Former ambassador Joseph Wilson claims he was “deeply involved” in helping a company for which he was consulting obtain a federal contract in 2010 from a small federal agency then chaired by his longtime friend, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In an Oct. 15 court filing for his lawsuit against Symbion Power, a U.S.-based company which operates power plants in Iraq, Afghanistan and Tanzania, Wilson asserts that he “was directly and deeply involved on behalf of Symbion in pursuing and developing the business opportunities for Symbion, including the Millennium Challenge Fund.”
As TheDC has extensively reported, Wilson lobbied Clinton heavily in late 2009, months before Symbion obtained more than $90 million worth of contracts for a plant in Tanzania from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an independent federal foreign aid agency that is chaired by the secretary of state.
MCC operates Millennium Challenge Funds in numerous developing nations to help build out their infrastructure to fight poverty.
Wilson’s claim is the first time he’s taken credit for influencing MCC’s decision-making process in favor of Symbion, raising questions over just how effective he was in obtaining Clinton’s influence and help.
The Democratic presidential front-runner faces intense scrutiny over apparent conflicts of interest involving friends and donors to her family’s charity, the Clinton Foundation. Wilson falls into the former category. He served as ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe during Bill Clinton’s presidency. He also served as special assistant to Clinton for Africa affairs from 1997 to 1998. The career diplomat maintained his close ties to the Clintons even after entering the private sector and endorsed then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton for president in 2008.
Months after taking the consulting job with Symbion in June 2009, Wilson emailed Clinton — both direct to her personal email address and through their mutual friend, Sidney Blumenthal — to make her aware of Symbion’s interests in Tanzania.
“We will be bidding on all of the upcoming MCC financed power generation and distribution projects,” Wilson wrote of Symbion in an Oct. 6, 2009 email to Clinton via Blumemthal. Clinton forwarded the email to her aides, writing “Pls be sure I see Joe.”
Wilson referenced speaking to Clinton in a follow-up email he sent to her on Nov. 10, 2009, again through Blumenthal and again touting Symbion, which was founded in 2005.
“We are certain that our approach to project development and execution will mesh nicely with African needs and U.S. policy priorities,” Wilson assured Clinton, also referencing a four-minute video he passed to her through Blumenthal.
In August and September 2010, MCC awarded Symbion the Tanzania contract. Clinton appeared along with Symbion’s CEO Paul Hinks and MCC’s CEO Daniel Yohannes at Symbion’s facility in Dar es Salaam in June 2011. It is unclear how MCC’s approval process unfolded. Meeting records listed on the agency’s website do not stretch back to that period, though emails sent to Clinton during that time frame do show MCC meetings listed on her schedule.
NEXT PAGE: Symbion Downplays Wilson’s Efforts
Wilson also emailed Clinton directly on July 20, 2011 asking her to intervene on Symbion’s behalf with General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt over a dispute involving payment guarantees for plant equipment. It is unclear what actions Clinton took, if any. (RELATED: Hillary Clinton Intervened In Business Dispute After An Email From Ex-Ambassador Joseph Wilson)
The State Department’s most recent Clinton email release also includes email exchanges from 2012 in which Wilson and Clinton discussed meeting for dinner with Blumenthal and his wife, in part to discuss Symbion.
Wilson’s lawsuit against Symbion does not center on his involvement with Clinton or MCC. Those connections are mentioned only to bolster his claim that he was an integral part of Symbion’s success. Instead, he is suing the company, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C., for fraud and breach of contract. He claims that he is owed $280,000 in contracting fees. He was paid $20,000 a month.
In his initial claim, Wilson stated that he and Hinks, Symbion’s CEO, agreed that “his duties would include, among other things, working to assist [Symbion] in creating relationships with the United States government and African governments and businesses that would enable the Defendants to obtain contracts to construct electricity generation and transmission facilities.” (RELATED: Ex-Ambassador’s Joseph Wilson’s ‘Embarrassing’ Emails To Hillary Are Part Of A Bitter Legal Battle)
MCC and Clinton were not mentioned in the initial filing.
In its counterclaim, Symbion downplayed Wilson’s efforts.
“During the entire period of Wilson’s employment with Symbion, he failed to deliver any new business for Symbion Power LLC in Africa or any other part of the world,” the counterclaim reads.
Symbion also mentioned Wilson’s emails to Blumenthal and Clinton, calling them “embarrassing.”
The revelation of those exchanges “led to utterly inaccurate speculation in a certain sector of the press that Wilson’s relationship with Secretary of State Clinton had something to do with the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation awarding Symbion Power LLC contracts to build transmission and distribution lines in Tanzania,” Symbion wrote in its counterclaim.
“Wilson played no part in the bids for these projects and Secretary Clinton was never involved in the procurement process,” the document reads.
But besides asserting that he was not only “deeply involved” in pursuing Symbion’s business opportunities with the Millennium Challenge Fund, Wilson says in his latest filing that he also helped the company with other power plant commissionings and purchases in both Tanzania and Nigeria.
“Mr. Wilson also affirmatively states that he was the lead official of Symbion in meetings that led to several of Symbion’s agreements in Tanzania and Nigeria and that neither Mr. Hinks nor others of Symbion were in attendance at those meetings,” the filing states.
In a statement to TheDC, Symbion called Wilson’s lawsuit “spurious” and says that his claim that he played a role in the MCC award is “false.”
Symbion also stated that it does not consider Wilson’s contact with Clinton to be the type of lobbying that would be required for disclosure to the federal government.
“None of his emails to Secretary Clinton can reasonably be read as an attempt to influence a decision by her that would benefit Symbion. Perhaps this is the case for Joe Wilson on a personal basis, but not for the company,”
Symbion said that it would have been “practically impossible” for Wilson to have influenced government officials regarding the Tanzania project because the award process “was administered by its officials in Tanzania and not from Washington D.C.”
A spokeswoman for MCC rebutted Wilson’s claim, telling TheDC that while MCC staff oversees Millennium Challenge Account procurements, MCC’s board of directors is not involved in the decision-making process.
The spokeswoman also said that MCC is not aware of any communication between the agency and the State Department on the Tanzania project. Symbion received the highest combined technical and financial score on the procurement evaluations, she said.