- - Tuesday, October 27, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Now that Hillary Clinton’s much anticipated congressional testimony is in the rearview mirror, the House Select Committee on Benghazi can move toward completing its investigation and issuing a final report. It’s also an appropriate time to urge standing congressional committees on both sides of the Capitol to press new investigations into a crony capitalism network the Clintons built inside the State Department. They ran a political cash register that blurred the lines between official government business and private enrichment and left behind many unanswered ethical questions.

The blueprint for this shakedown machine is laid bare in emails that the group I head, Citizens United, has been able to force into the public domain through Freedom of Information Act requests and subsequent lawsuits. Over the past several months, Citizens United has released many of these never-before-seen emails, and it prompted me to reminisce about the past.

In the 1990s, I spearheaded Clinton-era investigations in Congress such as Whitewater and illegal foreign contributions to the Democratic Party and Clinton-Gore campaign, which resulted in 24 and 26 prosecutions, respectively. Much of what we’ve uncovered today mimics many of the patterns and behaviors that the Clintons and their cronies made infamous so many years ago.

Remember the Lincoln bedroom and coffees for donors inside the Clinton White House? Well at the Clinton State Department, wealthy interests who ponied up with big speech fees that enriched Bill Clinton or big donations to the former president’s charity got the same kind of access and preferential treatment.

The Washington Times, relying on documents obtained by Citizens United, reported last week on a troubling pattern of Bill Clinton collecting speech fees and donations in foreign countries within a few weeks of his wife making official state visits. While one might consider these coincidences, the 1990s taught us all that there are no coincidences when it comes to the Clintons and political or personal money. The possible coordination of government visits and private gain is one of many questions Congress still needs to probe.

Here are some other intriguing discoveries Citizens United unearthed in State Department emails:

• On two occasions over a 27-day period, the infamous private Clinton email server was experiencing enough difficulties to cause top Clinton aide Huma Abedin or individuals trying to communicate with her to use alternate email addresses. This raises critical questions about the server’s security and whether or not the system was down due to a hacking attempt.

• We discovered a new Huma Abedin personal email address that was used for official business. The email itself discusses an official State Department trip to Ireland in which Ms. Abedin helped arrange a dinner for Secretary Clinton where Clinton Foundation donors and a Teneo Holdings executive were also scheduled to attend. The extent to which this additional email address was used for official business is currently unknown and should be looked into by a congressional committee.

• Within one week in June 2012, Amitabh Desai with the Clinton Foundation inquired with senior State Department officials Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, Jake Sullivan, and Michael Fuchs about potential Bill Clinton paid speeches connected to interests relating to North Korea, Iran and the Congo. We also learned that would-be speech fees could be turned into donations to the Clinton Foundation depending on the political circumstances. • On Sept. 21, 2012 — 10 days after the terrorist attack in Benghazi — an email from Clinton Foundation staff to senior State Department officials and others states: “Stella O’Leary called to say she saw [Hillary Rodham Clinton] this week and that HRC ‘firmly instructed’ her to urgently form a 501c3 called Friends of the Clinton Centre ” Why the sitting secretary of state would be focusing her top staff on setting up a 501c3 organization instead of the Benghazi attack has not been established. The Benghazi Committee should address this topic in their final report since they didn’t ask Mrs. Clinton about it last week.

• In July 2012, State Department Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills sent two emails to the Clinton Foundation that have since been classified. This begs the question of how often sensitive government information was forwarded to the Clinton Foundation and whether or not the FBI has contacted the Clinton Foundation about this revelation.

• Ms. Abedin makes clear in a November 2012 email that she was concerned about a “conflict” when it came to discussing an issue relating to Teneo Holdings and the Rockefeller Foundation in official State Department email traffic.

• A document production log indicates that several emails relating to the Benghazi attacks and the State Department’s dealings with Congress in the wake of the attacks are being withheld from the public in part or in full by the U.S. government. Citizens United intends to contest these privilege claims in court.

Citizens United filed its first FOIA request with the State Department for these records in May 2014, and we will continue to file new FOIAs based on our findings in the days, weeks, and months to come. In the meantime, I hope chairmen like Chuck Grassley and Jason Chaffetz, inspectors general, and the FBI continue to investigate the questions raised in these documents.

David N. Bossie is the president of Citizens United and the former chief investigator for the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight.

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