Published on TheHill.com on January 5, 2016
One thing Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have in common — they both like to have big things named after them.
The latest batch of emails released by the State Department uncovers a massive ego trip by the former secretary of State. Anxious to etch her name in glass, as well as in history, the woman now vying to be president of the United States and her closest aides raised nearly $37 million from corporations and foreign governments to build a U.S. Diplomacy Center, to be named after her.
In a Feb. 1, 2013, email — the last days of Clinton’s tenure at State — close friend and special adviser to the secretary Elizabeth Bagley gushed to Cheryl Mills, “I am committed to having her return to the State Department next year for the dedication of the glass pavilion, which will bear her name!”
Apparently unaware of the perils of building a glass house while throwing stones, Bagley successfully solicited funds from at least 14 corporations, almost all of which had lobbied the State Department on issues near to their hearts. Four oppressive Middle East governments — the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Brunei — all with close ties to the Clinton Foundation and important issues before State, also contributed.
For the balance of the funds, Bagley relied on the usual coterie of corporations that regularly support Clinton’s favored causes.
The largest gifts of $2.5 million or more came from four companies: FedEx, Boeing, PepsiCo and Intel. All four also contributed to the Clinton Foundation.
Recently released schedules indicated that Clinton personally met with the CEOs of FedEx, Pepsi and Boeing.
Boeing was particularly generous, giving not only $2.5 million for the would-be Hillary Center and $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation. These donations came after Clinton personally and successfully intervened to try to persuade Russia to buy $3.7 billion of Boeing aircraft.
Other contributors included Cisco, Bank of America, Caterpillar, Citigroup, eBay, General Electric, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and co-founder of Blackstone Stephen Schwarzman, all of whom gave between $500,000 and $1,000,000 to the Hillary Center project. All, except Schwarzman, were also Clinton Foundation donors. (Schwarzman’s partner, Pete Peterson, gave between $1 million and $5 million to the foundation).
Apart from the questionable propriety of collecting money to get a building named after yourself, what is wrong with this ego trip?
It’s very similar to what Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) did, an action that led to his censure by the House and his loss of the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee. Rangel used his congressional staff, resources and official stationery to solicit funds for a graduate center to be named after him at the City University of New York. The charge was improperly using government resources to raise money. According to The New York Times, “Some of the donors, the committee found, were businesses and foundations with issues before the House Ways and Means Committee. The contributions left the impression that the money was to influence legislation, although Rangel was not charged with taking any action on behalf of donors.”
Clinton used Bagley, a member of her official staff, to solicit funds for a Hillary Center for U.S. Diplomacy. And she got donations from corporations, to quote the Times story on Rangel, that “had issues before [the committee].” Is it not true that here, as with Rangel, the donations “left the impression that the money was to influence legislation?”
Is there any difference between what Clinton did and what Rangel was censured and humiliated for doing?
(Apparently cooler — or wiser — heads prevailed, and when the groundbreaking for the new center was held, in September 2014, Clinton’s name did not appear on the cornice. While Clinton attended, along with former secretaries Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, James Baker and Colin Powell and current Secretary John Kerry, no mention was made of the building being named for her.)
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