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

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

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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)

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33 Comments

  1. Marv Nochowitz May 8, 2015

    The Clinton Foundation is a nonprofit charity. The money does not go to the Clinton’s but to charitable cause around the world. The buying of Presidential candidates by billionaires is much more troubling. The Koch Brothers own Walker and the state of Wisconsin. They are looking to buy one or two more candidates. Edelstein will own one or more candidates. Other less well known billionaires will pick up the rest. All these candidates will be greatly influenced by their benefactors. The Clinton’s do not get any direct benefit from foundation donations. Presidential candidates do. All politicians and public offices are now up for sale because of the Citizens United decision.

    Reply
    1. Theodora30 May 8, 2015

      Jeb Bush has a long list of troubling connections (Google Jeb and Miguel Camillo Padreda or Orlando Bosch – a terrorist, no less). They paid him to lobby on their behalf because he was the President’s son. Padreda and Recarey got more government money from HUD and Medicare respectively then defrauded the government out of millions. Bosch got released from prison despite the fact that he was an “unrepentant terrorist ” in the words of Poppy’s AG Richard Thornburgh. The media could not care less about these egregious conflicts of interest and influence peddling – for personal gain, not charity.

      Reply
      1. NoodleDogg #1 May 13, 2015

        And Obama gave half a trillion dollars of tax payer money to cover a failed solar power company that went belly up. Throw all the darts you want at the GOP; There are just as many that can be shot at the Demonuts.

        Reply
    2. hicusdicus May 9, 2015

      If you believe that I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you.

      Reply
      1. Marv Nochowitz May 9, 2015

        Unless you have some proof that the Clinton’s are skimming money from their foundation, show me your deed to the bridge and we can negotiate on price

        Reply
        1. hicusdicus May 9, 2015

          They are the Jennifer Flowers, Monika Lewinsky Clinton’s .

          That is proof enough.

          Reply
          1. JSquercia May 9, 2015

            Only in your demented mind is it proof enough

            Reply
          2. hicusdicus May 11, 2015

            So you really want Hilary in charge of your future? Could be you want all of your relatives to get immediate citizen ship. We have enogh taco shops in this country already.

            Reply
          3. NoodleDogg #1 May 13, 2015

            You deny that two groups (donkeys and elephants) don’t use the wealth of the rich to gain control of the government to enrich themselves? Have you been sleeping the library carrels instead of reading and learning?

            Reply
          4. Marv Nochowitz May 9, 2015

            You forgot Bengazi Bengazi Bengazi. Nothing on your list can be directed at Hillary. In case you didn’t know Bill is not running for office. You are completely off the topic of the article so I guess you don’t have any evidence about Hillary getting money from the foundation and committed fraud by trying to sell me a bridge you don’t have title to. If you think my mind is demented, I can’t wait to see yours when Hillary Clinton is elected President of the United States.

            Reply
          5. NoodleDogg #1 May 10, 2015

            Bill may not be running for office, but he is running a background organization to influence who gets into office. Hillary gets funding from many who also contribute to the Clinton Foundation.

            Reply
          6. Marv Nochowitz May 10, 2015

            So tell me what are the Koch brothers,Edelstein, and a dozen other billionaires doing? You still have not offered any proof Hillary Clinton is profiting financially from the foundation unless you are applying that you can’t contribute to the Clinton campaign unless you contribute to the foundation which makes absolutely no sense.

            Reply
          7. hicusdicus May 11, 2015

            Are you beginning to wake up? Are you starting to realize that our government is just two groups of rich people battling for control of your dollars?

            Reply
          8. NoodleDogg #1 May 13, 2015

            Slow down and read comments more carefully and proof your own comments while you are at it. I did not say she is receiving funds from the Foundation. Therefore, there is nothing to “prove”. She is in the same league as all high profile politicians running for office: They need wealthy supporters. Both Democrats and Republicans know this and court the monied folks. That is a fact of politics.

            Reply
    3. NoodleDogg #1 May 10, 2015

      9% of the Foundation’s money is actually spent on charity. 2012 IRS form
      990 filed by the Clinton Foundation: $66 million in revenue; $33
      million spent on compensation, benefits and pensions, $27 million spent
      on “other”, $6 million spent on charity. This reeks of self serving and/or ulterior motives (like influence peddling).

      Reply
      1. Dominick Vila May 11, 2015

        The claim that only 10% of Clinton Foundation revenues are spent on charitable “grants” does not mean they misspent or embezzled. Foundations such as the Clinton’s, and the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, spend most of their revenues on endeavors such as eradicating malnutrition; diseases such as malaria, polio, and HIV; on education in Third World countries; and on specific projects such as making potable water available to people in areas where it is so limited that people, usually women, have to travel a couple of kilometers to get it. Those endeavors are not grants to a specific institution, and are often performed by foundation employees or contractors.
        Regarding the issue of not reporting some foreign donations, I think it is important to understand what actually happened. The tax form used by charitable institutions have a line for foreign donations. The Clinton Foundation accountant listed them under general revenues instead of in the appropriate line. Obviously, that does not mean those revenues were not reported, as the media claims, but that there were reported in the wrong line. When things like this happened in the past, the IRS points the error to the applicable organization or individual, and an amended or corrected tax form is resubmitted. Errors such as this have never raised an eyebrow…until some opportunists, without a record or vision to be viable political candidates, saw an opportunity to attack the Clintons once again. I suspect they know this is not going to get them anywhere, from a legal perspective, but they know that the more mud they throw at Hillary’s path, the better their chances to remain viable in 2016. This is all about perceptions, rather than substance.

        Reply
        1. NoodleDogg #1 May 13, 2015

          Focus: We are talking about the Clinton Foundation. Any business that spends 91% of its revenue on overhead–compensation, rent, advertising, “other” , etc. is not a well run business. For comparison, The Gates Foundation overhead is 19% of total expenses. A non-profit funded by donations should be shamed for such poor management. From the ClintonFoundation’s website: “We convene businesses, governments, NGOs, and individuals to improve global health and wellness, increase opportunity for women and girls, reduce childhood obesity, create economic opportunity and growth, and help communities address the effects of climate change. ” Spending virtually all of its revenue on overhead doesn’t effectuate any charitable goal.

          Reply
          1. Dominick Vila May 13, 2015

            The Clinton Foundation does not spend 91% of its revenues on overhead costs. The fact that 9% goes to charitable GRANTS, does not mean that is the extent of its charitable endeavors. In fact, most of its revenues is spent on projects such as eradicating disease and famine in Sub-Saharan African countries and in Latin America. Much is spent on education in those countries, in making potable water accessible to people living in places where there was no running water, in teaching people efficient agricultural techniques, and helping those afflicted by natural disasters.
            Grants to charitable institutions is a small part of what most Foundations donate to. Most of the work is done by Foundation employees, contractors, and volunteers who travel, at the Foundation’s expense to do their job.

            Reply
          2. NoodleDogg #1 May 13, 2015

            Just review IRS form 990 for the Foundation. Your comments are without foundation.

            Reply
          3. Dominick Vila May 14, 2015

            The only problem with the IRS 990 Form submitted by the Clinton Foundation is that instead of listing foreign donations in the applicable line, they listed under general revenues. Their expenditures in charitable causes has not been challenged, and there is no evidence to insinuate wrongdoing.

            Reply
        2. Un Ruley May 13, 2015

          Stating that the Clinton Foundation is embezzling –who said that? Misspent? I can agree. Only a very, very small amount of foundation money is spent of charity–the minimum amount required by the IRS to keep their non-profit status intact.

          Reply
        3. Un Ruley May 13, 2015

          No one is going to argue that there are lots and lots of down trodden folks in need. I am not sure more studies and meetings of important people will put food on the table, keep murdering ideologues from wreaking havoc on the general population, or change deep seated discriminatory practices against children and women.

          Reply
          1. Dominick Vila May 13, 2015

            I spent 30 years abroad. I am well aware of the corruption that contributes to the abuses and poverty that prevails in so many Third World countries. I think it is also important to point out that extreme poverty often results in actions by recipients of charity that is against their best interest.
            I watch foreign TV a lot, in part because I love soccer. I watched an interesting program on this very topic that highlighted the pervasiveness of misery. Italians have been donating shoes to newcomers who often arrive barefooted. The same people are often found a couple of days later selling those shoes in the streets or the makeshift markets that can be found in many European countries to have enough money to buy a train ticket to countries like the UK, Germany or Scandinavian countries. Situations like this are unfortunate, but they are no reason to ignore what is happening in some many countries, and do nothing to help.

            Reply
  2. Dominick Vila May 9, 2015

    I have to admit that I am having trouble understanding the concerns being voice by Republicans over the Clinton Foundation. are they criticizing wealth? Are they suggesting that wealthy entrepreneurs should not donate to charitable causes? Are they claiming that charitable institutions should not accept money from the wealthy?
    I find this whole issue perplexing. Yes, most billionaires use the influence of money to get concessions from governments worldwide, and are constantly pursuing capitalistic goals, but what does that have to do with donating to charity?
    Regarding the uranium mining transaction between Canada and Russia, I think it is important to note that it was not unprecedented or in any way illegal.
    When it comes to wealth, my problem has nothing to do with the fact that some people have more money anyone can spend in many lifetimes, but how they spend their money. Some, like Giustra, donate large amounts of money to charity. Others, like the Koch siblings, spend huge amounts of money influencing political goals, often denying the average American the opportunity to achieve his/her goals.

    Reply
    1. ralphkr May 9, 2015

      I think that the real problem that the Republicans have with the Clinton Foundation, Dominick, is that they are completely dumbfounded by a charity that does not follow Conservative principle and funnel all money to those who are running the charity with an occasional accidental dribble of money going to those it is allegedly helping. They are like thoroughbred horse breeders who suddenly discover a young dragon in their herd.

      Reply
    2. NoodleDogg #1 May 10, 2015

      “Koch siblings, spend huge amounts of money influencing political goals,
      often denying the average American the opportunity to achieve his/her
      goals”. What does this mean? Some elected officials, some place passed some laws, as a flavor to the Kochs, that kept someone from doing what? Achieve goals? That is about as vague an innuendo as one can dream up. I don’t know of any law that is specifically targets someone’s unstated “goals” as wrong or right.

      Reply
  3. Paul Anthony May 9, 2015

    It’s probably true that all politicians court the favors of the wealthy. It’s probably also true that all politicians invariably do favors in exchange for the wealth they gain through those connections.

    Although I find it troubling, I also realize that it has been the way of the world for eons and that it is not likely to change.

    What I do find troubling is the finger-pointing from both Parties. “Look what the other guys are doing! But, hey, our guy is doing it for the right reasons, and the other guy is scum.”

    Nonsense.

    Reply
    1. NoodleDogg #1 May 13, 2015

      The realities of life definitely can be ugly. Good human traits-honesty, charity, and the like are too easily trampled by such baser traits as fame, power, hate, greed and .cruelty.

      Reply
  4. charleo1 May 9, 2015

    I predict this entire issue is going to be a huge embarrassment for the GOP. Because first, if this is all they got. To allege that billionaires may be trying to use their money to buy influence? Shocking! Shocking to who at this point, I don’t know. But will Hillary’s opposition be able to connect any dots? And are there real dots, or just theoretical ones? After doing some light research on my own into the Clinton charity. I think it will become evident to most what’s really going on. And the extraordinary, life saving work being made possible in many of the poorest, and most dangerous places on Earth. At the behest of President Clinton, thru the charity he founded. And, with the help of an impressive number of billionaires across the World, he has made it his business to be on a first name basis with. And that includes, but is by no means limited to Frank Giustra. To understand how this happens, first one needs to understand the super star status of one Willian Jefferson Clinton. And how he has managed to turn a coveted association with himself, and his charity, into it’s own kind of highly sought after, and handsomely paid for, status symbol. Where, with his famous charm, and the power of his personality, high profile giving among the uber rich has turned into almost a religion of sorts. And better yet, a competition among the super wealthy. Where the coolest way to say, “I’m large, in charge, tremendously successful, and part of the “in crowd,” is my large gift. Mr. Giustra, for his part, calls it his life’s most fulling mission. Life changing, and the most important thing I’ve ever done. “My firm, he declared, has just donated $100 million to the Clinton Foundation!” Bill is my friend, but if that were to change, “I’d just change the name of the damn thing, (Clinton charity, Vancouver, division,) and carry on.” What the article doesn’t say, is Mr. Giustra not only donated $100 million to the Clinton charity. But pledged half of all future profits gleaned from his expansive worldwide mining operations to charity…. for as long as he lives. While challenging others like him, to match that. And sure enough, the mining community of Vancouver, stepped up, with their own $100 million pledges. And so as not to be left out, Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecommunication mogul, recently pledged his own $100 million dollars And one need only look around the Planet to see how a movement such as this could not come at a better time. War has an estimated 50 million on the run, in refugee camps, and starving. Another estimated 2 billion people eek out an existence on less than .75 cents a day. At a time when government budges are stretched to the limit. The World, more than ever, needs the Clinton Global Foundation, and many more billionaires like Frank Giustra.

    Reply
    1. NoodleDogg #1 May 10, 2015

      A basic fact is that any politician will court a billionaire. All politicians need money, lots of money, to get elected. Billionaires, like ice cream, come in many flavors. I just love all these “pledges” of giving money—sometime in the future. Heck, if I become a billionaire, I will pledge my entire estate to charity. I’ll put that in writing. Wow. Now I can be a future hopeful of having my name and reputation bandied all over the news media. I’ll be famous.

      Reply
  5. JSquercia May 9, 2015

    As usualJon Stewart had this BS nailed down tight . When speaking of Clinton the money given to her foundation the Right claims that of course it is to buy favors or as Megan Kelly asks “Just Whom is she indebted to ?”
    However in the case of the likes of Koch Brothers or Sheldon Addleson the millions they spend Money is Constitutional protected “Free Speech” .
    As Jon said apparently money is Free Speech unles it speaks with a foreign accent . God I am going to miss him

    Reply
  6. Whatmeworry May 9, 2015

    Ya Think??

    Reply
    1. Whatmeworry May 9, 2015

      Ya Think Im a moron??

      Reply

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