Less than a year after former ambassador Joe Wilson sent an email directly lobbying Sec. of State Hillary Clinton on behalf of a company he was consulting, a small governmental agency that Clinton chaired gave the firm, Symbion Power, a lucrative contract to help develop Tanzania’s power grid.
Wilson’s pitch, which was sent through Sidney Blumenthal, was among the thousands of Clinton emails released by the State Department on Tuesday.
In her capacity as secretary of state, Clinton served as chair of the board for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a federal agency started in 2004 to help develop projects in foreign countries. One of the countries MCC began to help in 2008, before Clinton’s tenure, is Tanzania, the east African nation to the south of Ethiopia.
By 2010, MCC began awarding contracts to energy companies as part of a $698 million compact with the Tanzanian government. And one of the beneficiaries of that agreement was Symbion, which was awarded a nearly $50 million contract in September 2010 to provide electricity throughout the country.
Wilson had just taken a job at Symbion as director in charge of the company’s Africa operations, he informed Clinton in a Nov. 10, 2009, email. The role fit Wilson, an expert on Africa who in 1992 was appointed by former President George H.W. Bush to serve Ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe. Bill Clinton brought Wilson on in 1997 as a special assistant and Africa advisor to the National Security Council.
Wilson left the White House in 1998 but maintained his ties to the Clintons upon entering the consulting world, where he leveraged his Africa connections.
Seeking new business for Symbion, Wilson asked Blumenthal, who emails show was in constant contact with Clinton, to forward his pitch to her. Blumenthal did so minutes later.
Though Clinton responded to Blumenthal shortly after, it is unclear what she said. Her response has been redacted and retroactively classified by the federal government citing national security concerns. That email exchange with Blumenthal is one of the 25 emails that were re-classified just before Tuesday’s release. (RELATED: Some Clinton Emails Have Been Retroactively Classified, Including A Business Pitch From Joe Wilson)
In his email, Wilson touted Symbion, which is headquartered in Washington D.C. and opened for business in 2005.
“As I wrote to you earlier, I am a director for Symbion Power and may soon assume more direct responsibility for all of Africa as Symbion expands there from its current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Wilson wrote.
He noted that Blumenthal had previously given Clinton a four minute video detailing that company’s “success in the most difficult and dangerous environments.”
“We now want to bring that business model and philosophy to Africa where the social entrepreneurship and the development of skilled labor is imperative for Africa’s long term economic prospects, as you have so forcefully articulated in past comments,” Wilson added.
“With our record of success elsewhere, we are certain that our approach to project development and execution will mesh nicely with African needs and U.S. policy priorities,” he concluded, before wishing Clinton and her family happy holidays.
After that lobbying effort — which is not included in any federal lobbying records maintained by the U.S. Senate — the Clinton-chaired MCC awarded Symbion a $47.7 million contract. North Carolina-based Pike Electric was awarded one for $17.9 million.
That contract was followed up with visible support from Clinton. She gave a speech at Symbion’s Dar es Salaam plant on June 12, 2011, where she was joined by MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes and Symbion CEO Paul Hinks. Clinton made no mention of Wilson during the event.