A twelve-page document released by WikiLeaks late Wednesday shows how a shadowy consulting firm became the connective tissue between Clinton family insiders and deep-pocketed multinational corporations.
These documents make it clear that Bill Clinton’s ear was up for rent.
Now, a Daily Beast review of federal lobbying disclosure forms shows some of the same companies that hired Teneo and ponied up cash to the Clinton Foundation—including Dow Chemical and Coca-Cola—also found favor with the Hillary Clinton-led State Department.
It’s virtually impossible to find discrete examples of quid pro quos between Clinton Foundation donors, Teneo clients, and the Clinton State Department. But information in Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s hacked emails released by WikiLeaks shows that Teneo—a firm founded by a Clinton confidante—appeared to act as a doorkeeper for companies seeking special access to the Clinton network. Doug Band, who helped found Teneo in 2011, referred to the set-up as “Bill Clinton Inc.”
Meanwhile, federal lobbying disclosure forms show companies that hired Teneo also successfully lobbied the State Department while Hillary Clinton was there. It’s not clear whether these companies would have had such good fortune without being in Teneo’s orbit, but the emails suggest these relationships were cozier than previously known.
Teneo doesn’t publicly disclose its client list. But in July 2015, Fortune reported its clients included Alibaba, Coca-Cola, and Dow Chemical—all companies that gave generously to the Clinton Foundation and lobbied State during Clinton’s time there.
Alibaba lobbied the State Department in 2012 regarding intellectual property rights and “property protection on website and market in China,” according to its federal lobbying disclosures. Alibaba’s contributions to the Clinton Foundation have long drawn criticism because of the company’s alleged complicitness in Chinese government crackdowns on internet freedom.
“A former president of the United States received a donation from a Chinese firm that is involved in censorship, and now his wife is running for president,” exiled Chinese activist Harry Wu told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. “This is a shame of the U.S.”
Coca-Cola, another open-handed Clinton Foundation donor which would later become a Teneo client, also received favorable outcomes after lobbying the Clinton State department. Lobbying disclosures from 2010 show Coca-Cola lobbied the State Department and Department of Commerce regarding an excise tax in Pakistan on one of its ingredients. The Pakistani government later nixed that excise tax. It is unclear what exactly happened behind the scenes, but Coca-Cola got what it wanted.
In a similar instance, the company lobbied the State Department over an excise tax in Thailand that it didn’t want to pay. A leaked State Department cable revealed that the U.S. ambassador to Thailand, Eric G. John, raised the issue in a meeting with the country’s finance minister. The cable mentioned “specific efforts that assist U.S. firms Coca-Cola and Pepsi.”
According to the cable, then-Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva “reaffirmed that, if requested by Coca-Cola, the government should not disallow the U.S. company from increasing its prices.” It is unclear whether Coca-Cola continued to pay excise taxes after appearing to be granted a reprieve from the country’s prime minister.
Coca-Cola has donated between $5,000,001 and $10,000,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to the charity’s disclosures.
Dow Chemical is another Clinton Foundation donor that seems to have found favor with State. Its ties with Teneo run deep. The New York Times recently noted that Dow is Teneo’s most profitable client and that its CEO, Andrew Liveris, has visited the White House multiple times and co-chairs the president’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.
In emails released by the State Department earlier this month, Liveris asked senior Clinton aides to send a letter to then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh regarding the company’s acquisition of Union Carbide’s shares. Union Carbide owned and operated a chemical plant in Bhopal, India, and 17 years before the acquisition by Dow, the plant had a major gas leak that killed thousands of Indians.
Liveris wanted to keep Dow from being held liable for the incident. It isn’t clear whether State officials did what Liveris asked them to do, but the Obama administration never aided Indian efforts to punish Dow. Earlier this year, activists blamed the Justice Department for intervening on Dow’s behalf to keep the company from appearing in an Indian court.
Disclosure forms show that a Dow subsidiary, Dow Agrosciences, lobbied the State Department in 2011.
Glen Caplin, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said Clinton did not prioritize the needs of Foundation donors when she was secretary of state.
“The State Department has made clear that Hillary Clinton’s actions were made in the best interests of American foreign policy and that she never made decisions because of donations to the Clinton Foundation,” he said.
None of these companies mentioned above responded to requests for comment from The Daily Beast. By hiring Teneo, they helped enrich some of Bill Clinton’s top former aides; and keeping the Clintons close clearly wasn’t bad for business.