Another one of the Clinton Foundation’s major donors is drawing new scrutiny amid former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
A joint investigation by ABC News and Yahoo published Wednesday accuses the Clinton Foundation’s Global Initiative of “being hosted this week at a five-star luxury hotel in Morocco by one of the world’s most controversial mining companies.”
According to the report, the Moroccan government-owned mining company Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP) has been criticised for “serious human rights violations” by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice. The company reportedly operates in Western Sahara, disputed territory the Moroccan government seized after Spain withdrew in 1975.
The Washington Post reported that both human rights activists and US lawmakers have slammed OCP’s mining operation because it “does not have the consent of the indigenous population there.” ABC reported that OCP is “criticised for removing the resources without adequately compensating the impoverished people who live there.”
David McKean, a Kennedy Center official, said the inhabitants of Western Sahara are being “systematically suppressed.”
“OCP’s operations in Western Sahara are only appropriate under international law if they are acting in the best interests of the people of Western Sahara, and right now they are not,” McKeon told The Post. “The fact that OCP carries out its operations in Western Sahara so publicly seems intended to send the message that they feel they can do so with impunity.”
Accordingly, OCP’s financial support for the Clinton Foundation raises questions about whether it is trying to curry favour with the US government. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pennsylvania) called the arrangement a “blatant conflict of interest.”
“Morocco would like nothing more than having a possible future First Family condone its illegal exploitation of natural resources,” Pitt told The Post.
Indeed, according to ABC, OCP has has “sharply accelerated its lobbying of US government officials in recent years — more than quadrupling its spending — as the Moroccan government was pressing its case for sovereignty over Western Sahara.”
For its part, OCP defended both its operations in West Africa and its support for the Clinton Foundation. The firm told ABC that, despite its critics’ claims, it actually reinvests money into Western Sahara. OCP executives also reportedly said “their involvement in the Clinton Foundation was intended to help make phosphate-based fertiliser available to needy farmers in Africa — work the foundation has helped make possible.”
“We have good spots and bad spots, and when we have a bad spot we try and improve it as much as we can,” said the company’s spokesman. “That’s all I can say, I guess.”
The foundation also defended its connections to OCP by touting the nonprofit’s projects around the world.
“Our sponsors made it possible for hundreds of CGI members to come together in Morocco to launch new programs designed to help hundreds of thousands of people,” a foundation spokesman told ABC.
OCP is just the latest in a series of controversies related to the Clinton Foundation, some of which were spurred by a new book by conservative author Peter Schweizer, “Clinton Cash.” Schweizer accuses Hillary Clinton of trading State Department favours for money to her family foundation. Her campaign has aggressively dismissed Schweizer’s work as a unsubstantiated partisan smear.
However, as Schweizer himself likes to point out, a number of mainstream news organisations have investigated the foundation based on information in his book. Notably, The New York Times published an in-depth story linking undisclosed donations to the Clinton Foundation to the sale of US uranium production to a Russian government agency.