Published on TheHill.com on March 17, 2015
Bill and Hillary Clinton have carefully cloaked the foreign money they’ve accepted in the garb of charitable fundraising. But alongside the hundreds of millions donated to the Clinton Foundation were tens of millions in personal income from foreign sources, devoid of disguise, a naked example of using political power for personal enrichment. Nowhere has this transaction been as apparent as in the Clintons’ relationship with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In return for millions in speaking and consulting fees, which went right into their personal bank accounts, the former president and former secretary of State — and possible future president — showered favors on the rulers that run this repressive and anti-Semitic government.
It’s hard to grasp the distinction — if there is any — between fees Bill Clinton earned and outright payments to his wife for her influence. For example, during his wife’s tenure as secretary, Bill Clinton collected $1,175,000 for three speeches in the UAE. One, for the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative, at a cost of $500,000, was OKed by the State Department ethics police.
That was the quid (along with the millions sent to the foundation by the UAE). The quo was an ongoing campaign to rehabilitate the image of a regime that ranks in Freedom House’s second-lowest category in human rights. After the revelation that two of the 9/11 hijackers — and much of the money that financed them in the U.S. — came from the UAE, the Emirates needed a major image upgrade.
Enter Bill Clinton.
In 2002, he began speaking in the UAE and recognized the potential gravy train there. That’s also when he joined billionaire Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Co. That was the Clintons’ real gold mine, netting them more than $15 million from 2002 to 2007. His buyout in 2008 was estimated at up to $20 million.
The former president was indispensable: He delivered Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, prime minister of Dubai, to Yucaipa, and a three-way partnership among Burkle, Clinton and the sheik to create an offshore sovereign fund began.
In 2005, Clinton advised Dubai on the controversial Dubai port deal. Hillary Clinton publicly opposed the deal, but didn’t oppose the $10 million that had already gone into their accounts from Yucaipa.
Clinton continuously raised the profile of the UAE by creating a Clinton scholarship program at the American University in Dubai and partnering with two other Dubai-based firms: GEMS schools and the Varkey Foundation. His take from them is unknown. He made introductions and brought in close associates as investors in the UAE like Teneo, NYU and McLarty Associates.
Bill Clinton’s a real regular over there. On Monday, he was in Dubai, speaking alongside the sheik at the Hult International Business School, a partner of the Clinton Global Initiative.
But it was Hillary Clinton who did the heavy lifting in delivering to the UAE what it most craved: international respect. In September of 2012, the secretary of State hosted a Global Infrastructure Conference at the State Department for 90 CEOs or high-level American executives to learn about investment opportunities in the UAE and three other countries. Seven UAE officials joined Hillary Clinton herself in addressing the conference.
Several months later, the former first lady promoted the first Global Entrepreneurship Summit, also sponsored by the State Department, in Dubai, bringing investors and entrepreneurs from all over the world into the UAE. The UAE was publicly legitimized by the U.S. in Hillary Clinton’s last days in office.
Bill and Hillary Clinton set up a gigantic money-making machine, trading on her power as secretary of State and her potential to be the next president. The question for us is: Are we willing to let them take it to the next level?
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