Clinton Foundation donors given special treatment while Hillary was DoS head, emails show
Newly released emails reveal more ties between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, showing that major donors received special perks – including lunch with the Chinese president.
The State Department emails were released as part of a public records lawsuit by conservative group Citizens United. The documents were then shared exclusively with ABC News.
“After more than two years of Freedom of Information Act requests and lengthy litigation, the truth is finally coming out,” David Bossie, president of Citizens United, said in a statement. “Hillary Clinton’s senior staff at the State Department routinely worked with the Clinton Foundation to reward big donors with special access and favors for four years.”
The emails seem to suggest that some of the Clinton Foundation’s biggest donors were given special treatment, including seats at a meal attended by Chinese President Hu Jintao.
One particular email chain dated December 2010 includes correspondence between Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, and then-top Clinton Foundation official Doug Band.
The email gives names of those expected to attend a State Department lunch with the Chinese president scheduled for January 2011 – and some of the foundation’s biggest donors were on the guest list.
The list included three executives from organizations that have donated millions to the Clinton Foundation – Bob McCann, then-president of wealth management at UBS; Dr. Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation; and Hikmet Ersek, the CEO of Western Union.
According to the Clinton Foundation’s website, UBS has contributed between $500,000 and $1 million to the organization. The Rockefeller Foundation has donated between $10 million and $25 million, and Western Union and its foundation has given between $1 million and $5 million.
Nearly two weeks after the initial email, Band sent a follow-up requesting that Rodin be seated at Vice President Joe Biden’s table.
“I’ll ask,” Abedin wrote in response.
In a separate email, Abedin forwarded Band an attachment titled 'Updated China RSVP Guest List 1-5-11.' The attachment itself was not included in the documents seen by ABC.
A representative for McCann said the former UBS president did not attend the lunch, while a representative for Ersek said he doesn’t have a “record” of the meal. Rodin’s office did not respond to a request for comment, and the State Department said it could not provide a list of attendees.
However, perks given to Clinton Foundation supporters didn’t stop at fancy meals. Band also corresponded with Abedin about personal requests from donors.
One of those requests came from Gerardo Werthein, a South American businessman who has donated in excess of $1 million to the foundation, according to its website.
In an email sent from Band to Abedin, Band called Werthein a “great friend” and “big supporter,” and asked Abedin to deliver a message to the US ambassador to Malta on behalf of the businessman.
Abedin forwarded the request to another State Department official, saying she “just wanted to pass along for info. No need for action.”
Back in 2009, Band passed on an email from a man by the name of Tim Collins, in which he thanked Abedin for bringing him to “some event.” That event was, according to Abedin, a speech in Cairo that the State Department had invited him to.
Although ABC was unable to verify the identity of Collins, the Clinton Foundation lists a Timothy Collins – founder of investment firm Ripplewood Advisors – as a major donor.
However, both the State Department and the Clinton campaign told ABC News that foundation donors were not given any special favors, and that they had had no special influence.
When asked about the apparent involvement of Band requesting invitations for guests at government functions, State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said: “The State Department does not believe it is inappropriate for the administration to consider individuals suggested by outside organizations when deciding who to invite to an official function.”
The Clinton campaign has also responded to the allegations, calling the released emails a political attack on the Clintons.
“Citizens United is a right-wing group that’s been attacking the Clintons since the 1990s and, once again, is trying to make something out of nothing,” spokesman Josh Schwerin told ABC News.
The emails follow an AP report which found last week that more than half the people outside the government who met or spoke by telephone with Clinton while she was secretary of state had given money to her foundation, either personally or through companies or groups.
Earlier this month, documents showed that the State Department once considered buying land for a US Embassy in Lagos from a company with ties to Gilber Chagoury, who had donated more than $1 million to the Clinton Foundation.
In 2011, foundation donor Rajiv K. Fernando was put on a US intelligence advisory board, despite not having any known experience. He resigned within days, following questions about his qualifications.