Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Clinton Cash Author Peter Schweizer's Anti-Clinton Haiti Conspiracy Falls Apart

Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer's conspiracy that Bill Clinton's speaking fees influenced State Department grants in Haiti has fallen apart. 

In his forthcoming book, the Republican activist and consultant alleges that Hillary Clinton's State Department "was quick to send taxpayer money" through a program called the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI) to the company of Irish billionaire Denis O'Brien, who had allegedly helped arrange paid speeches for Bill Clinton that amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars around the same time. But Schweizer's allegation is undermined by numerous errors.

BuzzFeed reports today that "Bill Clinton was not paid for several speeches as reported in a forthcoming book about his family's foundation, spokespeople for the former president said."

Schweizer writes in Clinton Cash that while Secretary Clinton's State Department awarded O'Brien's company money to build a mobile system in Haiti, "O'Brien was in turn making money for the Clintons":

In the months following the earthquake, the Clintons began pushing the idea of a wireless mobile phone money-transfer system for Haiti. The idea was to enable friends and relatives to send money directly to people in the quake-ravaged country. Hillary's USAID was quick to send taxpayer money via a grant; it also organized the effort. The Bill Gates Foundation also came on board. The Haiti Mobile Money Initiative also offered incentive funds to companies who would establish mobile money services in the country.

The initiative's big winner was Digicel, a mobile phone company owned by Irish billionaire Denis O'Brien. Digicel received millions in US taxpayer money for its TchoTcho Mobile system. (TchoTchomeans "pocket money" in Creole.) The USAID Food for Peace program, under direct control of the State Department through Cheryl Mills, chose the TchoTcho system for its money transfers. Haitians were given cell phones and a free TchoTcho account. When Haitians used the system, they paid O'Brien's company millions in fees. They also became users of O'Brien's TchoTcho program.

[...]

O'Brien was in turn making money for the Clintons.

O'Brien arranged at least three lucrative speeches in Ireland, for which Bill was paid $200,000 apiece, as well as a speech in Jamaica. Bill's October 9, 2013, speech at the Conrad Hotel in Dublin was his third in three years, "and was mostly facilitated by billionaire Irish tycoon Denis O'Brien," noted Irish Central. "Last year Clinton delivered the keynote address at the Worldwide Ireland Funds annual conference in Cork. ... The year before he was flown over to Ireland on O'Brien's private jet to deliver a speech at the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin Castle."

The timing of these paid speeches is also notable. The Haitian Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI) was announced in June 2010. Three months later, on September 29, Bill gave a speech at Dublin castle sponsored by O'Brien. The next day, Digicel filed notice of its intent to compete for HMMI contracts. In January of the following year, Digicel became the first company to be awarded funds for participation in HMMI.

On October 8, 2011, Bill gave a speech for the Global Irish Economic Forum, again facilitated by O'Brien. The following day, Digicel was awarded $100,000 through HMMI, which it was to split with fellow cell provider Voila. Two weeks later, Clinton gave a speech in Jamaica for $225,000 on "Our Common Humanity." The speech was sponsored by Whisky Productions, in partnership with O'Brien's Digicel.

On December 2 of the same year, USAID paid the first installment of what would eventually be more than $2 million of taxpayer money into O'Brien's Digicel Foundation, based in Jamaica. According to government databases, Digicel had never received taxpayer money before.

But BuzzFeed wrote that "according to Clinton spokesperson Matt McKenna, neither the former president nor the Clinton Foundation was paid for two of the three speeches Clinton gave in Ireland, and that while the Foundation did receive a donation following his Sept. 29, 2010 speech, Clinton himself was not compensated."

BuzzFeed identified two other significant Schweizer errors undermining his conspiracy: "Additionally, the Kingston speech appears to have occurred in October 2010, not October 2011, a full year before Digicel's contract was awarded ... Schweizer's contention that Digicel had not received USAID grants prior to its involvement with Clinton also appears to be incorrect. According to federal records, Digicel received more than $29,000 in contracts from USAID in 2007 and 2008." Schweizer worked for the Bush White House from 2008-2009.

Schweizer also significantly underplayed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's role in HMMI (Schweizer simply wrote: "The Bill Gates Foundation also came on board").

The Gates Foundation provided the majority of award money to Digicel. It stated in 2012 that "HMMI is funded by $10 million in awards plus additional funds for related activities from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as $5 million in technical and management assistance from USAID."

Also, USAID makes clear that the timing of the HMMI grants was not related to Clinton's speeches. USAID wrote on its website that Digicel received money "for reaching the transaction milestones," which was only "awarded after a detailed verification process was completed."

The source for Schweizer's bogus claim that Clinton got paid for the speeches is murky. Secretary Clinton's 2010 and 2011 public financial disclosure reports do not list any speech income related to Ireland and Bill Clinton (2012 was Clinton's final disclosure year, as she left the State Department in early 2013). 

Schweizer does cite by name an Irish Central article -- but that does not report Clinton "was paid $200,000 apiece" for the Ireland speeches. Rather, it states: "According to The Irish Times, the average speaking fee for Clinton last year was close to $200,000, although accounts filed in the US reveal he has charged far more than this at some corporate speaking engagements." In other words, Irish Central was merely noting Clinton's reported speaking fee average, not what he was actually paid.

The collapse of Schweizer's Haiti conspiracy should serve as another warning to media outlets covering his research. The errors are not surprising given Schweizer's shoddy work related to Clinton Cash and elsewhere.

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