Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich

Image of Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich
Release Date: 
May 5, 2015
Harper Collins
Reviewed by: 

“So why do they do this?”

Peter Schweizer’s book, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich is a most depressing read.

The book ultimately will be a hologram—people will see whatever they want to see in it.

Clintonistas will view the book as a partisan attack.

Those less enamored with the Clintons will believe that the book offers irrefutable proof of the couple’s extraordinary cupidity and their desire to enrich themselves no matter what the cost.

Both will be right.

The joke about Hillary, and it’s not much of a joke, is that she is to secrecy and ill-gotten money what her husband was to illicit sex: neither can get enough.

It does make one wonder.

How could an individual who is more experienced and perhaps better suited for the presidency than any possible opponent, in or out of her political party, could keep doing things that would call her integrity, and the integrity of her husband, into question?

Plenty of ink has been spilled on Hillary’s propensity to keep secrets; witness the concern over her official State Department email.

But why do they have to keep making money at the expense of practically everyone else on the planet?

That’s the $100 million question Schweizer seeks to examine in Clinton Cash.

Here’s the case the book makes:

The Clintons have abused their authority as former president, U.S. senator from New York, and secretary of state to receive extraordinarily large amounts of money from often unsavory businesspeople around the world who do deals with some of the most violent, predatory, and inhumane dictators on the planet.

In country after country, mineral rights, telecom deals, and other lucrative arrangements come into existence because the Clintons accept money for speeches and for their Foundation. They send Bill on the road to offer his imprimatur, and then deals get done, blessed, or just simply overlooked by a complacent U.S. government cowed by the money and power the Clintons have amassed.

Iran uses Ericsson for its telecom, only, Schweizer argues, because Ericsson facilitated the donation of large amounts of money to the Clintons, which caused Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to remove telecom from the list of prohibited areas of trade with countries like Iran or Syria.

Vladimir Putin now has sway over American access to the vital mineral uranium because of backroom deals the Clintons cut with businesspeople and politicians in Putin’s orbit.

Haiti disaster relief was overseen for all practical purposes by the Clintons, providing sweetheart deals to those companies who were already in bed with or got into bed with the former president and his wife.

India’s nuclear capabilities, which outraged then-President Clinton, today have the blessings of the United States, thanks to millions of dollars of cash shoveled toward the Clintons in the form of speaking fees and donations to their foundation.

And on and on and on.

To be sure, the mainstream media (which often gives the Clintons, who share their values, a pass on such things) have been challenging the facts the author puts forth. The book is speculative as opposed to smoking gun-laden. The author has cut deals with major media outlets, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, which is unusual in and of itself. And one must also speculate as to Schweizer’s own motives. Was he outraged by what he viewed as Clintonian self-dealing? Or just out to make a name and a buck for himself?

The wise move is to read for yourself and decide. The tone of the book is not the dependable conservative outrage that asserts itself whenever the Clintons come to town. It’s a bit frothy, but even the most dedicated Clinton fan will be hard pressed to refute the sheer number of coincidences the book details. Take one oligarch or ethically challenged businessman. Add a sizable donation to the Clinton Foundation or a whopping speaking fee for Bill Clinton. Stir. And suddenly the American government has no objection to whatever the latest mineral rights grab or deal with a supposed enemy.  

Indeed, across the globe, from Nigeria to Columbia, from India to Russia, Bill Clinton has accepted speaking fees astronomical by anyone’s standards along with multi-million-dollar donations to the Foundation. Shortly thereafter, the wheels in Washington are greased, and deals go through.

In several cases, Clinton beneficiaries include African dictators known for the use of child soldiers and for burying opposition leaders and journalists in prison.

The word that comes to mind when reading these accounts, which are painstakingly researched, as the copious notes published in the book indicate, is confusion. Clinton Cash makes one wonder, as Schweizer does in the book, what drives the Clintons.

Money is certainly a factor, as evidenced from Hillary’s notorious foray into foreign exchange markets, where she turned $1,000 into $100,000. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, the Democratic National Committee was forced to divest itself of millions of dollars of contributions from ethically challenged foreign donors. Hillary Clinton maintained her schedule of highly paid speaking engagements up until the last possible moment prior to her announcing her presidential candidacy earlier this year. The apparent craving for money, therefore, is nothing new. 

So why do they do this?

It’s hard to imagine a couple more deeply dedicated to public service than the Clintons. Who else in American history compares? Perhaps Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, but of course, they already had their money before they entered the White House.

So if the Clintons are committed to doing so much good, how could they align themselves with so many people whose motives, connections, and morals are reprehensible?

My mother always told me, “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.”

It’s essential to put the Clintons’ conduct into perspective. Is what they do any worse than other politicians? Doesn’t everybody grift to some degree?

Many years ago, the astute political observer George Washington Plunkitt distinguished between two types of illegal political behavior, which he called honest graft and dishonest graft.

Honest graft consists of the usual sort of bribe taking that politicians do in order to line their pockets and favor friends.

For example, if you’ve ever driven across the Triborough Bridge in New York, you know that you’ve got to travel up to 125th Street in Manhattan to reach the bridge. Why? Because the government official who built the bridge, Robert Moses, according to his biographer Robert Caro, had a buddy who owned land at 125th Street.

So for decades, New Yorkers have had to drive all the way up to 125th Street and then all the way down to 96th in order to reach Midtown.

That’s honest graft.

Dishonest graft, Plunkitt suggests, is when people take advantage of opportunities that harm the community.

The Clintons’ behavior? While politicians have been lining their pockets with graft, honest and dishonest, since time out of mind, Schweizer suggests that the Clintons commit what Plunkitt would have called dishonest graft to a degree never previously witnessed.

There are just so many unanswered questions.

Why do wealthy individuals in countries across the globe who suddenly become philanthropic donate their money to the Clinton Foundation instead of donating it to charities in their own countries?

Is there any businessperson or government official anywhere on the planet who is too corrupt for the Clintons?

Do the Clintons have a conscience about the ways in which they misrepresent their intentions and their actions?

Or is this just simply sociopathy raised to an order of magnitude beyond anything we’ve ever known?

The financial and geopolitical stakes have never been higher. Fortunes are made every day in natural resources in countries that are essentially failed states. In one former Soviet satellite, even the opposition candidates told the media that they voted for the victor, who actually received more than 90 percent of the votes to retain his title of president.

It’s almost as though the Clintons have identified every Borat-like dictator around the globe and have cashed their checks.

President Clinton earned more than $100 million in speeches in the first decade after his presidency. Schweizer notes that most presidents end up charging less as time passes and their presidency recedes. But Bill Clinton’s speeches can command more than half a million dollars, or even $700,000, in the case of a speech he made in Nigeria.

Incidentally, Clinton passed out bonus checks to schoolteachers at the Nigerian event where he made 700 large. According to news reports, the schoolteachers’ checks bounced.

The book is also very funny at times, in a snarky, gotcha kind of way. For example, when the Clintons became the de facto rebuilders of earthquake-strewn Haiti, they and a host of well-meaning types, including, of all people, Sean Penn, Ben Stiller, and designer Donna Karan, attend the opening of a new factory. The corruption and chicanery that went into the building of the factory would have given pause to the Sopranos, but no matter. The thing got built, the celebs showed up, “Hillary touted it as a great day for Haiti. Bill teared up.”

Here’s what makes the reader tear up: The Clinton Foundation won’t give straight answers about who donates or how much. So it’s impossible to know the full breadth of the obfuscation—there’s really no other word for it—in which the Clintons have engaged.

The book has been in the news, of course, with current donors getting skittish about remaining connected to the Clinton Foundation. The Foundation’s response has been to announce that mistakes were made with regard to accounting for some donations, and they would restate those donations for tax purposes. 

Schweizer has said that he is currently working on a new book about Jeb Bush’s land deals. It’s only fair; if he’s going to skewer one of the nation’s political dynasties, it makes sense to see what the other’s been up to. But even if Jeb made millions of dollars pumping and dumping Florida real estate, or whatever seedy activity in which he might have engaged, that’s not the kind of thing that affects American security or the wellbeing of poor people in countries around the world.

We Americans like to laugh at countries where political leaders have no opposition, whether it’s Putin in Russia or some African despot. The question the book doesn’t pose, but lingers after having read it, is why an individual seemingly so ethically challenged has no real opposition for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Clintons and their surrogates will do everything to dismiss the book as a partisan attack, and perhaps partisan politics or the desire to make a name for himself motivates Schweizer. Who knows. His book will certainly have its moment.

At the same time, it’s hard to find a candidate in either party who is as experienced and qualified to deal with the troubles of the world than Hillary Clinton, which is why she has such a strong chance of prevailing in November, 2016. If anybody knows where the bodies are buried around the world, she and Bill do.

After all, their donors and business partners did the burying.