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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.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Commentary — November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm
The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.
In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.
Ratio of the amount J. P. Morgan paid a man to fight in his place in the Civil War to what he spent on cigars in 1863:
The Food and Drug Administration asked restaurants to help Americans eat less.
Pope Francis announced that nuns could use social media, and a priest flew a hot-air balloon around the world.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”