Tuesday, March 31, 2015

State Secretary's last dinner in Dublin hosted by Clinton Foundation donor

May 2nd correction: Chargé d'Affaires John Hennessey-Niland from the Dublin US Embassy met Hillary Clinton at airport, not Teneo CEO Declan Kelly (See photo description here). So I've deleted all references to that from this article.

May 1st update - Despite "ethics agreement" that a "former and future" Clinton Foundation director negotiated while at the State Department, Clinton Health Access Initiative kept Irish government's increase of funding a secret. Yesterday, Judicial Watch posted an article about my Teneo reporting. "Reporter Ron Brynaert is one example of this new breed of investigative gunslinger," Micah Morrison wrote. "A former executive editor for Raw Story, Brynaert has been digging deep into the Teneo connection and publishing his findings at his blog, '-gate news' and on Twitter."

April 28th update - After State Sec. Hillary Clinton announced "partnership" with Irish government in 2010, Irish Aid donated over $5 million to the Clinton Foundation from 2011 to 2014. More information added on State Department funding the Front Line Defenders - which was co-founded by Denis O'Brien - through a program created by Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State. Also, The Wall Street Journal reported a few days ago, "Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien, who heads a mobile-phone network provider called Digicel, won a $2.5 million award in 2011 from a program run by the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development to offer mobile money services in post-earthquake Haiti. Mr. O’Brien has given between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation since its launch." However, WSJ reporters oddly claimed that it was "unclear" that donations were made when Clinton was at the State Department, and won't fully explain why they couldn't confirm what others have reported for years. O'Brien's media holding company, Communicorp Group Ltd, has also donated money to the Clinton Foundation.

A Digicel press release announced on June 23, 2011, "Digicel, the best value mobile operator in the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific, has today been announced as one of the main partners with the U.S Department of State to support the Caribbean IdEA Marketplace." Digicel Group Chief Executive Officer Colm Delves posed with "U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the launch of the Caribbean IdEA Marketplace at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica," as seen in the photograph at the firm's website.

"CIM will be implemented in the context of the International diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA), which was launched by the U.S Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, on May 17th in Washington DC at the Global Diaspora Forum Other partners include the Inter-American Development Bank and Scotiabank."
As I reported last week, Teneo CEO Declan Kelly - who helped raise at least $1,500,000 on behalf of "Irish-Americans for Hillary" for Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign - was on the Board of Directors for US Ireland Fund and his firm did public relations work for the Belfast fundraising event and may have helped fund, host or sponsor it. Huma Abedin still helped plan Clinton's trips while working for the State Department and Teneo from June of 2012 to February of 2013.

"I was very happy to be along with Hillary Clinton during her last visit to Ireland as Secretary of State, in December 2012," Niall O'Dowd wrote for Irish Central on June 11, 2014. "It was also on that the trip that I realized she was certain to run for president in 2016."

Along with Teneo co-founder Paul Keary, O'Dowd is a member of "Irish-Americans for Hillary" - the group behind Kelly's fundraisers. Declan Kelly first met Hillary Clinton when he had "arranged an introduction" through O'Dowd years ago "at an Irish America magazine event in New York."

"As she writes in her new book, 'Hard Choices,' where she reserves several pages for her Irish work, the place still has a strong hold on her," O'Dowd adds, before quoting Hillary Clinton reminiscing about the party held in Belfast to honor her and help raise funds for the Worldwide Ireland Fund.
"My final trip as Secretary of State in December 2012 brought me again to Northern Ireland, a place where people have worked hard and suffered much to leave their past conflicts behind.

At a luncheon in Belfast, happily surrounded by old friends and acquaintances, we reminisced about how far we’d come together.
Then O'Dowd continues, "There was lots of reminiscing the day before in Dublin too when about 12 of us old-time Hillary supporters sat with her in a Dublin restaurant at a dinner hosted by businessman Denis O’Brien."

Digicel Group Chairman and Founder Denis O'Brien is a telecom billionaire who has reportedly given millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation and was honored with a Clinton Global Citizen award just two months before Hillary's trip to Ireland. Former President Bill "Clinton and Mr O’Brien formed a close working relationship in Haiti where the former acted as UN special envoy, and where Digicel has become the country’s largest foreign investor ever – pumping $600 million (€443 million) into an economy devastated by the 2010 earthquake," Irish Times reported in October of 2013.

However, as Kevin Sullivan, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger reported for The Washington Post a few weeks ago, O'Brien and "the Clintons are facing a growing backlash that too little has been accomplished in the past five years and that some of the most high-profile projects they have backed — including a just-opened Marriott, another luxury hotel and the industrial park — have helped foreign investors and Haiti’s wealthy elites more than its poor."

O'Brien is also the chairman of Front Line Defenders, which "was founded in Dublin in 2001 with the specific aim of protecting Human Rights Defenders, people working in hostile conditions to uphold any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)." In February of 2012, founder Mary Lawlor noted that the Embattled NGO Assistance Fund "is the brainchild of Hillary Clinton" and that they get money from the US State Department and O'Brien gave them €3 million when she started the group.

A 2013 press release by the Front Line Defenders referred to O'Brien as "Chairman and co-founder", and he is still on the Board of Trustees. His biography at its website states, "Denis O'Brien is Chairman of the Digicel Group, one of the fastest growing cellular companies in the world. Mr. O’Brien is one of Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs with extensive investments across several sectors including international telecoms, radio, media, property, aircraft leasing, golf and other leisure interests. He founded the Communicorp Group which has a portfolio of media and broadcasting-related companies in Ireland and seven other European countries. Denis was Chairman of the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Ireland and is Chairman of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. He is on the US Board of Concern Worldwide. In 2000 he established The O’Brien Foundation to assist disadvantaged communities in Ireland and internationally."

The US State Department announced on July 1, 2011, "Last July at the Community of Democracies meeting in Krakow, Secretary Clinton announced that the United States would create an international fund to support embattled Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and invited like-minded governments to join in this global effort."

"One year later, the Department of State, together with twelve other democratic nations spanning the globe, launched the Lifeline: Embattled NGOs Assistance Fund in a meeting in Vilnius with the international consortium of organizations who will be implementing the Fund’s activities.

The Department of State is honored to partner with Australia, Benin, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom in this unique effort to protect and support civil society worldwide. Together they have seeded the Lifeline Fund with over $4 million to begin a multi-year effort."
Hours before the dinner hosted by O'Brien, Secretary of State Clinton said in a speech, "We currently are providing emergency support to dozens of individual human rights activists around the world, who run into trouble because of their work. And the United States has created a fund – to which more than a dozen governments and two private foundations have contributed – to support embattled NGOs with legal representation, communication technologies like cell phones and internet access, and other forms of quick support."

According to the latest entry of "Front Line Defenders Annual Reports & Financial Information", it still receives donations from the Lifeline: Embattled NGO Assistance Fund. It also is supported by The Ireland Funds, which is a client of Teneo, and CEO Declan Kelly was on its Board of Directors when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was honored at a Belfast luncheon the day after the Dublin dinner, as I reported in March.

Front Line Defenders also receives funding from the Ireland government department Irish Aid, which has donated $5-to-10 million to the Clinton Foundation. On September 21, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at an event called "1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future" where she welcomed Ireland Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin.

"Thank you, Secretary Clinton, for those kind words about the Irish, but also for your inspiring words about the challenge that lies ahead and that is the focal point of this gathering here this morning," Michael Martin said. "And we thank your people who have worked so hard behind the scenes with Irish Aid and with my colleague, Minister Power, Peter Power, Minister of State Peter Power, in terms of the organization of this partnership with its focus on undernutrition."

A US State Department fact sheet on the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Framework, announced that Clinton and Martin would be "joined by leaders from governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector" at the September 21st, 2010 event.

At The Irish Times, Simon Carswell reported on April 24, 2015 about the money donated to the Clinton Foundation: "The Department of Foreign Affairs said this money was provided to the Clinton Health Access Initiative, a charity affiliated with the foundation, for work on health promotion projects in Mozambique (€1 million) and Lesotho (€4 million) between 2011 and 2014. A further €170 million of Irish Aid went to the health ministries in those countries on projects that involved personnel from the Clintons’ health charity.

Despite agreeing in 2008 that the Clinton Foundation would inform the State Department if a foreign country chose to "increase materially its commitment" to the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), it didn't. As revealed in a 2010 Irish government review of the partnership, the funding was supposed to end that year, but Irish Aid "recommend[ed] that the Partnership should be formally extended until 2015."

Last week, Irish Aid told the Irish Times that it ended up donating €4 million to CHAI from 2011 to 2015 for "work on health promotion projects" in Lesotho. A March 6, 2012 fact sheet at the US State Department's website notes, "A partnership framework that is aligned with the National Strategic Plan was signed in August 2009 by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Government of Lesotho."

But even though referring to Irish Aid, the US State Department "fact sheet" doesn't specifically mention its partnership with the Clinton Foundation which began years before Obama was elected: "The donor community is collaborating with the Government of Lesotho in a massive effort to address the HIV epidemic. Key international stakeholders include PEPFAR, UN agencies, Irish AID, other international donors, and dozens of non-governmental organizations."

On March 19, 2015, Jonathan Allen reported for Reuters, "In 2008, Hillary Clinton promised Barack Obama, the president-elect, there would be no mystery about who was giving money to her family's globe-circling charities. She made a pledge to publish all the donors on an annual basis to ease concerns that as secretary of state she could be vulnerable to accusations of foreign influence."

"At the outset, the Clinton Foundation did indeed publish what they said was a complete list of the names of more than 200,000 donors and has continued to update it," Allen continued. "But in a breach of the pledge, the charity's flagship health program, which spends more than all of the other foundation initiatives put together, stopped making the annual disclosure in 2010, Reuters has found."

Allen added, "In response to questions from Reuters, officials at the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and the foundation confirmed no complete list of donors to the Clintons' charities has been published since 2010. CHAI was spun off as a separate legal entity that year, but the officials acknowledged it still remains subject to the same disclosure agreement as the foundation."

"The State Department said it was unable to cite any instances of its officials reviewing or approving new money from any foreign governments [which included Ireland]," Reuters' Allen reported. "[CHAI spokeswoman Maura] Daley confirmed that none of the seven government donations had been submitted to the State Department for review."

Reporting for the Washington Examiner on April 30, 2015 about how the State Department is allowing the Clinton Foundation to review which Clinton emails can be released to fulfill reportedly 18 FOIA requests by the media and conservative-leaning watchdog groups, Sarah Westwood noted, "Like several other records caches that have been dribbled out of the department in recent months, the emails showed Cheryl Mills — the former Clinton White House aide who left the family foundation to serve as Hillary Clinton's chief of staff at State before returning to the charity's board — was routinely involved in official matters concerning both the foundation and the former chief executive's paid speeches."

"Mills was among several Clinton insiders who negotiated an ethics agreement between Hillary Clinton and President Obama before Clinton was appointed secretary of state," Westwood reported. "The agreement required both the Clintons and their foundation to undergo ethics reviews so State Department officials could determine whether a particular speech or event represented a real or apparent conflict of interest."

Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton "raised concerns that a former and future foundation director was instrumental to orchestrating the legal footwork that allowed the Clintons to receive millions of dollars for speaking from foreign entities while Hillary Clinton served as the nation's chief diplomat." Fitton complained to the Washington Examiner, "There's no way [Mills] should have been involved in this, given where she was and where she was going."
"He noted that it's possible Mills, as a top Clinton Foundation official, is presently involved in reviewing the emails she herself wrote and was copied on during her time at the State Department, thanks to the agency's unusual arrangement with the charity.

A State Department official who requested anonymity was 'not in a position to comment on ongoing litigation' but noted that FOIA 'provides an exemption for privileged or confidential trade secrets.'

'When the department receives a FOIA request for records which contain privileged or confidential commercial or financial information and determines that it may release them, we are obligated by law to consult with the entities or persons who first provided those records to the Department, and it is our practice to do so,' the official said.
Whatever reasons or excuses provided by Obama's State Department before, during and after Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State, one might conclude that the Irish government was being more forthcoming than the US government and the Clinton Foundation.

On April 17, 2015, at the Wall Street Journal, James V. Grimaldi reported, "Potentially any foreign government could make multimillion-dollar donations to the Clinton family’s largest philanthropic venture, a global public-health charity, according to a new policy put in place this week." Defending this new move, "Officials of the Clinton health charity, which employs 1,500 workers in more than 30 countries, said the more lenient policy came because 'foreign governments are among the largest funders of global health programs.'"

"Mr. O’Brien has given between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation since its launch," James V. Grimaldi, Rebecca Ballhaus and Peter Nicholas reported for The Wall Street Journal on April 22, 2015. "It is unclear whether Mr. O’Brien gave while Mrs. Clinton was at the State Department because of the way the foundation discloses its donations."

When Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State, the Clinton Foundation agreed to list its contributor amounts annually on the internet, so it's breathtaking that the Wall Street Journal hasn't been at least copy-and-pasting that information once a year. Unfortunately, the way the Clinton Foundation website was set up, it's difficult to find archive links for contributors in previous years, except for the highest donors. However, simple Google searches of news organizations and blogs that did at least copy-and-paste the data reveal that Denis J. O'Brien's donations to the Clinton Foundation went from zero in December of 2008 (according to Fox News) to $10,001-to-25,000 before January of 2012 (according to The New York Times) and $1M to $5M (according to a blog reporting on a defamation lawsuit by Denis O'Brien against his first cousin Donald MacAllister who claimed in November of 2012 the billionaire was the "largest contributor to the Clinton Foundation". Interestingly, O'Brien ducked that specific accusation, even though it appears to conflict with what the Clinton Foundation has claimed.) during Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State.

"[Digicel]'s founder, Denis O'Brien, is a major Clinton Foundation contributor and chairman of the Clinton Global Initiative's Haiti Action Network, a consortium of largely private-sector partners who have committed more than $224 million to reconstruction projects," Janet Reitman reported for Rolling Stone in August of 2011.

At Breitbart.com, in an article quoting from a Fox News Channel special based on the soon-to-be-published Peter Schweizer book "Clinton Cash" (which the Wall Street Journal based their story on, too), Ian Hanchett noted, "Schweizer said, 'shortly after the Clintons began reconstruction in Haiti, and began handing out contracts, sometime during that period of 2010 or 2011 he [Digicel’s owner Denis O’Brien] made a multi-million dollar contribution to the Clinton Foundation.' And that O’Brien also arranged for three 'lucrative' speeches by Bill Clinton...Schweizer then reported, 'two of the speeches that Bill Clinton gives, actually, are sandwiched around Digicel being given a grant, by the taxpayers for $100,000 as part of the HMMI Award. At the same time, you have taxpayer money, $2 million being committed to the Digicel Foundation in Jamaica.'"

Grimaldi, Ballhaus, and Nicholas specifically noted that they couldn't reach Mr. O'Brien and that the Clinton campaign "didn't respond to request for comment", but that they did talk to a Clinton Foundation spokesman. It's unclear why the Wall Street Journal didn't specifically ask the Clinton Foundation to provide this information which they already provided once a year on the web or why it didn't contact any groups that monitor politically-related donations before publishing their story. All three Wall Street Journal reporters have ignored tweets regarding why they reported that it was "unclear" that Denis O'Brien donated to the Clinton Foundation, while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

O'Brien also owns many Irish media outlets - and according to a 2012 Guardian article was the "largest shareholder with a 29.9% stake" in Independent News and Media (INM) - has been accused of possessing a "stranglehold" in an "attempt to silence his critics." The Irish Times reported in December, "Recently, the National Union of Journalists called on [the Irish government's Department of Communications] to 'call a halt' to what it saw as O’Brien’s threat to media diversity."

Communicorp Group Limited, "a media holding company, founded in 1989 by Irish Entrepreneur Denis O’Brien" whose "media holdings include radio stations and digital media service companies", has also donated $10,000 to 25,000 to the Clinton Foundation. According to this 2012 haiti week press release, "Lucy Gaffney of Communicorp" was an "Irish member" of the Clinton Global Initiative. Communicorp Group Limited Chairperson Lucy Gaffney is a longtime friend and associate of O'Brien, and is on Digicel's Board of Directors and "was appointed to the Board of Independent News & Media plc as a Non-Executive Director in March 2009."

On September 30, 2010, former President Bill Clinton gave a speech at the Business & Finance Outstanding Contribution to Ireland Awards in honor of Loretta Brennan Glucksman and the American Ireland Fund. In the following video, Clinton thanks Declan Kelly (who was on the US Ireland Fund's board of directors until at least 2012 and created the US-NI Mentorship Program with it - in partnership with the State Department - after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed him Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland) and Denis O'Brien - who are seated onstage together - for their introductions:

"Thank you very much first to Declan and then to Denis for telling all those lies about me," Clinton joked. "I want to thank Declan Kelly who has done a really wonderful job as the Secretary of State's envoy to Northern Ireland. Hillary always did have good taste in men."

O'Brien was also in the audience when Hillary Clinton gave a speech at Dublin City University during her Ireland trip, the Irish Independent reported.

While working for Teneo and the State Department, Huma Abedin also did consulting work for the Clinton Foundation.

So, in this last Ireland trip that Abedin probably planned for the outgoing Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton attended a luncheon tied to Teneo and a dinner hosted by a top Clinton Foundation donor where she dined with fundraisers. There must have been some sort of prior planning involved by Teneo and O'Brien for both events to accommodate Clinton's schedule, although the thrust of her trip apparently was to "participate in the ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)" to "discuss proposals to strengthen the OSCE’s capacity to promote comprehensive security in Eurasia, as well as meet with civil society representatives from across the OSCE region." The Belfast luncheon was held in the ballroom of a top tourist attraction, and may have been planned months in advance before it was officially announced one day apart by the State Department and a Teneo press release in November of 2012.

However - as I reported a few weeks ago - Abedin wrote to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), "I was not asked, nor did I undertake, any work on Teneo's behalf before the State Department (and I should note that it is my understanding that Teneo does not conduct business with the Department of State). I also was not asked, nor did I provide, insights about the Department, my work with the Secretary, or any government information to which I may have had access. And, I certainly 'never gathered information from government sources for the purpose of informing investment decisions of Teneo's clients' as the Senate letter suggests."

O'Dowd's article added, "In the small private dinner setting just off Stephen’s Green in Dublin she made clear that the fire still burns. The affection for Ireland and the desire to serve again was very clear that night. 'She’s running,' said one of her longest-term supporters and friends that night 'bet on it.' She went around the table asking each of us for our memories from our Clinton campaign involvements."

"It is unclear what special knowledge or skills Ms. Abedin possessed that the government could not have easily obtained otherwise from regular government employees," Senator Grassley wrote Inspector General for the US Department of State Steve Linick on March 19, 2015 (pdf link).

Senator Grassley also asked Secretary of State John Kerry on March 19, 2015 (pdf link), "Did the Department consider any other candidates besides Ms. Abedin for the expert position requiring expert knowledge on policy, administrative, and other matters? If so, please provide the supporting documentation. If not, why not?"

"Please provide the work papers, background documents, and/or emails that concluded that Ms. Abedin’s employment as an SGE did not present any ethical concerns or conflicts of interest with her multiple private sector jobs," Grassley added in his letter to Kerry.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's last trip to Ireland seems to have been geared towards meeting up with potential fundraisers presuming she runs for president again in 2016, and her longtime aide Huma Abedin may have helped schedule it while working for the State Department.

Last month Anita Kumar reported for McClatchy, "More than 40 percent of the top donors to the Clinton family foundation are based in foreign countries, which could lead to conflict-of-interest questions for Hillary Clinton as she prepares to launch her campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination."

"Mohammed Al-Amoudi, a billionaire businessman who lives in Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia, retired German race car driver Michael Schumacher, and Denis O’Brien, the Irish chairman of Digicel phone company, each donated between $5 million and $10 million," Kumar added.

The Ireland trip was Clinton's "final overseas trip as secretary of state. She had planned further trips but canceled them after falling and hitting her head after returning from Dublin and Belfast," Anne Gearan reported for The Washington Post on March 16, 2015. Gearan also noted that Niall O’Dowd - the co-founder of Irish America Magazine which gave Clinton a lifetime achievement award last month - "is a longtime Democratic donor and served on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 finance committee." New York Times reporter Amy Chozick neglected to mention that in her March 17, 2015 article, although she did refer to O'Dowd as a "longtime Clinton supporter." In her February 2, 2015 article, Chozick didn't even reveal that much to New York Times readers.

Last September, in an interview with Denis O'Brien, Niall O'Dowd asked, "Speaking of politicians, you are a big fan of Hillary Clinton. Do you think she is going to run for the White House in 2016?

"I’d say she is going to see what the lay of the land is, like any clever politician, to see who’s there on the Democratic side," O'Brien responded. "I think a year out from the primaries last time, not a lot of people had heard of Obama and never saw him as a serious candidate, so obviously she is waiting to see who’s there. And yes, I am a fan."

See also "Teneo worked on Belfast event honoring Hillary Clinton"; "Staff employed by State Dept. as administrative support for Clinton envoy helped launch Teneo" and "Questions linger about Clintons-linked firm co-founded by former US Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland".

Developing... More to come...

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