Chalk it up to a small world or to a tangled web, but Uranium One, the Russian-owned uranium mining company at the center of a recent scandal involving the Clintons and a close Canadian business partner, has lobbied the State Department through a firm co-founded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign chairman.
Uranium One paid The Podesta Group $40,000 to lobby the State Department, the Senate, the National Park Service and the National Security Council for “international mining projects,” according to a July 20, 2012 filing.
Clinton left the State Department on Feb. 1, 2013.
And according to a disclosure filed April 20, Uranium One spent $20,000 lobbying the Senate and State Department on the same issue.
The Podesta Group was founded in 1988 by brothers Tony and John Podesta. Tony Podesta now heads the group while John Podesta, who has not worked for the family business for years but has been involved in plenty of other projects, leads Hillary Clinton toward a Democratic nomination.
Uranium One is significant because it fell under the corporate control of Rosatom, Russia’s atomic energy agency, through a series of transactions approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department. Rosatom’s acquisition of Uranium One effectively gave Russia control of 20 percent of uranium in the U.S.
How all of that came to pass has fostered questions about how the Clintons operate their charity, the Clinton Foundation.
The Uranium One story starts in 2005 when Canadian mining magnate Frank Giustra and several business partners came to own a small mining company called UrAsia Energy.
Clinton flew with Giustra in September 2005 on a private jet to Kazakhstan. There, the mining tycoon negotiated with that nation’s mining agency, Kazataprom, for rights to three mines. After Clinton appeared publicly in support of Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had just allegedly won an election with more than 90 percent of the vote, the mining deal was approved.
Months later, Giustra donated $31 million to the Clinton Foundation with a pledge of $100 million more.
In 2007, UrAsia Energy, with its access to Kazakhstan’s lucrative mines, merged with South Africa’s Uranium One in a $3.5 billion deal.
Giustra sold his stake in the company soon after, pocketing a tidy profit. But other investors and executives with close ties to Giustra maintained their interests and donated millions more to the Clinton group.
As money was flowing to the Clinton Foundation, the State Department, which came under the control of Hillary Clinton in January 2009, approved a series of transactions that allowed Russia’s Rosatom to buy up shares in Uranium One. By June 2009, Rosatom had a 51 percent stake in the company.
With that majority hold, the Russian energy company effectively gained control of 20 percent of the uranium in the U.S.
Rosatom has since taken complete control of Uranium One. And while there is little risk that the metal being pulled out of U.S. soil poses a direct threat to U.S. national security, it does give Russian President Vladimir Putin control of a major source of energy amid cooling diplomatic relations.
Though Uranium One’s corporate progression has the appearance of pay-for-play, the Clintons and Giustra have denied doing anything wrong. In his capacity as Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta has gone on the offensive, dismissing the notion that the Clintons have done anything illegal or unethical as a conspiracy theory.
But as evidence of just how complex the Clinton Foundation’s activities are, the website Vox.com published an exhaustive list of 181 Clinton Foundation donors who also lobbied the State Department during Hillary Clinton’s tenure there.
Uranium One is not on the list. Neither is Giustra. Nor is Ian Telfer, one of Giustra’s Canadian associates who is the former chairman of Uranium One. He donated $2.35 million through his Fernwood Foundation to the Canadian wing of the Clinton Foundation, which is set up as a partnership with Giustra.
After it was revealed that the Clinton Foundation had not disclosed some of its foreign donations — such as Telfer’s — the organization announced it would be refiling some of its tax forms.