WASHINGTON, April 28, 2015 – Speaking at the recent White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, comedian Cecily Strong declared, “Our relationship (with Israel) will be better in the next administration, just as soon as Israel makes a generous donation to the Clinton Foundation.”
The impression that U.S. foreign policy is for sale is growing on a number of fronts. The Clinton Foundation may be leading the way.
A lengthy account in the New York Times recently reported that Bill Clinton accompanied a Canadian mining executive, Frank Giustra, to Kazakhstan in 2005, after which Giustra acquired valuable Kazakh uranium assets.
Giustra donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. The mining company merged and expanded, and it became known as Uranium One.
It bought uranium exploration properties in the U.S., and ownership was partially sold to a subsidiary of the Russian state atomic energy agency.
When the Russians sought to expand their holdings to 51 per cent of the company, it required approval of the U.S. government, including the State Department, when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.
The transaction was approved in 2010. More donations to the Clinton Foundation, millions of dollars, flowed from the people connected to Uranium One. The same month the sale went through, Bill Clinton gave a talk in Moscow sponsored by an investment bank. He earned $500,000 for that appearance. The investment bank was promoting stock in Uranium One.
Editorially, the Washington Post noted that,
“Though there is no evidence of a quid pro quo, on the merits the deal was bad for U.S. interests. Vladimir Putin can now boast of control of more than a fifth of U.S. uranium reserves.”
The Clintons and their foreign contributors are hardly alone when it comes to trying to purchase U.S. foreign policy. Late in April a group that calls itself the Republican Jewish Coalition met in Las Vegas, where its leading member, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, held an audition for aspiring Republican presidential candidates.
Adelson opposes the creation of a Palestinian state and at a previous meeting, when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie referred to the West Bank as “occupied territory” (which, of course, is what the U.S. government says it is, under both Republicans and Democrats), he quickly apologized for using the offensive term. Adelson opposes any nuclear agreement with Iran and has publicly called for bombing Iran.
Groveling before Adelson, Sen. Ted Cruz declared that he would “do everything humanly possible to stop a bad Iran deal.”
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry warned that “tyrants don’t abide by agreements.”
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence pledged, “Israel’s enemies are our enemies. Israel’s cause is our cause.”
Top 2016 contenders who were not in attendance included Jeb Bush, who sent an aide, Karen Unger, who handed out “Jeb!” buttons in Hebrew. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is said to be an Adelson favorite.
Adelson’s son- and daughter-in-law donated to Rubio’s leadership PAC last fall and in January. Sheldon and Miriam Adelson each gave $10,200 to the Rubio Victory Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Former President George W. Bush appeared at the Las Vegas event and denounced the planned agreement with Iran.
Adelson’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. It has been pointed out that Adelson once lamented that while he had served in the U.S. Army, he regretted that it was not the Israeli Army instead. He owns a daily newspaper in Israel that embraces a far-right agenda and has said that he is not concerned if democracy erodes in Israel, because the Bjble does not mention democracy as an important value.
He has said that the Palestinians are an “invented” people.
A group of supporters of Israel’s far right wing have been wielding their influence in Washington, seeking to purchase with their campaign contributions opposition to any rapprochement with Iran. An unknown first-term senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton, wrote a letter to leaders in Iran warning against an agreement.
Was this payment for the $960,000 he received from the Emergency Committee for Israel, headed by William Kristol, publisher of the Weekly Standard, who has embraced recent calls for war with Iran? Cotton also received $250,000 from a firm run by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, a leading donor to far-right Israeli causes. Seth Klarman, a Boston-based supporter of Israel’s far-right, contributed $100,000 to Cotton.
Writing in the New York Times, John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., had this advice: “To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran…Force is the only option.” A political action committee run by Bolton spent $825,000 to support Cotton. The calls for war with Iran, it seems, have been bought and paid for.
In his commentary on PBS, columnist Mark Shields criticized Sheldon Adelson for “making foreign policy for the United States.”
The Nation states that, “Adelson demands of his beneficiaries total fealty to his extraordinarily hawkish pro-Israel views (he even publicly upbraided AIPAC, which he has funded to the tune of millions, over the group’s support for George W. Bush’s short-lived Annapolis process for Israel-Palestinian peace).”
In an article. “Courting Adelson Is Not Jewish Outreach,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee and a strong supporter of Israel, declares:
“This weekend a collection of GOP presidential candidates will arrive in Las Vegas. To a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition. But don’t allow yourself to be fooled into thinking that these candidates are making a real attempt to appeal to American Jewish voters. Their presence is all about winning over a single Jewish donor: Sheldon Adelson…The casino magnate doesn’t speak for the American Jewish community and the GOP candidates’ courtship of an Adelson-funded Super PAC should not be mistaken for outreach.”
Public opinion polls show that Jewish voters are far more concerned with such domestic policy issues as health care, education and the environment than they are with Middle East policy.
In the view of Rep. Wasserman-Schultz, who is Jewish,
“Instead of changing their positions on the issues that matter to American Jews, Republicans have chosen the dangerous strategy of politicizing Israel’s security as their strategy to win over Jewish voters. This strategy is not good for Israel or the long-term relationship between two great nations.”
Whether it is Hillary Clinton or Sheldon Adelson, the belief is growing that U.S. foreign policy is for sale.
In his forthcoming book “Clinton Cash,” author Peter Schweitzer cites “a pattern of financial transaction involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing funds.”
Even those who might be expected to defend Hillary Clinton’s behavior are finding it impossible to do so. Liberal columnist Ruth Marcus, for example, characterized the Clintons as epitomizing the Yiddish word “chazer.”
“It means ‘pig’ but has a specific connotation of piggishness and gluttony. This is a chronic affliction of the Clintons, whether it comes to campaign fundraising (remember the Lincoln bedroom?), compulsive speechifying (another six-figure check to speak at a public university) or assiduous vacuuming-up of foundation donations from donors of questionable character of motives.”
U.S. foreign policy is too important to all of us to be for sale, particularly when some who are contributing large sums want to take our country to war. Those candidates who would sacrifice our country’s best interests by seeking and receiving funds from those who have a foreign policy agenda of their own discredit themselves by doing so.
Both parties seem to be in this together, in different ways. Casting a spotlight on their machinations is an effort to inform voters of what is at stake. None of the current candidates seem to have clean hands.