Washington Babylon — January 21, 2009, 12:35 pm

Clinton Foundation Donors and Hillary’s Confirmation

The Senate seems likely to confirm Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State soon, but there’s still a hang-up over contributions to her husband’s foundation. I’ve been trying to get answers from the foundation about one particularly controversial donor–Gilbert Chagoury, who is one of the very biggest contributors, having tossed in somewhere between $1 million and $5 million–but so far no information has been forthcoming.

A casual look at Chagoury’s website could leave you thinking he had a big wallet and a bigger heart. His noble missions include education scholarships in the U.S and abroad and his contributions to the Louvre. There’s a photo gallery of Chagoury with heads of state and religious leaders, and we learn that he serves as the economic adviser to the West African country of Benin
and as Saint Lucia’s ambassador to UNESCO. But what we don’t learn is that Chagoury has been involved in a number of major international scandals, and that he was especially close to Nigerian General Sani Abacha, who seized power in a coup and ruled from 1993 to 1998. During those years, Chagoury received oil concessions and large-scale government construction contracts, and allegedly offered Abacha help with his financial affairs.

After a civilian regime took charge, Chagoury reportedly paid the Nigerian government $300 million in exchange for a written agreement that he would not be prosecuted. It’s not exactly clear why St. Lucia bestowed him with the lofty title of its ambassador to UNESCO, but that conveniently granted him diplomatic immunity if any other country wanted to bring charges against him.

Though he is not a U.S. national and is legally barred from making political contributions here, Chagoury has an established record of using money to curry political favor. In 1996, when Bill Clinton was president and Abacha led Nigeria, Chagoury contributed $460,000 to Miami-based voter registration group that was supported by the Democratic National Committee. He later dined at the White House. The Wall Street Journal has reported on other family members who have made political contributions and according to that story:

In 2003, he helped organize a Caribbean trip where the former president was paid $100,000 for a speech… According to news reports, Mr. Chagoury attended Mr. Clinton’s 60th birthday bash two years ago in New York. He also joined the former president at the gala wedding celebration in France last year of Mr. Clinton’s top aide, Douglas Band, say people who were there.

Chagoury is still very active in international business. Indeed, last year a Nigerian magazine reported that Chagoury had made a comeback in the country and was again receiving major construction contracts there. Ironically, his chief local backer was identified as a former anti-Abacha activist who had recently flown to Paris on Chagoury’s private plane.

Chagoury is just one of numerous controversial donors to the Clinton Foundation. It released the full list, in the name of transparency, after the topic surfaced in regard to Hillary Clinton’s confirmation as Secretary of State. But it would certainly be interesting to know more about Chagoury’s donations to the foundation–like precisely when he made them–and what appears to be a very active personal relationship with Bill Clinton.

My researcher Ellie Parkinson sent the Clinton Foundation an email a week ago. She asked for the exact date and amount of each of Chagoury’s contributions, and if the Clinton Foundation vetted donors. Furthermore, didn’t published reports about Chagoury’s ties to Abacha and corruption raise questions about the propriety of accepting his money? She also asked about Chagoury’s personal friendship with President Clinton (and if it extended to Senator Clinton) and if accepting donations from such controversial sources raised potential conflict of interest issues if Senator Clinton is confirmed. The foundation initially suggested it would reply to the request for information, but since then has provided nothing.

That’s transparency?

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2015

A Sage in Harlem

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Man Stopped

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Spy Who Fired Me

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Giving Up the Ghost

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Invisible and Insidious

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

[Browsings]
William Powell published The Anarchist Cookbook in 1971. He spent the next four decades fighting to take it out of print.
“The book has hovered like an awkward question on the rim of my consciousness for years.”
© JP Laffont/Sygma/Corbis
Article
The Fourth Branch·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Both the United States and the Soviet Union saw student politics as a proxy battleground for their rivalry.”
Photograph © Gerald R. Brimacombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Article
Giving Up the Ghost·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Stories about past lives help explain this life — they promise a root structure beneath the inexplicable soil of what we see and live and know, what we offer one another.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Article
The Spy Who Fired Me·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In industry after industry, this data collection is part of an expensive, high-tech effort to squeeze every last drop of productivity from corporate workforces.”
Illustration by John Ritter
Article
Invisible and Insidious·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly.”
Photograph © 2011 Massimo Mastrorillo and Donald Weber/VII

Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:

1

Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.

An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Driving Mr. Albert

By

He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.

Subscribe Today