Clinton opened State Department office to dozens of corporate donors, Dem fundraisers

As secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton opened her office to dozens of influential Democratic party fundraisers, former Clinton administration and campaign loyalists, and corporate donors to her family's global charity, according to State Department calendars obtained by The Associated Press.

The woman who would become a 2016 presidential candidate met or spoke by phone with nearly 100 corporate executives and long-time Clinton political and charity donors during her four years at the State Department between 2009 and 2013, records show.

Those formally scheduled meetings involved heads of companies and organizations that pursued business or private interests with the Obama administration, including with the State Department while Clinton was in charge.

The AP found no evidence of legal or ethical conflicts in Clinton's meetings in its examination of 1,294 pages from the calendars. Her sit-downs with business leaders were not unique among recent secretaries of state, who sometimes summoned corporate executives to aid in international affairs, documents show.

But the difference with Clinton's meetings was that she was a 2008 presidential contender who was widely expected to run again in 2016. Her availability to luminaries from politics, business and charity shows the extent to which her office became a sounding board for their interests. And her ties with so many familiar faces from those intersecting worlds were complicated by their lucrative financial largess and political support over the years -- even during her State Department tenure -- to her campaigns, her husband's and to her family's foundation.

In its response to detailed questions from the AP, the Clinton campaign did not address the issue of the candidate's frequent meetings with corporate and political supporters during her State Department tenure. Instead, campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said "Secretary Clinton turned over all of her work emails, 55,000 pages of them, and asked that they be released to the public.áSome of that will include her schedules.áWe look forward to the rest of her emails being released so people can have a greater window into her work at the department."

The State Department turned the Clinton calendars over to AP under the federal Freedom of Information Act earlier this month after censoring many meeting entries for privacy reasons or to protect internal deliberations. The State Department's release of Clinton emails has so far turned up at least 155 planning schedules, called "mini schedules," but they account for about only 7 percent of the 1,159 days covered by those email releases.
Merrill said Clinton was not sent the planning "mini-schedules" every day or when she traveled, "which would account for why you see some on some days and not on others."

The AP found at least a dozen differences between Clinton's planners and calendars involving visits. A June 2010 Clinton planning schedule that the State Department released uncensored shows a 3 p.m. meeting between Clinton and her private lawyer, David Kendall. But Clinton's formal calendar lists the 20-minute session only as "private meeting -- secretary's office," omitting Kendall's name.

The Clinton campaign could not explain those discrepancies but said the candidate had made a good-faith effort to be transparent by giving her work-related emails to the State Department for public release.

American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten met Clinton three times, in 2009, 2010 and 2012. She saw Clinton for a half hour in October 2009, the same year the union spent nearly $1 million lobbying the government. The union also spent at least $1 million on lobbying in 2010 and 2012.

Weingarten's union endorsed Clinton's 2016 presidential bid in July, and Weingarten is on the board of Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting Clinton in 2016. The union has also given $1 million to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.

PepsiCo Inc. CEO Indra Nooyi also had at least three scheduled contacts with Clinton. In February 2010, Nooyi and General Electric Co. CEO Jeff Immelt met Clinton as part of the State Department's efforts to secure corporate money for an American pavilion in China's Shanghai Expo in May of that year. Nooyi talked twice with Clinton by phone in 2012, a year when PepsiCo spent $3.3 million on lobbying, including talks with State Department officials.

PepsiCo's foundation pledged in 2008 to provide $7.6 million in grants to two water firms as a commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative. The Clinton charity also listed a PepsiCo Foundation donation of more than $100,000 in 2014, the same year the soda company's foundation announced a partnership under the charity to spur economic and social development in emerging nations.

A PepsiCo spokesman declined to discuss conversations it said its senior leaders may have had.