WHEN Bill and Hillary Clinton left the White House in 2001 they were $16million in debt. Bill attributed most of this to lawyers’ fees accumulated during his impeachment after his predatory sexual advances towards Monica Lewinsky.
By 2016, 15 years later, the Clintons were worth a joint $240million. Today, they are worth $200million. Even with paid speeches, consultations and book deals, they look to be wealthier than they should be.
In 2001, a year after their friend Bill Gates set up his ‘charitable’ foundation, the Clintons created the Clinton Foundation (CF). Over the past two decades the couple have touted their foundation as an altruistic saviour of the developing world. A deeper analysis of CF belies this claim. Like many politicians who boast about their contributions and commitments to foreign aid, the Clintons have used it to shore up their woke credentials. But much foreign aid is given solely to enrich and empower the donors while very little reaches those who need it the most. What sets the Clintons and their foundation apart from most developmental and foreign aid agencies is the prominent role they have played in hurting those they have boasted the most about ‘helping’.
The Clintons and the CF have a symbiotic relationship. In 2018, after Hillary’s failed run for US president, the CF’s 2016 revenue of $62.9million dropped to $30.7million, partly because of the foundation’s restricted fundraising efforts as Clinton pursued her presidential bid.
In the same year, it operated at a loss, with paid speeches accounting for only $369,899 of income while it spent $47.5million on employees, advertising and promotions, with very little given away. But it recovered quickly. The CF’s 2019 on-line financials show a very healthy increase in retained earnings, receiving $65million in contributions and grants that year. It spent only $45million of that money, mainly on operating expenses, increasing its assets to $312million. Despite the CF promoting itself as a charitable endeavour, this budget report suggests otherwise. It spends little on small aid projects while shoring up its finances. Some may argue that this is fiscally responsible, yet it raises questions about where this money comes from, and how it is spent. The obscurity of the CF’s financial records led to a Justice Department investigation, as I will explain in Part Three.
The CF has raised $2billion since it was established, proudly proclaiming that the bulk of this has been sent to help Haitians. In fact, Haiti has been most notable recipient of the CF’s attention; this impoverished country has long been Clintons’ pet project, benefiting all except the Haitians. Despite the millions the CF purports to channel into Haiti, the poverty rate keeps growing.
The country shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. There are stark differences between the neighbours. The latter recorded a GDP per head of nearly $7,400 in 2020 and until lockdowns were imposed it was one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America and the Caribbean.
By contrast, Haiti is one of the poorest economies in the world. In 2020, Haiti had a GDP per head of $1,150, and rated 170 out of 189 on the human development index. Almost two-thirds of the population exist on a few US dollars a day. Haiti’s current poverty rate is 60 per cent, an increase of 1.5 per cent since 2012. After the Haitian government implemented punitive lockdowns, food insecurity rose from 700,000 to 1.6million people out of a population of just over 11.5million. This means well over 10 per cent do not have enough to eat. Only a quarter of Haitians have basic sanitation facilities.
What accounts for the glaring discrepancy between the two countries? Much is geographical, with a rainy climate favouring the Dominican Republic. Haiti is frequently beset by earthquakes and hurricanes, and is semi-arid, making crop cultivation difficult. The country suffers from deforestation too.
Long before the Clintons exploited Haiti, its French colonists made the Haitians pay $21billion for their independence. An indebted, impoverished country is easy pickings for those looking to get rich on the back of foreign aid. The Dominican Republic may well have been blessed with not being the recipients of the Clintons’ beneficence.
Between 1990 and 2005, various US presidents, including Clinton, earmarked $1.4billion for Haitian aid. In 1994, the Clinton administration sanctioned the invasion of US troops into Haiti. Called ‘Operation Uphold Democracy’, the former President heralded it as saving Haiti from a military coup, and re-installed the ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. An American soldier was killed during the operation.
Clinton’s promise of US support to Aristide was on condition that he signed an agreement with the IMF and World Bank, forcing the country to open up its markets to foreign trade. This agreement, together with the development loans, was catastrophic for Haiti, indebting the country further. Clinton’s food aid programme helped impoverish Haitian farmers even more by subsidising rice crops in the US. Shipping these crops to Haiti undercut Haitian farmers who had no choice but to leave their dying farms and find badly paid factory work.
The IMF and World Bank act less as charities or investment vehicles than as colonial powers, dictating policy to countries caught in their debt traps. Despite what Clinton said at the time, this was less about saving democracy than ensuring that Haiti became a cash cow for the US, and later on, for the CF too. In Parts Two and Three I will explain how this happened.
The only Haitians to benefit from the US invasion were the elite, a group of six families, who consolidated their power base and influence over the government. The social reforms promised by Aristide never materialised.
In 2008, the US government sent $145million for food aid and hurricane relief to Haiti and other Caribbean countries. Haiti received another $287million in 2009. These figures now seem diminutive in comparison to the billions in foreign aid slated for Haiti after the country was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. Little was known globally about the CF until the Clintons took full advantage of the tragedy to raise the profile, and profits, of their foundation.