Hillary’s Hezbollah-Friendly Donor

Pro-Syrian Lebanese billionaire donates to Clintons, decries 'Zionist Lobby'

Issam Fares and Hillary Clinton / AP
March 16, 2015

The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from a former deputy prime minister of Lebanon known for defending Hezbollah, according to a Washington Free Beacon analysis.

Issam Fares, a  Lebanese billionaire who has established himself in the United States as a prominent philanthropist, has given between $1 and $5 million in donations to the Clintons’ foundation with donations coming as recently as last year, according to a public donor disclosure list on the foundation’s website.

Fares was a part of the pro-Syria government of Prime Minister Omar Karami during his tenure as deputy prime minister between 2000 and 2005.

"It seems the Zionist lobby in the United States and its agents in the region were displeased and worried that certain Lebanese and Arab personalities have a friendly relationship with some senior officials of the new American administration," Fares was quoted as saying in a 2001 statement after questions were raised about his relationship with incoming U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Fares decried comparisons drawn between the terrorist organization al Qaeda and Hezbollah after the September 11 terror attacks.

"It is a mistake to make a comparison between the [Al Qaeda] network … which Lebanon has condemned, and Hezbollah, which Lebanon considers a resistance party fighting the Israeli occupation," Fares told Agence France-Presse. "Hezbollah did not carry out any resistance operation against American interests in Lebanon or abroad and did not target civilians in its resistance activities as happened on Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center."

Fares expanded upon his defense of Hezbollah during a 2004 speech to the United Nations. Fares also acknowledged that Syrian forces were in their territory at the request of the government—despite calling for all non-Lebanese forces to leave Lebanon.

"It is also the policy of Lebanon to support the National Resistance Movement [Hezbollah] which has played an important role in forcing Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon," Fares said during his address.

One year later, Fares would leave the Lebanese government.

Fares, now a U.S. citizen, picked an old Clinton hand to lead a U.S.-based company that he founded while he was still in Lebanon.

Fares founded the Wedge Group, a Houston-based investment firm, while serving in the Lebanese parliament. He accrued a majority of his wealth through international business deals, preferring to focus on hotels and resorts, engineering and construction, and oil and gas services.

Shortly after the formation of the Wedge Group, Fares tapped a Texan named Bill White to lead the company. At the time, White was just two years removed as President Bill Clinton’s deputy secretary of energy. Six years later, in late 2003, White stepped down from the position after being elected mayor of Houston.

Fares has founded dozens of corporations, sits on multiple boards of businesses and universities, and has cultivated many close relationships with prominent political leaders around the world including Republicans.

Tufts University in Massachusetts holds an annual multi-day lecture series focused on United States policy towards the Middle East. The series is supported by an endowment from the Fares Foundation and was implemented by Fares I. Fares, a graduate of Tufts and the son of Issam, who named the lecture after his father. Issam also sits on the university’s Board of Trustees.

Fares has not shown open support for Hezbollah at these lectures. Many world leaders and government officials holding various political ideologies have joined Fares for his annual event—including Bill and Hillary Clinton, both of whom spoken at the forum.

Bill Clinton was also present at the Fares Center for Lebanese and Eastern Mediterranean Studies inauguration ceremony in 2002 and once again in 2010, as he was honored alongside the former deputy prime minister and President George H.W. Bush.

The Clinton Foundation kept its donor list secret until 2008, after it was announced that Barack Obama wanted Hillary Clinton to serve as secretary of state and an agreement was made between the Obama transition team and the Clintons to unveil a list of donors.

The list provided a first look into the many foreign governments and overseas donors pumping money into the foundation. At the time, a total of between $20 and $65 million had been donated by foreign governments since 1997, including $10 to $25 million from Saudi Arabia, $5 to $10 million from Norway, and $1-5 million each from Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Brunei. Qatar is the foremost international sponsor of Hamas, the terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.

Also on the list was Issam Fares.

Requests for comment from Fares and the Clinton Foundation were not returned.