It’s been really great, having Hillary Clinton right in the thick of a close, disputatious race for President. It puts her husband back in the papers, and that guy is always up to something wild! By way of example, let’s follow the 2005 path of the peripatetic former POTUS as he took a quick little pleasure jaunt over to exotic Kazakhstan. The New York Times broke this story today, and I have divided it up into easy-to-read, mostly chronologically numbered chunks for your reading pleasure:
1. On September 6, 2005, a private plane carrying ultra-wealthy Canadian businessman Frank Giustra (a profile can be read here) landed in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Here’s where Almaty is:
Giustra was there to bid on the exclusive rights to large deposits of uranium, which he would then use to fuel nuclear power plants he planned to build around the world. On the private jet was Bill Clinton, a good friend of Giustra ever since Giustra started throwing millions of dollars at Clinton and his charitable foundation, the William J. Clinton Foundation.
2. Upon landing, the two had a fancy dinner with Kazakh president Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, who has ruled, rather iron-fistedly, for 19 years in that country. As outlined in this Washington Post article, Nazarbayev “has banned opposition parties, intimidated the press and profited from his post” and “has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of pocketing the bulk of $78 million in bribes from an American businessman.” In 2007, Transparency International ranked Kazakhstan 150th out of 179 countries on its Corruption Perceptions Index, scoring it a 2.1 out of a possible 10.
3. Within 2 days of this dinner, Bill Clinton was enthusiastically supporting Nazarbayev’s government’s bid to head the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an international organization that monitors elections and supports democracy, according to the Times story.
4. Also within 2 days, Giustra’s nascent uranium mining company, UrAsia, was awarded the rights to 3 big uranium projects controlled by the state-owned uranium agency, Kazatomprom. This despite the fact that the company had no time to develop contacts and relationships with Kazakh officials. According to the Times,
“A spokesman for Mr. Clinton said the former president knew that Mr. Giustra had mining interests in Kazakhstan but was unaware of “any particular efforts” and did nothing to help. Mr. Giustra said he was there as an “observer only” and there was “no discussion” of the deal with Mr. Nazarbayev or Mr. Clinton. But Moukhtar Dzhakishev, president of Kazatomprom, said in an interview that Mr. Giustra did discuss it, directly with the Kazakh president, and that his friendship with Mr. Clinton ‘of course made an impression.'”
5. A few months after the Kazakh deals were finalized, Clinton’s charitable foundation received a $31.3 million gift from Giustra. (The relationship was further cemented in 2007 with the creation of the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative.)
6. Later in 2005, in December, Nazarbayev won re-election with a dictatorial 91% of the vote in an atmosphere described by the very OSCE that Nazarbayev meant to lead as tained by “an atmosphere of intimidation” and “ballot-box stuffing.” Bill Clinton sent Nazarbayev a congratulatory letter stating, sickeningly, “Recognizing that your work has received an excellent grade is one of the most important rewards in life.” More on the repressive power consolidation from the Wall Street Journal here.
7. Eleven months previous to Clinton’s atta-boy to a Soviet bloc dictator, a Congressional commission sent a letter to the U.S. State Department opposing Kazakhstan’s bid to head the OSCE, saying it “would not be acceptable” and cited “serious corruption.”
8. The letter was signed by Hillary Clinton. That’s all, folks!