Presidential campaigner Sen. Hillary Clinton often vocalizes about China on the stump for public consumption. Brought to you on YouTube, her complaints include unsafe Chinese imports—“Let’s be tougher on China going forward!” (Possibly carried away, she brings forth rhetorical offspring we never knew she had—referring to “my children having toys from China that are going to make them sick.”) Clinton has also spoken about human rights abuses in China. Possibly her single strongest statement as first lady came in 1995 when, speaking in China, she proclaimed that “women’s rights are human rights.”
But notwithstanding forceful speech about needing “to undercut the power the Chinese have over us,” the Clinton campaign has yet to clarify the nature and extent of the Clintons’ own financial ties with China. These ties go well beyond the longtime support of troubled fundraiser and alleged Ponzi schemer Norman Hsu, who raised over $800,000 to the Clinton campaign (which later pledged to return the contributions). They include two Chinese government-owned media entities, a California billionaire, and a former Clinton administration official with international connections.
The first of these more businesslike Clinton-China connections is California billionaire and ‘Hillraiser’ Ron Burkle, a high-end supporter who has raised over $100,000 for Hillary Clinton and who is reportedly paying $20 million to Bill Clinton as a settlement for Mr. Clinton’s services and ownership stake in Burkle’s private investment firm, The Yucaipa Companies.
In September 2007, Yucaipa agreed to purchase a major stake in Xinhua Finance Media, part of the Chinese government-owned media conglomerate Xinha. Under the deal, Chicago banker David Olson, a Yucaipa partner and Clinton supporter, became part of the board of Xinhua Finance Media as a director.
The benefits to Xinhua from the deal are apparent. The U.S.-listed securities of the overseas company rose to their highest level in more than three months after the announcement of the Yucaipa stake. The deal might not be a one-way street. A year before Burkle announced the purchase in Xinhua Finance Media, China’s Xinhua News Agency had instituted a demand that financial news services including Bloomberg and Reuters in China sell information through Xinhua.
This demand, the kind usually represented as communistic, anti-Western, or anti-free press, could dovetail neatly with some capitalist-running-dog interests.
Reporters for Xinhua, sensitive to a potential appearance of impropriety, have tried to balance coverage of the Clinton and Obama campaigns. The Clinton campaign has not responded to emailed questions and request for comment.
In March 2008, the Chicago Tribune reported another connection linking Bill Clinton with the Chinese news industry. Clinton was compensated for his support for an Internet company called Accoona, whose main partner is China Daily Information Co., a subsidiary of Chinese government-run China Daily, the country’s largest English-language newspaper.
Accoona, privately held, paid the former president with options for 200,000 shares of stock for the William J. Clinton Foundation. The Foundation sold the shares in 2006 for $700,000.
As the Tribune reported,
“Twice in the last year, Accoona filed, and subsequently withdrew, plans for a public offering, once on London’s AIM market and more recently in the U.S. on the NASDAQ exchange.
"Accoona’s prospectus for its aborted U.S. offering pointed to some of its difficulties. The company never had made a profit; a co-founder and major shareholder had pleaded guilty to a felony fraud charge; and Accoona’s key partner is a media company controlled by the Chinese government, which often is criticized for censoring the Internet....
"Accoona’s prospectus acknowledged that the company is subject to censorship by the Chinese government and that the “Ministry of Public Security has the authority to order any local Internet service provider to block any Internet Web site at its sole discretion.... Furthermore, we are required to report any suspicious content to relevant governmental authorities.”
China Daily put the Accoona search engine on the front page of its Web version.
A third and more personal China-Clinton connection is Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton’s National Security Advisor and recently a foreign policy advisor to the Clinton campaign. Samuel R. ‘Sandy’ Berger, as readers may recall, was the former Clinton national security chief who removed classified documents from a National Archives reading room in October 2003, shortly before Berger was to testify to the Independent 9/11 Commission. Berger reportedly took away one copy of five classified copies of a Millennial Plots report, produced for former counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke, in September 2003, and then took away the four remaining copies of the report the next month, stowing them first in his clothing and then at a nearby construction site.
Like Ron Burkle, Sandy Berger is listed as a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, the foundation established by former president Clinton which has funded his presidential library.
Berger’s recent role as foreign policy advisor in Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign extends his previous roles as a fixture in foreign policy for both Clintons. Already developing global connections, Berger was then-Arkansas governor Bill Clinton’s foreign policy advisor during his presidential campaign, became Assistant Transition Director for National Security during the 1992 Clinton-Gore transition, moved into the Clinton administration as Deputy National Security Advisor and then became NSA.
Even back during the Clinton administration, Berger apparently did not want China to get in trouble with his boss the then-president. He delayed for more than a year to inform Bill Clinton that China had acquired designs of U.S. nuclear warheads.
Extending his longtime global connections, Berger is now co-Chairman and co-founder of Stonebridge International, a DC-based advisory firm which has made substantial contributions to the Clinton campaign and which offers its services to help companies expand in foreign markets including China (and Russia, India and Brazil). Berger is also on the board of a New York-based international hedge fund, DB Zwim Global Advisory, headed by substantial Clinton donor Daniel B. Zwim, with subsidiaries and interests around the world including a large Singapore concrete company. Berger’s Stonebridge bio says, “He is involved across nearly all the firm’s engagements and regions, with a particularly strong focus on Asia, Russia and Central Asia and the Middle East.”
Globalizing and big donors go together, of course. But any role played by Bill Clinton in dealings between a Chinese state-owned company and a U.S. company should be vetted during a presidential campaign.
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This story was published on April 19, 2008.