By Richard Pollock
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton violated federal ethics statutes by giving “preferential treatment” to wealthy political campaign donors and financial supporters of the Clinton Foundation, according to a formal complaint filed Friday by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust.
The non-profit government watchdog group filed the complaint with the Office of Government Ethics, asking it to conduct a “full investigation” into Clinton’s “apparent breach of ethics rules.” A copy of the complaint was exclusively obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The organization charged Clinton gave “preferential treatment to individuals with which she had financial ties” and “regularly granted access” to rich donors, celebrities, and even powerful foreign nationals.
The FACT complaint follows the State Department’s latest release of thousands of Clinton emails that she turned over to the government more than two years after leaving the office in 2013. She used a private email address and a home-brew server in her private New York residence to conduct official government business throughout her tenure.
The emails reveal rich details about how Clinton mixed government work with the worldwide network of wealthy and politically influential donors she and her husband have cultivated for decades. The emails were first publicly reported in March, 2015, by The New York Times. They are being released now in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, another non-profit government watchdog.
Clinton granted access to such people as billionaire George Soros, philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, designer Diane von Furstenberg and her husband Barry Diller, retired Citigroup Chairman Sanford Weill, real estate magnate Walter Shorenstein, former Loral CEO Bernard Schwartz and media mogul Haim Saban, according to appendices attached to the complaint.
Clinton met twice as Secretary of State with Soros and appointed his personal candidate as the U.S. Government’s special envoy to Albania during a period of political unrest in that country. Soros has given at least $2 million to super PACs supporting Clinton, according to the Washington Post.
“Georg Soros is anxious to see you before he leaves for Europe next Tuesday,” an aide wrote to Clinton in one of the emails. “Could I fit him in for tomorrow,” the aide asked. “Yes,” Clinton replied.
Melanne Verveer, a top aide who followed Clinton from the White House to the State Department, transmitted to her the views of Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch who married the daughter of former Ukrainian Communist president Leonid Kuchma.
The Clintons met Pinchuk, attending his 2014 annual conference at Livadia Palace, the last Russian czar’s summer retreat on the Black Sea. He has given at least $13 million to the Clinton Foundation, according to The New York Times.
Civic reform groups widely criticized Kuchma’s presidency as riddled with corruption and nepotism. The former communist leader was tainted with allegations by a Ukrainian prosecutor that he was tied to the grisly murder of a prominent anti-government journalist, whose headless and mutilated body was found in 2000.
FACT founder and former U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker charged in an interview with TheDCNF that Clinton “allowed insider access and pay-to-play politics” where donors to the Clinton Foundation and to her political campaigns received “regular access” to her office.
“There’s a growing narrative surrounding her in the way in which she does business,” he said. “Essentially if someone wants to have access to her, they need to be a significant donor to her political campaigns or to her philanthropic endeavors.”
Ironically, Title 5 was signed into law by President Clinton. The regulation became effective on Feb. 3, 1993, and was codified in 5 CFR, part 2635, the provision invoked by FACT in its complaint. The law directs OGE to establish a clear set of executive branch standards for ethical conduct and refer any violations to the Department of Justice.
Subpart B of the law cited by the organization prohibits employees “from soliciting or accepting gifts from prohibited sources or gifts given because of their official position,” according to the OGE’s website.
“The term ‘prohibited source’ includes anyone seeking business with or official action by an employee’s agency and anyone substantially affected by the performance of the employee’s duties,” according to OGE.
“When ethics officials find evidence that an employee has violated an ethics criminal statute or regulation, they must refer the that evidence to the appropriate authority for action,” according to the law.
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