jay Rosen, and Margaret Sullivan, the paper’s public editor — all of whom have lamented evidence of Times bias against Hlllary Clinton — also “loyalists”? I don’t think so.

In my 2008 columns on the Democratic presidential primary for Salon and The New York Observer, Hillary Clinton suffered much tougher treatment than Barack Obama. It isn’t hard to look them up. I also assigned tough stories about her campaign, notably a major exposé of Mark Penn’s anti-union consulting. None of that was the work of a “Clinton loyalist.” Now I edit The National Memo, and Hillary Clinton has received no special dispensation here, either.

As for the question of bias in today’s Times, I sent Grove an email listing specific examples that he naturally ignored:

When Gene Lyons and I wrote The Hunting of the President in 2000, we showed how Times reporting on Whitewater had been slanted and woefully inaccurate from the beginning. Our viewpoint about that “scandal” was thoroughly vindicated. But unlike some other prominent journalists who were once obsessed with Whitewater, the Times editors never acknowledged its central role in that fiasco.

Over the years since, the paper’s coverage of the Clintons has veered back and forth, sometimes wildly — and particularly whenever Hillary Clinton is or appears to be a presidential candidate. Anybody looking for a Times bias can cite several glaring examples: the inaccurate front-page story about the Clinton Foundation’s supposedly shaky financing; the first inaccurate story about foundation donor Frank Giustra and Kazakhstan; the second highly misleading story about Giustra, Kazakhstan, and Uranium One; the peculiar “deal” that the paper did with Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer; and the series of stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails, based on leaks from the Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi — which culminated in the embarrassingly wrong “criminal referral” story.

Reviewing the Times’ role in promoting the Whitewater “scandal,” Grove is more misleading than revealing — and prefers assertions to basic facts. On the Pillsbury reports that exonerated the Clintons, for instance, he links to a tendentious article by Jeff Gerth and Stephen Engelberg claiming that James McDougal, the Clintons’ crooked and deranged Whitewater partner, somehow “protected” them from a financial loss. Actually, McDougal swindled the Clintons and secretly disposed of Whitewater assets for his own benefit.

Indeed, Times editors and reporters repeatedly sought to minimize the exculpatory findings of the Pillsbury report. They also failed to correct the false suggestion at the heart of Gerth’s original “exposé” — namely that Bill Clinton’s banking appointees somehow protected McDougal and his bankrupt Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan, when in truth Clinton’s state government did everything in its power to shut him down.

In an email to Grove, Gene Lyons pointed to this crucial problem, noting “the fact, which I think has NEVER been reported by the NYT, that [Arkansas] regulators removed McDougal from his own [Madison Guaranty] S & L and urged the Feds to shut it down long before they did.”

On the upside, I was amused by Gerth’s pompous assertion that his Whitewater reporting has withstood “the test of time.” (Equally comical is a quote from disgraced former Times editor Howell Raines praising Gerth as “one of the best investigative reporters ever.” Now there’s a reliable source!)

The test of time? A conservative estimate of the amount of taxpayer treasure wasted on “investigating” Whitewater – a money-losing venture that ended years before Bill Clinton ran for president – is around $100 million. Which doesn’t include the huge opportunity costs for the country, Congress, and the president, as well as the damage inflicted on many innocent people in Arkansas and elsewhere.

That enormous waste of time and money spent probing a defunct real estate deal is Gerth’s principal legacy to American journalism.

Interested readers can find a thorough accounting of media errors in covering Whitewater – and the troubling way that Republican lawyers and businessmen used both Gerth and the Times – in The Hunting of Hillary. It’s a funny story, if you appreciate dark humor. And it’s still available, free.

File photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is joined onstage by her husband former President Bill Clinton after she delivered her “official launch speech” at a campaign kick off rally in Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York City, June 13, 2015. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The Billionaire Whose Clinton Foundation Ties Could Be Trouble For Hillary Clinton

By Joshua Green, Bloomberg News (TNS)

Like countless people before him, Frank Giustra’s first meeting with Bill Clinton was a life-altering event indelibly etched in his memory. “We hit it off right away,” Giustra recalls. “We hit it off for a whole number of reasons. We had a very similar upbringing. We had similar interests in books. Pretty soon, we were having a great conversation. I think he liked me.”

Giustra was experiencing the famous Clinton connection, the tractor beam of personal magnetism that Clinton has deployed to pull people into his orbit since his earliest days in Arkansas.

Back then, they were people like Mack McLarty, the well-to-do kindergarten classmate who became Clinton’s first White House chief of staff, and Jim McDougal, the local banker and real estate investor who was the Clintons’ partner in the Whitewater land deal and eventually wound up in jail.

In Arkansas the stakes were comparatively small. Clinton had little money, and his admirers didn’t have a whole lot more. Today, in his post- presidency, Clinton has built up a multibillion-dollar family foundation with a global reach. He may soon be back in the White House. The people he solicits are the sort who gravitate to Davos, not Little Rock _ people like Frank Giustra.

Giustra is a billionaire mining magnate from Vancouver, Canada, who met Clinton in 2005 aboard his private jet, which he had lent the former president for a trip to South America. (Clinton really must like Giustra — or his jet — an awful lot, because he borrowed it 25 more times, according to The Washington Post.)

Somewhere in the air between Little Rock and Bogota, Giustra realized, as so many had before him, life would be more glamorous, important, and fun with more Bill Clinton in it: “I said to him, ‘Hey, tell me more about what the Clinton Foundation does.’ ”

Before long, Giustra had pledged $100 million, established a Canadian arm (the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership), and joined the Clinton Foundation’s board. By his own telling, his life has been utterly transformed. “I’d been doing charitable work my whole adult life but on a very small scale,” he says. “Then I met Bill Clinton. Just hanging out with him and seeing how he had dedicated his life to this — I know this sounds cheesy, but it’s true — he inspired me.”

Giustra now sees himself as Canada’s answer to Andrew Carnegie and intends, as Carnegie did, to give away his fortune apart from what he requires to live on. The vehicle for his giving shouldn’t come as a surprise. “In the philanthropic sense,” he says, “all my chips are on Bill Clinton.”

Although few people outside the mining industry had heard of Giustra until recently, he’s emblematic of the class of plutocrats with whom Clinton has surrounded himself since leaving office. He also represents a new kind of political problem sure to dog Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. As the author Peter Schweizer documents in his book Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, Giustra’s globe-trotting adventures with Bill Clinton have coincided with lucrative business deals.

In Colombia, where his investments include oil, timber and coal mines, Giustra dined one evening in 2010 with Bill and Hillary Clinton, who both met with Colombia’s president the next day. Soon after, one company in which Giustra holds a stake “acquired the right to cut timber in a biologically diverse forest on the pristine Colombian shoreline,” Schweizer writes, and another was granted valuable oil drilling rights.

A similar situation had unfolded in Kazakhstan in 2005. Giustra and Clinton jetted in to dine with the country’s authoritarian president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Days later, Giustra’s mining company signed an agreement giving it stakes in three state-run uranium mines in addition to those it controlled in the U.S. After a $3.5 billion merger, the company was eventually acquired by the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom. Because uranium is a strategic asset, the sale required (and received) approval from multiple U.S. agencies, including the State Department, then run by Hillary Clinton.

Giustra insists these deals were on the up-and-up and Bill Clinton played no role. “He’s shown up in two places where I’ve done business,” he says, “but I’ve traveled to countless countries around the world with him and put money into (charitable) programs in places I have zero business interests in.”

While Giustra hasn’t done charity work in Kazakhstan, he says a deal of that scale is hashed out over many months and didn’t require Nazarbayev’s permission. He adds that he sold his stake in the uranium mining company two years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, and he agreed to share documents with Bloomberg Businessweek that would prove this, although a week later he hadn’t produced them.
Previous Friends of Bill have sometimes fallen out of favor when deemed a liability. Ron Burkle, the billionaire supermarket magnate, is the most famous example. Before Giustra, Burkle was the one flying Clinton around in a private jet and enjoying his attention and companionship. That relationship began to sour in 2007 with Hillary’s bid for the White House. According to press reports, Burkle’s business ties to foreign governments were part of the reason for the split.
Giustra professes to have no concern that politics might prompt Clinton to jilt him, too. “I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he says, “but if for whatever reason Clinton walked away from this, I would just change the name of the damn thing, and I would carry on. I’m dead serious.”

Tuesday, the Clinton campaign rolled out a website, the Briefing, to attack Schweizer and rebut the book’s insinuations of corruption. But the damage Hillary Clinton has sustained is largely self-inflicted. Although the Clinton Foundation signed an agreement with the White House to disclose its donors as a condition of her becoming secretary of state, it hasn’t fulfilled the pledge. A New York Times investigation of Giustra’s uranium mining deal turned up donors whom the Clinton Foundation failed to disclose. Bloomberg found an additional 1,100 undisclosed foreign donors. The Boston Globe turned up even more.

This may help explain why a majority of independents in a New York Times/CBS News poll Tuesday said that although Hillary Clinton is a “strong leader” who “shares their values,” she is “not honest and trustworthy.”

Improving her image will be a challenge in light of the scrutiny yet to come. The Clinton Foundation has announced it will continue accepting money from select foreign governments and won’t disclose the identities of all its foreign donors. Bill Clinton told NBC News he would keep giving paid speeches because “I gotta pay the bills.”

Voters will have to take it on faith that these arrangements are as innocent as the participants claim. Giustra, for one, sounds doubtful they will. “If I didn’t know me, and I wasn’t there,” he says, “I would think, Oh my God, there is some connection between all the good stuff that’s happening with Giustra and his donations to the Clinton trips.”

If Hillary Clinton is going to make it to the White House, she’ll need to convince the country otherwise.

(c)2015 Bloomberg News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the press after attending the annual Women’s Empowerment Principles event at UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday, March 10, 2015. The potential 2016 U.S. presidential contender defended her use of a personal email account for official communications, saying it was “for convenience.” (Niu Xiaolei/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS)