Clinton Foundation set-up fundraising arm in Sweden as Iran sanctions deliberated at Hillary's State Department

The Clinton Foundation followed Rahm Emanuel’s adage of never letting a crisis go to waste when Swedish companies faced potential blacklisting over sanctions on doing business with Iran. John Solomon ands Julie Riddell of the Washington Times report:

Bill Clinton’s foundation set up a fundraising arm in Sweden that collected $26 million in donations at the same time that country was lobbying Hillary Rodham Clinton’s State Department to forgo sanctions that threatened its thriving business with Iran, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Times.

The Swedish entity, called the William J. Clinton Foundation Insamlingsstiftelse, was never disclosed to or cleared by State Department ethics officials, even though one of its largest sources of donations was a Swedish government-sanctioned lottery.

As the money flowed to the foundation from Sweden, Mrs. Clinton’s team in Washington declined to blacklist any Swedish firms despite warnings from career officials at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm that Sweden was growing its economic ties with Iran and potentially undercutting Western efforts to end Tehran’s rogue nuclear program, diplomatic cables show.

This looks exactly like a shakedown racket. And it was not the foundation alone that profited enormously:

Mr. Clinton personally pocketed a record $750,000 speech fee from Ericsson, one of the firms at the center of the sanctions debate.

And the timing is very suspicious:

[Ericsson paid] the former president a record $750,000 for a speech in Hong Kong in November 2011, just weeks after Mrs. Clinton released the first sanctions list that excluded Ericsson and other Swedish firms.

Other remarkable coincidences in timing:

After the U.S. announced its sanctions list in 2011 and 2012 — which included no Swedish companies — the Clinton Foundation Insamlingsstiftelse saw an uptick in its fundraising, from about $3 million in 2011 to $9 million in 2012 to $14 million in 2013, according to data released by the Swedish Svensk Insamlings Kontroll.

The foundation is not exactly throwing open its records on the matter:

 The foundation, however, declined repeated requests to identify the names of the specific donors that passed through the Swedish arm.

A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign offered no comment or explanation despite two weeks of requests.

At issue was an expansion of sanctions, as Swedish companies, most particularly Volvo and Ericsson, were expanding their exports.

 The U.S. is allowed to penalize foreign firms — even if they are incorporated in countries that are U.S. allies -- under the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). Beginning in 2010, the Obama administration stepped up U.S. efforts to use ISA authorities to discourage investment in Iran and to impose sanctions on companies that insisted on continuing their business with Iran, according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

The State Department is required to report to Congress on ISA matters, which should be done every six months. The State report typically covers U.S. diplomatic concerns over which companies and countries may be interfering with U.S. policy by continuing their investments in Iran — much like the concerns that were coming out of Stockholm.

However, the State Department was slow in delivering its reports to Congress and placing them in the Federal Register as required by Section 5e of the ISA, which drew the concern of lawmakers that State wasn’t moving fast enough on making its sanction recommendations prior to the 2011-2012 formal announcements.

In February 2010, Mrs. Clinton testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the State Department’s ISA preliminary review was completed in early February and that some of the cases reviewed “deserve more consideration” and were undergoing additional scrutiny. The preliminary review, according to the testimony, was conducted, in part, through State Department officials’ contacts with their counterpart officials abroad and corporation officials.

That preliminary review hasn’t been made public, and the first like-report was posted to the Federal Registrar in 2012 with no company names specifically mentioned.

In other words, the problem just went away with no public footprints. Oh, and $26 million went to the foundation and three quarters of a million bucks went into Bill Clinton’s pocket.

There are lines of defense being offered. Most of the funds raised on Sweden come from two lotteries that are officially private corporations, but are highly regulated by the Swedish government. In a small country like Sweden with a tight establishment, the idea that these state-sanctioned entities had no understanding of what the national interest was in exports growing is laughable. Sweden must export to sustain its large and sophisticated corporations, and Iran was a promising market, especially because other nations were kept out of the market.

A second line of defense is the familiar “wonderful work the Clinton Foundation does” mantra, meaning purported work in Haiti (though nobody seems to think Haiti is exactly a model of effective philanthropy, what with people still living in tents years after the earthquake) and Africa, and not meaning putting Sidney Blumenthal on the payroll to operate a rogue intell service while promoting his own business.

This is a tangled web that gets fiendishly complex in its details. But the essence boils down to: threatened sanctions magically disappearing in the wake of massive payments to the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton.