Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wall Street Journal: More Dirt From Clinton Foundation List

This sort of story would compromise Hillary from the get-go, were she to be confirmed as Secretary of State. From today's Wall Street Journal:
The Nigerian-born Mr. [Gilbert] Chagoury, whose family is Lebanese, has also been a financial supporter of Christian politicians and religious leaders in Lebanon, another potential diplomatic hot spot, say people familiar with that nation's political scene.

Mr. Chagoury and representatives for Mr. Clinton have repeatedly declined to comment on the two men's relationship. Following Thursday's disclosures by the Clinton Foundation, a spokesman for President-elect Barack Obama said Mr. Obama wouldn't be commenting on any of the donors.

Mr. Chagoury's ties to Mr. Clinton apparently began in the mid-1990s. The Clinton administration was being urged by human rights-activists and others to put severe sanctions on Nigeria because of the Abacha regime's practice of jailing and executing political opponents.

In August 1996, President Clinton dispatched then-Rep. Bill Richardson to Nigeria to lay out the U.S. government's concerns. In an interview earlier this year, Mr. Richardson, currently New Mexico's governor and President-elect Obama's nominee for commerce secretary, said that after a meeting with the dictator, he was taken to see Mr. Chagoury, who supposedly "had a lot of influence with Abacha." During an hour-and-a-half discussion over pizza at Mr. Chagoury's home, the businessman seemed sympathetic to U.S. complaints but noncommittal, Mr. Richardson said.

A few weeks later, prior to the 1996 U.S. presidential election, Mr. Chagoury contributed $460,000 to a tax-exempt voter-registration group connected to the Democratic National Committee. A 1997 Washington Post article said that Mr. Chagoury subsequently received an invitation to a White House dinner for Democratic Party supporters. He also met with Clinton administration officials on Nigeria and later talked privately about his efforts to influence U.S. policy toward that country, says a person familiar with the matter.

Over the years, business deals Mr. Chagoury has been involved with have been the subject of government investigations into suspected bribery by Western companies that do business in Nigeria, according to news reports. In 2004, Mr. Chagoury was among those whom Nigerian investigators sought to question about a gas-terminal deal, according to news reports. He hasn't been accused of wrongdoing in any of the investigations.

Despite any controversies, Mr. Chagoury has steadily built ties to Mr. Clinton. In 2003, he helped organize a Caribbean trip where the former president was paid $100,000 for a speech. Mr. Clinton has made over $40 million giving speeches around the world. According to news reports, Mr. Chagoury attended Mr. Clinton's 60th birthday bash two years ago in New York. He also joined the former president at the gala wedding celebration in France last year of Mr. Clinton's top aide, Douglas Band, say people who were there.

During the just-completed election campaign, a Chagoury relative, Michel Chaghouri of Los Angeles, was listed in campaign records as someone who raised at least $100,000 for Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign. Campaign records also show that Mr. Chaghouri raised money from a number of individuals named "Chagoury" or "Chaghouri" or "Chamchoum" -- Chamchoum is the maiden name of Gilbert Chagoury's wife. Several gave the federally allowed maximum of $4,600 each. Mr. Chagoury's name doesn't appear as a donor. As an apparent foreign national, Mr. Chagoury would generally be barred from giving to a U.S. presidential campaign.