Norwegian Networking: Oslo Greases Clinton Foundation With Lavish Gifts

© AP Photo / Bebeto MatthewsNorway's Minister of Foreign Affairs Borge Brende, left, and former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, confer during the Cookstoves Future summit, Friday Nov. 21, 2014 in New York.
Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs Borge Brende, left, and former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, confer during the Cookstoves Future summit, Friday Nov. 21, 2014 in New York. - Sputnik International
For many years, Norway has enjoyed a close relationship with possible US president Hillary Clinton and so it was no surprise that Oslo emerged as one of the most generous contributors to the Clinton Foundation. Many believe the Nordic country used its lavish donations to curry favor with the presidential candidate.

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Since 2007, Norway has signed agreements providing a total of 640 million kroner (roughly 80 million dollars) to projects the Clinton Foundation operates and thus became one of its biggest contributors, on par with such controversial donors such as Saudi Arabia. Presently, these "gifts" are becoming a significant issue in the US election, as Republican candidate Donald Trump has already attacked the Clinton family on the grounds that it was supposedly financed by foreign governments.

According to Craig Holman of the Public Citizen Foundation, which has been campaigning for greater transparency in the US election campaign, foreign governments are using donations to secure the favor of the Clintons.

"These are influence attempts in their purest form, and the Clinton family seems to be quite open to them," Holman explained in an email to the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

"Support from Norway and other major donors will be seen as a measure to buy influence, regardless of whether buying influence was the real motive or not," Stephen Gillers, law professor at New York University and one of America's leading experts on legal ethics, said as quoted by Aftenposten.

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Iver B. Neumann, Norway's foremost expert on diplomacy and professor at the London School of Economics, said that he has given up attempts to distinguish between idealism and "real politics" in Norwegian foreign policy.

"When Norway looks down into its foreign policy toolbox, it turns out to have not much else than money," he explained, adding that Norway uses lavish donations to buy access to "The Clintons."

According to Neumann, such "networking" happens all the time. The problem is that Norway does it so openly, which may possibly backfire. A few years ago, it emerged that Norway supported the US Brookings Institute think-tank in Washington. This was later used by the Republicans who argued that the Democrat think-tank was supported by foreign governments.

"It is not unreasonable to assume that Norway has been using donations to US institutions to gain political influence," Ottar Mæstad, director at the Christian Michelsen Institute in Bergen, said.

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The Clinton Foundation was founded by Bill Clinton in 2001, shortly after leaving the White House. Between 2013 and 2015 it was called the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, but changed its name to the Clinton Foundation in 2015, when Hillary launched her presidential campaign.

Over the years, the Clinton Foundation, which is primarily funded through donations, has repeatedly come under fire for its lack of transparency. Recently, Hillary Clinton blasted the hidden financial dealings exposed by the Panama Papers leak, but she and her husband Bill proved to have multiple connections with people who have used the criminal law firm Mossack Fonseca to establish offshore entities.

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