Bill Clinton signed a nearly $18 million contract to work as an "honorary chancellor" and consultant at a for-profit college just months after then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited a representative from the company to a State Department dinner on higher-education policy.
Hillary Clinton pressed for the inclusion of a Laureate International Universities official at the August 2009 dinner that included leaders from a community college and church-funded institution, writing in an email to her chief of staff that the company was started by businessman Doug Becker, "who Bill likes a lot," the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
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Bill Clinton was brought onto Laureate nine months later, earning $17.6 million over five years. The contract expired in 2015 as Hillary Clinton began her presidential campaign.
The Post reported:
There is no evidence that Laureate received special favors from the State Department in direct exchange for hiring Bill Clinton, but the Baltimore-based company had much to gain from an association with a globally connected ex-president and, indirectly, the United States’ chief diplomat. Being included at the 2009 dinner, shoulder to shoulder with leaders from internationally renowned universities for a discussion about the role of higher education in global diplomacy, provided an added level of credibility for the business as it pursued an aggressive expansion strategy overseas, occasionally tangling with foreign regulators.
"A lot of these private-education guys, they’re looking to get into events like this one," Sam Pitroda, a higher-education expert who represented a policy commission from India at the State Department dinner, told the Post. "The discussion itself is irrelevant … It gets you very high-level contacts, and it gets you to the right people."
The Laureate deal further illuminates the overlaps between the Clintons’ charitable work, private lives, and political aspirations. It also reveals the extent to which Bill Clinton "leveraged the couple’s connections … to enhance their personal wealth" while his wife worked at the State Department, according to the Post.
In all, Bill Clinton earned $65.4 million during Hillary Clinton’s four-year tenure as secretary of state from speaking, consulting, and writing fees, according to the couple’s tax returns.
The State Department’s ethics office approved Bill Clinton’s contract with Laureate, finding "no conflict of interest" with the for-profit college, according to a letter released by conservative group Citizens United.
Becker, the company’s founder, had meanwhile donated to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and gave $2,700 to her current 2016 bid. Laureate has contributed between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, and pledged millions of dollars through the Clinton Global Initiative.
Becker has described the company’s relationship with the Clintons as a "symbol of its legitimacy rather than the result of a business deal," the Post reported.
During a 2010 appearance at a Laureate campus in Malaysia, Becker read a statement from the country’s education minister announcing, "there must be something very special about Laureate that has inspired President Clinton to devote his energy to such an endeavor."