NY Times reported on Saudi donations to Clinton foundation, ignored Sen. Clinton's criticisms of Saudi government Thu, Dec 20, 2007 8:15pm ET
Summary: A New York Times article cited concerns "that donors could use presidential foundations to circumvent campaign finance laws intended to limit political influence" and noted that "the Saudi royal family, the king of Morocco, a foundation linked to the United Arab Emirates [UAE], and the governments of Kuwait and Qatar have made contributions of unknown amounts to the Clinton Foundation." But the article did not mention that Hillary Clinton has repeatedly criticized the Saudi government and opposed the Dubai ports deal.
In a December 20 New York Times article, reporters Don Van Natta Jr., Jo Becker, and Mike McIntire wrote that "the secrecy surrounding the William J. Clinton Foundation has become a campaign issue as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton seeks the Democratic presidential nomination" and cited concerns "that donors could use presidential foundations to circumvent campaign finance laws intended to limit political influence." The Times reported that "federal election law prohibits foreign donations to presidential campaigns and limits Americans to $2,300 per election" in order "[t]o limit the influence of any single donor," in contrast to the "unlimited and anonymous contributions" to the Clinton Foundation by "foreigners and foreign governments," suggesting an ability on the part of foreigners and foreign governments to exercise considerable influence over candidates through contributions. The article went on to note that "the Saudi royal family, the king of Morocco, a foundation linked to the United Arab Emirates [UAE], and the governments of Kuwait and Qatar have made contributions of unknown amounts to the Clinton Foundation." But the Times did not note that Hillary Clinton has repeatedly criticized the Saudi government and opposed the sale of control of several U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the government of Dubai, a member state of the UAE.
The article also did not mention that former President George H.W. Bush's presidential library, the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, received several donations of $1 million or more from "foreigners and foreign governments," including the Saudi royal family, the government of Kuwait, and the late president of the UAE.
Hillary Clinton most recently criticized the Saudi government after a Saudi court sentenced a rape victim to 200 lashes and six months in prison for not having a male guardian with her at the time. (The Saudi king later pardoned the victim.) In a November 26 editorial, the New York Sun editorial board praised Clinton for speaking out on the issue despite the library donations from the Saudi royal family:
How's this for a surprising turn in the presidential race? The candidate who has been toughest on Saudi Arabia in the past week hasn't been Mayor Giuliani, Senator McCain, or Governor Romney, but Senator Clinton, the Democrat of New York. It was Mrs. Clinton who spoke out about a punishment of 200 lashes that a Saudi Arabian court gave to a 19-year-old woman victim of a gang rape by seven men. Said Mrs. Clinton, "This is an outrage. The Bush administration has refused to condemn the sentence and said it will not protest an internal Saudi decision. I urge President Bush to call on King Abdullah to cancel the ruling and drop all charges against this woman. As president I will once again make human rights an American priority around the world."
Hats off to Mrs. Clinton for talking tough to the Saudis. The statement is even more newsworthy because the House of Saud has long been a patron of the Clintons. As The New York Sun reported in 2004, the Saudi royal family and three Saudi businessmen, Abdullah Al-Dabbagh, Nasser Al-Rashid, and Walid Juffali, each donated $1 million or more to the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Ark. President Clinton also helped secure millions of dollars in Saudi funds for the University of Arkansas.
As for the Bush administration, we have given great deference to the maneuvering required of a wartime leader, as Churchill so memorably explained of his dealings with Stalin in pursuit of Hitler. But the State Department hasn't been covered with glory; here's how it went at the State Department on Tuesday:
In August, Clinton asserted that the United States would need to see "evidence of genuine Saudi cooperation" with U.S. interests in the Middle East before the United States should agree to a proposed arms sale to Saudi Arabia and its neighbors. A December 4 article from The Hillblog post on the Jerusalem Post website, Clinton stated: "I think we needed to see evidence of genuine Saudi cooperation in pursing stability in Iraq and Lebanon and in supporting our efforts to foster peace between the Israelis and Palestinian, before we move ahead with such a significant arms sale. We also need Saudi cooperation in stopping the export of radical Islam from the Kingdom." reported that the "Bush administration said it would not officially notify Congress of the deal until Jan. 15, 2008," and that "[o]nce Congress is officially notified, it has 30 days to review such a deal and possibly oppose it." In an August 22
Further, in a November policy address on "America's Economic Challenges," Clinton warned that U.S. "dependence on foreign oil means we send billions of dollars to countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Our trade deficit and our ballooning debts mean we send billions of dollars in payments to countries like China." She added: "These countries then turn around and use our dollars to buy chunks of our economy":
Now, where exactly are countries getting the money for these funds? They're getting it from us. Our dependence on foreign oil means we send billions of dollars to countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Our trade deficit and our ballooning debts mean we send billions of dollars in payments to countries like China. These countries then turn around and use our dollars to buy chunks of our economy.
Today, sovereign wealth funds hold an estimated $2.5 trillion. Within a decade, it's predicted they'll hold five times that much. We have never seen anything like this, and you don't hear a peep out of the Bush administration.
Now, why exactly are these sovereign wealth funds cause for concern? Well, let me ask you this: How would you feel if a foreign government used its sovereign wealth fund to buy an American car company and moved it overseas? Right now, that government might be our banker, but what if they became our boss, as well?
And how would you feel if countries used their investments in America to influence our foreign policy? What if a country set out to buy companies that compete with their national industries and shut them down?
I don't think we'd be comfortable with our own government speculating in real estate or buying up companies, and we should be doubly uncomfortable with the idea of a foreign government doing these things in our country. In short, these sovereign wealth funds represent a potential threat to our economic sovereignty if we don't act now to assess their impact on our economy.
In March 2006, Clinton joined a bipartisan effort criticizing Saudi Arabia's decision to host a meeting promoting a trade boycott of Israel. She was among a group of senators who signed a letter on the subject addressed to President Bush:
Dear President Bush,
We are writing to urge you to protest the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to host a meeting next week in Jeddah to promote the trade boycott of Israel. Saudi Arabia is taking this action despite a public promise to you last November to drop the trade embargo. You should urge the Saudi rulers to keep their word, cancel this meeting, and end the boycott immediately.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which has its headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is hosting 57 countries at this conference next week. Saudi diplomat Salem el-Honi, High Commissioner of the OIC, recently described the purpose of the meeting in a telephone interview March 6th, 2006 with The Jerusalem Post as follows: "we will discuss coordination among the various offices to strengthen the boycott."
On November 11th, 2005, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled to admit Saudi Arabia into the WTO. As you know, the WTO rules forbid any member government to participate in a boycott of a fellow WTO member. Israel is a member of WTO. Last month, in a Senate Finance Committee hearing, your trade representative, Rob Portman, said that the Saudis "have a responsibility to treat Israel as any other member of the WTO." By calling for a strengthened trade embargo against Israel, Saudi Arabia is failing to live up to its obligations to treat all WTO partners equally.
Mr. President, the United States cannot remain silent on Saudi Arabia's intolerant boycott of Israel, nor should the U.S. allow the continued membership of Saudi Arabia in the WTO if they continue to violate WTO rules.
Additionally, in a speech to the 2005 AIPAC Policy Conference, Clinton criticized "Saudi textbooks" that "characterize Jews as wicked" as an example of "hate and incitement and anti-Semitism ... throughout the Arab world."
Clinton also opposed a 2005 Bush administration proposal to establish a bilateral trade agreement with Saudi Arabia and to pave the way for Saudi membership in the WTO. Indeed, a June 22, 2005, article in The Hill reported that Clinton was part of a Democratic effort to pressure the administration to forestall the welcoming of Saudi Arabia into the WTO and the finalization of the trade agreement:
Saudi Arabia's effort to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) and finalize the U.S.-Saudi free-trade agreement that will accompany its admission is coming under increasing attack from a bipartisan group of lawmakers assisted by pro-Israel lobbyists.
"Clearly, Congress continues to be concerned with Saudi behavior with regard to a number of issues," said Josh Block, a spokesman for AIPAC, which is "clearly supportive of attempts to bring attention to those issues prior to any ascension to the WTO by Saudi Arabia."
AIPAC disagrees with ZOA [the Zionist Organization of America] on Israeli-Palestinian policy, but the two groups have united in congressional outreach that attempts to capitalize on general frustration with the Saudis by linking it to the WTO. [Then-Rep. Ben] Cardin [D-MD] maintained that the Saudis were slowing their own path to democracy.
"They could do things quickly if they wanted to, to show some goodwill," Cardin said.
Other senators who have pledged to back the campaign against Saudi WTO membership include Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), whose speech at last month's AIPAC Policy Conference noted that "Saudi textbooks describe Jews as wicked."
Further, in opposing the proposed sale of control of the Port of New York and New Jersey to Dubai Ports World, Clinton said in a February 24, 2006, press conference: "It is clear that the Bush Administration has failed to adequately address valid national security concerns. We will do everything possible to make sure the Administration conducts the mandatory investigation required under the law and does not compromise security at our ports." As Media Matters for America noted, a March 4, 2006, Baltimore Sun article reported that Clinton was among the five Democratic senators and five Republican senators who "sent a letter to their party leaders" on March 3, 2006, "asking for cooperation in giving Congress a role in the Bush administration's latest review of Dubai Ports World's planned takeover of some operations at the port of Baltimore and five other major U.S. seaports." A statement announcing the letter is posted on Clinton's website. In a March 3, 2006, article, Newsday reported that "Bill Clinton coached United Arab Emirates officials on how to handle the Dubai ports controversy two weeks ago -- but didn't tell his wife about that conversation, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton disclosed yesterday." As Media Matters noted, after Bill Clinton's role was first reported, Hillary Clinton continued to publicly criticize the deal.
The December 20 Times article also cropped a quote by Bill Clinton regarding whether foundation donors would try to influence a Hillary Clinton administration. As Media Mattersnoted, the article omitted the portion of the quote in which Bill Clinton asserted that he did not believe that donors would make contributions to his foundation in an attempt to influence a Hillary Clinton administration, and that if such an attempt were made, it would be ineffective.
Furthermore, the Times reported that two members of the "ready pool of donors" who contributed to the Clinton library had given to the foundations of other presidents. Specifically, the article paraphrased a spokeswoman for the Anheuser-Busch Cos., whose charitable arm gave $1 million over five years to the Clinton library, asserting that Anheuser-Busch's "foundation had contributed more than $360 million to a wide array of organizations, including the Bush, Truman and Johnson presidential libraries." The Times also reported that donor Bernard L. Schwartz said "that he had contributed to other presidential libraries." However, the article did not note many of the foreign governments cited had contributed to the Bush library years earlier. Indeed, a November 4, 1997, USA Today article about the opening of Bush's library reported:
Gratitude for Bush's leadership in the Persian Gulf War helped with the library fund-raising. Listed among donors of $ 1 million or more are the citizens of Kuwait, the State of Kuwait, the Bandar Bin Sultan family of Saudi Arabia, the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science, the Sultanate of Oman, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahayan and the People of the United Arab Emirates.
From the December 20 Times article, headlined "In Charity and Politics, Clinton Donors Overlap":
Over the last decade, former President Bill Clinton has raised more than $500 million for his foundation, allowing him to build a glass-and-steel presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., and burnish his image as an impresario of global philanthropy. The foundation has closely guarded the identities of its donors -- including one who gave $31.3 million last year.
Now, the secrecy surrounding the William J. Clinton Foundation has become a campaign issue as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton seeks the Democratic presidential nomination with her husband as a prime source of strategy and star power. Some of her rivals argue that donors could use presidential foundations to circumvent campaign finance laws intended to limit political influence.
To limit the influence of any single donor, federal election law prohibits foreign donations to presidential campaigns and limits Americans to $2,300 per election. But presidential foundations are free to accept unlimited and anonymous contributions, even from foreigners and foreign governments. Indeed, the Saudi royal family, the king of Morocco, a foundation linked to the United Arab Emirates, and the governments of Kuwait and Qatar have made contributions of unknown amounts to the Clinton Foundation.
"The vast scale of these secret fund-raising operations presents enormous opportunities for abuse," said Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, who introduced a bill to force disclosure of presidential foundation donors. The bill passed the House, 390-34, in March but stalled in the Senate.
On October 6, 1999, the charitable arm of the Anheuser-Busch Companies gave $200,000, the first of five payments over five years totaling $1 million, according to records filed by the company's foundation. Less than a month earlier, the company, the country's leading beer maker, had scored a major victory when the Clinton administration's Federal Trade Commission dropped a bid to regulate beer, wine and liquor advertising that critics said was aimed at under-age drinkers.
Francine I. Katz, a company spokeswoman, said the donation was unrelated to any government action and that its foundation had contributed more than $360 million to a wide array of organizations, including the Bush, Truman and Johnson presidential libraries.
Bernard L. Schwartz, another major Democratic contributor who was then chief executive of Loral Space and Communications, gave $250,000 and pledged $750,000 more in 2000. At the time, investigators were trying to determine if Loral had improperly provided satellite technology to China. Under the Bush administration, Loral agreed to pay a civil fine of $14 million to settle the case. Mr. Schwartz, who is now also a Hillraiser, said that his donations were unconnected to Loral's troubles and added that he had contributed to other presidential libraries.