By: Benjamin Weingartin
Peter Schweizer’s “Clinton Cash” links Bill and Hillary Clinton through their work at the Clinton Foundation and State Department to all manner of unsavory characters, including authoritarian leaders, African warlords and businessmen with dubious backgrounds, in addition to more respectable Clinton political operatives and supporters who in Schweizer’s writing paid the Clintons and enriched themselves by way of projects supported by the Clintons.
One Clinton-linked transaction however implicates another figure: presumed 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush.
In a chapter titled “Disaster Capitalism,” Schweizer explores the dealings of the Clinton Foundation — in league with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — in Haiti following the devastating January 2010 earthquake that claimed the lives of approximately 230,000 people.
In the wake of the disaster, the Clintons immersed themselves in the relief effort, helping procure and allocate funds towards activities such as cleaning debris, fixing roads, and arranging deals for things like building telecommunications infrastructure and constructing homes, with varying degrees of success but almost universal financial rewards for those connected in one way or another with the Clintons.
It is in the area of home construction where former Florida Governor Jeb Bush appears.
Clinton supporter and former Democratic presidential candidate General Wesley Clark traveled to Port-au-Prince Haiti in the wake of the earthquake to lobby Haitian president René Préval for a home-building contract for a south Florida company in which Clark was a board member called Innovida.
One of Clark’s colleagues on the Innovida board was Jeb Bush.
What would happen to Innovida serves as a microcosm of what Schweizer dubs the “Clinton Blur” between philanthropy, politics and business.
As Schweizer tells it:
[Wesley] Clark was a big cheerleader for the company [Innovida]. “It can do more for housing in Haiti, better and faster, than any other technology out there,” he said. Innovida’s ties to the Clintons ran even deeper than Clark. According to the South Florida Business Journal, Innovida’s CEO Claudio Osorio was a “big fundraiser” for the Hillary 2008 campaign and had contributed to CGI.
Innovida had little track record of actually building homes. Yet the company saw its project fast-tracked by the Haitain government and the State Department. Innovida received a $10 million loan from the US government to build five hundred houses in Haiti.
Sadly, the houses were never built. In 2012 Osorio was indicted and convicted of financial fraud. Prosecutors would later accuse Osorio, who drove a Maserati and lived in a Miami Beach mansion, of using the money intended for relief victims to “repay investors and for his and his co-conspirators personal benefit and to further the fraud scheme.” He was ultimately sentenced to twelve years in jail. Innovida collapsed.
Of Bush’s involvement with Innovida, Jim Geraghty at National Review wrote in a January 2015 post:
The Washington Post put an article about Jeb Bush’s ties to InnoVida on page A1 on Monday. The article was careful to state that “there is no evidence that Bush had any knowledge of the fraud.” The law-enforcement cases against the company mentioned Bush only in passing, describing him as out of the loop, basically a prop used to enhance the company’s stature. A 2012 Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit against the company, Osorio, and company CFO Craig Toll said that “to add an air of legitimacy to InnoVida, Osorio recruited a high-profile board of directors for InnoVida that included a former governor of Florida.”
Osorio’s lawyer, Humberto Dominguez, told the Post that “Bush had nothing to do with the scheme” and that Bush had been brought in only for his business connections. One of the company’s investors, Christopher Korge, told the paper that he was “impressed with Bush’s response” once serious questions of Osorio’s dishonesty were brought to his attention. According to a legal statement in U.S. bankruptcy court, Bush, on September 19, 2010, “severed all ties” to InnoVida, “expressing concerns over Debtors’ governance and urging the Debtors to adopt more professional transparent business practices, including obtaining audits by a national accounting firm.” This was about nine months after the company received the OPIC loan [a $3.3 million U.S. government loan to build and operate a panel-manufacturing facility in Haiti].
Still, Bush’s relationship with the company was relatively long and lucrative. According to the bankruptcy-court filing, from December 5, 2007, to September 16, 2010, InnoVida and Miami Worldwide Partners, an entity affiliated with the Osorios, collectively disbursed $468,901.71 in payments and expenses to Jeb Bush & Associates, the former governor’s consulting firm. In March 2013, Jeb Bush & Associates paid $270,000.00 to Soneet R. Kapila, the trustee attempting to return money to InnoVida investors who were defrauded. Bush’s firm admitted no wrongdoing, and asserted that it merely “provided services in good faith for reasonably equivalent value.”
… The legal documents paint a picture of Bush remaining out of the loop on all of the fraudulent activities of Osorio and the company, asking questions about the lack of audited financial documents, and then cutting ties when his questions weren’t answered adequately and investors raised questions about Osorio’s honesty.
But obliviousness to a business partner’s crimes isn’t a great look for an aspiring president. And it’s painfully easy to picture a future Republican rival, the DNC, or American Bridge PAC running an attack ad against Bush with the entirely accurate statement that “Jeb Bush spent years on the corporate board of a company that took government money and promised to help Haitian earthquake victims . . . and then turned around and spent it on themselves.”
Particularly relevant in context of “Clinton Cash” is how Geraghty concludes his post:
… [T]he idea of Osorio causing headaches for a potential GOP presidential candidate is ironic, in light of the fact that he and his wife were high-level Democratic-party fundraisers. The pair had hosted fundraisers for both Clintons and both Obamas, and in fact lamented to the Wall Street Journal that they had a bad experience at the 2008 Democratic National Convention:
Amarilis Osorio and her husband, Claudio, a Miami Beach, Fla., entrepreneur, decided at the last minute to attend the convention. The couple held a fund-raiser at their house earlier this month with Sen. Obama’s wife, Michelle, and raised $400,000. “We had to fly commercial — a private jet was too expensive,” said Ms. Osorio. “And our hotel room is dreadful.”
In 2013, the Clinton Foundation returned a $22,000 donation from Osorio.
Worthy of note is the fact that the Clintons and Bushes have developed a close rapport since Bill Clinton left office, as detailed in Daniel Halper’s “Clinton Inc.”
Peter Schweizer has indicated that he is currently probing Jeb Bush’s finances as part of his next project.
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