POLITICS

Clinton Family Finances Probed In New Book

05/05/2015 07:00 EDT | Updated 05/05/2016 05:59 EDT
WASHINGTON - An unflattering new book on the Clinton family finances was finally released Tuesday after weeks of frenzied speculation about what it might contain and how it might affect the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

The book, "Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich," delivers 256 pages of suggestions that donors showered money on the family and its charitable foundation in the hope of obtaining favours.

Now that it's out, Clinton allies are dismissing the book as an error-riddled, innuendo-peddling partisan hit piece from an author, Peter Schweizer, who admits his Republican allegiances.

There are some Canadian connections in the book and they are hitting back, too.

It spends a few pages chronicling the Clintons' relationship with the TD Bank and its vice-president, former New Brunswick premier and U.S. ambassador Frank McKenna.

McKenna declined to be interviewed Tuesday. But the bank disputes the book's suggestion that it was trying to influence the Keystone XL pipeline decision in paying $1.8 million to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements between 2008 and 2011.

During that period, Clinton's wife led the State Department — which is in charge of the Keystone process. The bank, meanwhile, is one of the biggest shareholders of the pipeline company, with more than US$1.8 billion in holdings in TransCanada Corp.

The book notes that McKenna introduced Clinton at different events.

The bank dismisses the author's dot-connecting as preposterous.

It says Bill Clinton was originally hired for a speaking engagement in late 2008, just four days after Hillary was named secretary of state and well before Keystone became a controversy.

"TD did not sponsor these events to help influence support of the Keystone pipeline," said bank spokeswoman Ali Duncan Martin, adding that the company has also hired Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson and George W. Bush as speakers.

The TD Bank-Keystone excerpt is a microcosm of the entire book.

Schweizer points out that a series of deep-pocketed benefactors rained donations upon the family foundation and speaking fees upon the former president.

He suggests payments were made in the hope of securing the Clintons' help. The author admits he has no smoking gun proving the money influenced them, but he says that's not the point.

"Surely the mere appearance of selling American power and influence to foreign interests should be enough to cause a former U.S. president — and a possible future one — to steer well clear of such potentially embarrassing entanglements," the book says.

There's another pattern emerging from the book, however: accusations that it's riddled with errors.

The Hillary Clinton campaign published a list of 10 alleged falsehoods in the book. For instance, critics jumped on a sentence that appeared to quote an old spoof press release's reference to TD.

A recurring figure in the book is Canadian mining magnate, entertainment impresario and philanthropist Frank Giustra.

It points to moments where the B.C. man won lucrative contracts, in Kazakhstan and Colombia, after meeting the countries' leaders in Bill Clinton's presence.

Giustra's brand-new mining company beat out other suitors to win the rights to uranium deposits in Kazakhstan in 2005. This was just days after Clinton delighted the country's dictator by publicly touting his progress on human rights.

Clinton left the country in Giustra's private jet. Giustra later pledged $100 million to the Clinton Foundation. And he started a Canadian chapter that's exempt from U.S. rules requiring donor names to be published.

This week, Giustra issued a statement denying Clinton helped him win the uranium deal. He said the transaction was nearly complete when they crossed paths in Kazakhstan. He also dismissed the idea that his philanthropy is motivated by self-interest.

"I have provided a large portion of my wealth towards many philanthropic causes, as I am very passionate about helping others and will continue to do so because I believe it is the right thing to do," Giustra said.

"The idea that anyone, including myself, would try to garner favours by donating to a charity is simply illogical and unethical."

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