Former president Bill Clinton accepted more than £2.5 million in speaking fees from at least 13 major corporations and trade organisations that at the same time lobbied the USA state department whilst Hilary Clinton was Secretary of State. The fees were paid directly to Bill Clinton and not his philanthropic foundation.
Most level headed citizens would agree that it is a conflict of interests for corporations to simultaneously pay Bill Clinton million of dollars whilst lobbying his daughters state department to enact legislation that will favour these same corporations. Many of the companies that paid Bill Clinton his speaking fees – Microsoft, Goldman Sachs and Dell to name three – engaged him within the same three months in which they were also lobbying the government state department in pursuit of their policy aims. Several of these companies went on to recieve government contracts worth millions of dollars whilst Hilary Clinton led the institution.
For those of you that don’t know, lobbying is the act of seeking influence on an issue. For example, if a pharmaceutical company wanted to introduce a new drug to the UK public they would lobby the UK drugs watchdog ‘The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’ aka ‘NICE’. ‘NICE’ is a governmental department answerable to a democratically elected government official – the Secretary of State for Health. Therefore to lobby NICE is to lobby what are essentially state elected officials. Certainly the problem here is that the duty first and foremost of governmental officials should be to serve the public interest, however, as a consequence of lobbying, serving the public interest often comes second to the benefits that officials can themselves recieve from being lobbied.
To put this into a greater perspective, in 2014, American technology companies Google and Microsoft spent 5.35m and 4.23m respectively, lobbying European institutions.
There’s always a way around the rules
US federal rules discourage officials and their spouses from accepting gifts from interests ‘seeking officials action’ from a government agency. But according to Craig Holman, an advocate for tightened ethics structures at Public Citizen, a watchdog group in Washington, the rules do not apply to speaking fees.
“There isn’t an ethics rule that prohibits someone like Bill Clinton from charging exorbitant speaking fees and collecting those speaking fees from businesses that have interests before the administration.”
Although seen by many as something of an angel compared with the devil like Donald Trump, the vexing issues confronting Hilary Clinton’s presidential aspirations are the cosy relationships Clinton has with American corporations – it should be concerning not only to American citizens but also to citizens of the world that corporate influences are able to influence the most powerful government in the world by funneling money to the elected officials in power.
“The dynamic is insidious and endemic to this system,” said Meredith McGhee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, a campaign finance watchdog group in Washington. “The fact is that the wealthiest .01 percent on the outside of government believes — fervently — that by paying speaking fees, or making campaign contributions, that it can gain access and influence.”
And it can. Lobbying in the USA has been described as “a spectacular investment” leading to “blistering” returns. The activity of lobbying has been defined by a court ruling as ‘free speech’ and protected by the US constitution. Of course lobbying is not always malevolent. Another side of lobbying is making sure that others’ interests are duly defended against others’ corruption. For example, a medical association may lobby a legislature for increasing the restrictions in consuming alcohol laws whilst alcohol companies lobby to reduce them: the first regarding the consumption of alcohol as dangerous to health the second arguing it is part of freedom of choice. But lobbying becomes dangerous to the public when their interests are disregarded and due to this, Hilary Clinton should be seen as a dangerous president to the public, maybe even more of a danger than a president Trump would be.
The media war on Trump
Now let’s make no qualms about it, Donald Trump as President of the USA is a frightening prospect – his great wall building and Muslim banning policies are ludicrously scary. However, the constant berating of Trump in the mainstream press is hyocrisy in it’s fullest form. Trump is a right wing solution to a middle-right wing problem.
Here in Britain the media treat Donald Trump as the devil reincarnate – he is ridiculed, demonized and seen as a danger to world peace – it’s as if America hasn’t participated in dozens of wars since the end of the Second World War. It’s as if Nobel Peace Prize winner and current US president Barack Obama hasn’t been at war for a total of 2773 days – longer than any US president in history. By the way, as of today Obama has been in office for 2773 days. Yes, America has been at war throughout the time Obama has been president. Yet, whilst Obama very rarely sees his particularly malicious foreign policy decisions questioned, Trump, according to the media is the embodiment of evil and threatens the whole planet. The hypocrisy of the corporate media is astounding. Obama has conducted airstrikes on seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria. (That’s three more countries than George W. Bush bombed.) US combat forces are deployed on the ground in at least three different countries: Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Thankfully for American soldiers, Obama has withdrawn the number of military personnel on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan considerably. Instead, Obama is choosing to rely on technology; namely: drones. Or Assassination tools as some prefer to call them. The major criticism of drones is that they result in excessive collateral damage to put it mildly. According to a New York times article written in 2009 as well as statistics gathered from Pakistani sources; drone strikes have a hit rate of about 2%; this is 50 civilians for every militant killed. The New America Foundation estimates that for every 10 terrorists that are killed in drone strikes two civilian casualties follow. Whether this means drone strikes are becoming more accurate or not or whether statistics regarding drones are unreliable it’s hard to say. But Obama’s favour of drone warfare is likely to be passed down to the next US president be that president Trump or President Clinton.
No matter what happens between now and the end of Obama’s term as president, Obama will go down as the president who oversaw his country at war for the most amount of time than any American president in history, yet, Trump is the threat to world peace, right?