Hillary Clinton's ties to corporate donors, lobbyists while secretary of state scrutinized

Hillary Clinton's ties to large corporations have come under more scrutiny after it was revealed that dozens of companies that have donated millions to her family's foundation also lobbied the State Department during her tenure as secretary of state.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the 60 companies who lobbied Clinton's State Department between 2009 and 2013 donated over $26 million to the Clinton Foundation in that period. The donors include instantly recognizable names like General Electric, Exxon Mobil, and Boeing.

The Journal also reports that at least 44 of the 60 companies participated in philanthropy projects valued at $3.2 billion set up by the Clinton Global Initiative, which is a wing of the foundation. At least 25 of the companies also contributed to 15 public-private partnerships created by Clinton and coordinated by the State Department.

While there is no evidence that any laws were broken, the connections do raise potentially thorny ethical questions as Clinton prepares for a likely 2016 run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill told the Journal that she "did the job that every secretary of state is supposed to do and what the American people expect of them—especially during difficult economic times. She proudly and loudly advocated on behalf of American business and took every opportunity she could to promote U.S. commercial interests abroad."

The latest report comes on the heels of the disclosure that donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation have increased considerably following the removal of a self-imposed ban on such contributions during Hillary's time as Secretary of State. Experts have said that the donation ban should be immediately re-imposed until Clinton formally decides one way or another whether she will seek the White House. On Thursday, the foundation said it would consider whether to accept such contributions should Clinton decide to run, but would not commit to rejecting such donations in the future.

The Journal report cites several examples of Clinton promoting eventual donors to the Foundation and its various activities. For example, in October 2012, she lobbied the Algerian government to contract General Electric to build power plants in that country. The following month, the Foundation approached the company about expanding a health-access initiative. An eventual partnership was formed, to which the company contributed between $500,000 and $1 million. The Algerian government awarded GE the power plant contract in September 2013.

Other efforts were less successful. In 2010, Clinton announced cooperation between the U.S. and Poland on a scheme to develop shale gas deposits in eastern Europe. After several years of false starts, Exxon Mobil and Chevron gave up their Polish plans.

In 2012, Clinton persuaded Bulgaria's government to issue a five-year license to Chevron allowing conventional gas exploration. That, too went nowhere. The following year, the Journal reports, Chevron donated $250,000 to the foundation. Exxon Mobil, for its part, has donated at least $18.8 million to various initiatives, including a nonprofit women's group called vital voices.

In at least one case, a sizable corporate monetary promise was made before a Clinton overseas trip. In 2012, Wal-Mart, a company with whom the Clintons have ties going back to their days in Arkansas, pledged $12 million to various causes supporting woman in Latin America. $1.5 million of that money went toward a Clinton Foundation public-private partnership and another $500,000 went to Vital Voices.

A month later, Clinton lobbied the Indian government to reverse a ban on multibrand retailers, opening up a potentially lucrative market for several U.S. companies, including Wal-Mart. The effort was unsuccessful.

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