Clintons understated support from firm hired by Russian nuclear company

The Clinton Foundation’s donor disclosure site vastly understated support that the Clinton Global Initiative received from APCO Worldwide, a global communications firm that lobbied on behalf of Russia’s state-owned nuclear company.

The site, created to detect conflicts of interest for Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE because of her family’s various charitable efforts, shows APCO gave between $25,000 and $50,000 over the last decade.

But according to interviews and internal documents reviewed by The Hill, APCO was much more generous and provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in pro-bono services and in-kind contributions to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) between 2008 and 2016.

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For instance, an internal CGI document prepared in fall 2011 lists APCO’s in-kind contribution at $275,000 for that year alone. And APCO’s annual report on its global charitable efforts boasted of a large jump in support for CGI in 2011.

“In 2011, APCO significantly increased its pro-bono support for CGI and, for the first time, our team managed the press around CGI’s America meeting, as well as its global Annual Meeting,” APCO stated in a report submitted to the United Nations Global Compact. 

The increase in the contributions came as APCO was paid $3 million in 2010 and 2011 to work for Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear company. Rosatom paid APCO to lobby the State Department and other federal agencies on behalf of its Tenex subsidiary, which sought to increase its commercial uranium sales in the United States.

In 2010 and 2011, APCO made more than 50 contacts with federal and congressional figures for Tenex, including at least 10 at the State Department, its foreign agent disclosure reports show.

APCO officials estimate their total cash support for CGI totaled $45,600 and their in-kind support to CGI exceeded $1 million since 2008. They also acknowledged that the firm’s pro-bono work increased significantly in 2011 while it worked for Tenex. But they insisted there was no connection between the professional and pro-bono work because separate units of the firm handled each.

“APCO Worldwide’s activities involving client work on behalf of Tenex and The Clinton Global Initiative were totally separate and unconnected in any way,” Executive Chairwoman and Founder Margery Kraus wrote in a statement to The Hill. “All activities on these two unconnected activities were appropriate, publicly documented from the outset and consistent with regulations and the law. Any assertion otherwise is false, unfounded and a lie.”

Hillary Clinton’s spokesman Nick Merrill told The Hill that the former secretary never met with APCO officials during her tenure and that no donations to her husband’s charitable effort ever influenced policy decisions inside State.

He added that renewed interest in Russian nuclear policy during her tenure was simply “more of the right doing Trump’s bidding for him to distract from his own Russia problems, which are real and a grave threat to our national security.”

“At every turn this storyline has been debunked on the merits,” he said.

Merrill referred questions about donor disclosures to the Clinton Foundation.

Foundation officials insisted they never intended to hide APCO’s in-kind generosity, citing tweets and press releases and program acknowledgments that both organizations made between 2008 and 2016 about their collaborations.

“The support of these and other sponsors, which has been widely disclosed through press releases, social media, promotional materials, and our website, has helped the Clinton Global Initiative improve the lives of over 435 million people in more than 180 countries around the world,” the Foundation said in a statement to The Hill.

APCO Executive Director Kent Jarrell said his firm’s pro-bono work involved a corporate membership to provide free media support to CGI for its various events and activities as well as to the many non-governmental organizations that made charitable commitments under the Clinton brand.

Jarrell said CGI received between 20 percent and 25 percent of all of the firm’s pro-bono generosity, and that the annual value grew as APCO invested more in global charitable efforts starting in 2010 when it joined the UN Global Compact. He declined to provide the annual amounts of in-kind support to CGI.

The donor disclosure site was set up under a special ethics agreement when Clinton became President Obama’s secretary of State. It declared that CGI was a part of the Clinton Foundation, acknowledged that CGI commitments included “in-kind contributions” and said that all donors to the Foundation would be disclosed annually even as CGI was to be spun off into its own entity.

“During any service by Senator Clinton as Secretary of State, the Foundation will publish annually the names of new contributors,” the December 2008 agreement stated.

But Foundation officials told The Hill that when put into practice, the agreement did not include the disclosure of in-kind and pro-bono donations to CGI, in part because the IRS doesn’t treat them as reportable charitable revenues. Only cash contributions to CGI were reported, the officials said.

While it did not disclose the in-kind donations on its disclosure site, CGI did monitor the value of such pro-bono services, its 2011 internal report shows.

In fact, APCO at $275,000 was the second largest in-kind contributor in 2011 listed in the document; the French financial giant Credit Agricole topped the list with an estimated $1 million in free rent for CGI that year.

Credit Agricole — which in 2015 paid more than $780 million to settle U.S. allegations it violated sanctions against Cuba, Iran and  Burma — does not appear on the Clinton Foundation’s $1 million-plus donor disclosure list at all. But Foundation officials said the French firm’s generosity began in 2006, and like APCO, was acknowledged in various literature at events. They acknowledged the financial institution’s free rent saved CGI millions of dollars in expenses over the years.

The fact that APCO’s support for CGI was undercounted could raise questions about the thoroughness of Hillary and Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMueller’s probe doesn't end with a bang, but with a whimper Mark Mellman: History’s judgment Congress should massively ramp up funding for the NIH MORE’s conflicts disclosures as well as the attractiveness of their foundation and of CGI to special interests seeking to curry favor with the State Department.

Multiple congressional committees are planning to interview undercover FBI informant William Campbell about what he knows about Rosatom’s efforts to get the Obama administration to make it easier to win more commercial uranium sales inside the United States.

Campbell helped the FBI uncover a massive racketeering scheme that included bribery, kickbacks, money laundering and extortion that involved Tenex’s main official in the United States, Vadim Mikerin, and executives of an American trucking company that transported Russia’s uranium. They pled guilty to charges in 2015.

Congressional Republicans won permission to interview Campbell after The Hill reported last month that the informant reported to the FBI the first illegal activities by Russian nuclear officials in November 2009, a year before the Obama administration began making a series of decisions favorable to Rosatom.

The revelation has led Republicans to question whether the Obama administration ignored the evidence of criminal activity while making favorable decisions to Russia, and whether decisions helping Rosatom were influenced by personal speech fees paid to former President Bill Clinton and charitable donations to the CGI.

Republicans have been particularly focused on the decision in 2010 by the multi-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to approve the purchase by Rosatom’s ARMZ subsidiary of a Canadian mining company called Uranium One that had significant uranium assets inside the United States. 

APCO told The Hill it had nothing to do with the Uranium One transaction, and its lobbying disclosure reports make clear its work was focused on another part of Russia’s uranium ambitions: making it easier for Tenex to win commercial deals with American utilities to buy Russian uranium.

APCO has never been accused of any wrongdoing in its dealings with Tenex, and it said it was never contacted by the FBI about its work for the Russian company. Summaries of Campbell’s debriefings with the FBI about the case did not allege any wrongdoing by the lobbying firm but did report on some of APCO's activities. 

Campbell’s lawyer told The Hill the former informant is prepared to testify to Congress as early as next month that he was told by top Russian officials that APCO was hired specifically because it had close connections to the Obama administration and the Clintons. 

“His Russian counterparts made clear to him they valued APCO’s connections to the Clinton Global Initiative and expected it to grow while the firm was working for Tenex,” attorney Victoria Toensing said. “And he reported those conversations back to the FBI.”

APCO denies any such claim, telling The Hill that it approached Tenex and made a proposal for the work. It said the budget was not provided by Tenex but was negotiated after the scope of its work for the company was discussed.

Recently released documents show Hillary Clinton and her top staff considered at least one APCO lobbyist, former career ambassador Elizabeth Jones, for two top jobs.

“At Friday's meeting, Hillary made clear Beth Jones was her first choice for Ambassador to Iraq. Since I don't know her, we agreed that I should meet with her today or tomorrow,” then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote Clinton confidant John Podesta in a 2009 email later published on WikiLeaks.

Emails released under FOIA in recent days to the conservative watchdog group Citizens United show Clinton’s top aides successfully vetted her in 2011 to become a special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Between spring 2010 and fall 2011, APCO was paid approximately $3 million from Rosatom’s Tenex subsidiary to make the case for expanded Russian uranium business inside federal agencies and Congress, according to the contract it disclosed in its foreign agent disclosure reports to the Justice Department and its lobbying disclosure reports to the U.S. Senate.

The firm made more than 50 contacts with federal and congressional figures, including 10 involving senior officials inside Clinton’s State Department, the records show. The contacts ranged from “promoting US-Russian civilian nuclear partnership” to attempts at freeing Russia from “anti-dumping” restrictions imposed on its uranium business.

The lobbying firm also helped promote a U.S. visit in 2011 by former Russian Prime Minister Sergey Kirienko, the then-top official at Rosatom, the records show.

Several contacts were with House and Senate Republicans whom the Russians worried were cool or distrustful of expanded nuclear cooperation with Moscow. Two of the lobbyists on the account had worked previously in national security positions inside George W. Bush’s administration, the records show.

Though its client was Tenex, APCO officials told The Hill that the company had little contact with Mikerin, who pleaded guilty in 2015 to a corruption charge stemming from the FBI bribery probe.

Jarrell said APCO had only a couple of brief encounters with Mikerin and that the firm mostly dealt with his bosses back in Russia.

Mikerin was tasked with forming Tenex’s new American office called Tenam. APCO’s lobbying records show the firm helped create a Web site for Tenam and a press release announcing the new American subsidiary.

An invite list Campbell provided to the FBI also shows a couple of APCO executives attended the grand opening celebration of Tenam’s office in suburban Washington in October 2010.

APCO officials said they were hired to clear the way for progress around Obama administration decisions that included restoring the civilian cooperation agreement and freeing the Russian state-controlled company from Cold War-era export restrictions. They were also to allay concerns inside Congress about Russia growing its uranium business inside the United States.

This all took place as as Obama and Secretary Clinton made a stab at thawing relations with Russia as part of the “reset” strategy.

“Tenex was the single largest supplier of U.S. energy through the 'megatons for megawatts' agreement of the 1990s. The pending expiration of that agreement and the scale of the market opportunity in the U.S. (exemplified by the Obama Administration’s decision to extend loan guarantees) meant that Tenex would need to compete in a new market on standard commercial terms,” APCO’s Kraus said in her statement to The Hill.

Between 2010 and 2012, Rosatom reported in its annual reports that it had scored more than $10 billion in new uranium sales agreements with U.S firms during the "reset.”  

Clinton Ethics MOU by M Mali on Scribd

2011 CGI Report by M Mali on Scribd