Investigative Group

EXCLUSIVE: London Think Tank McMaster Spent Decade Consulting For Sought Clinton Foundation Funding

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The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies — where former national security adviser H.R. McMaster spent 11 years as a consultant — submitted a $750,000 funding proposal to the Clinton Foundation in January 2011 while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, according to documents exclusively obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) filed the proposal with the foundation one month after Secretary Clinton delivered a keynote address before the think tank. Her speech was given top billing at the organization’s premier international event, called the “Manama Dialogue,” in the oil-rich Gulf state of Bahrain. The think tank highlighted her IISS Bahrain speech, and the Department of State published a transcript.

As an active duty officer, McMaster was a consultant for IISS between 2006 and 2017, leaving only when he joined the Trump White House as national security adviser. The general has come under withering criticism by former military commanders for his decade-long role with a foreign think tank that also accepts funding from foreign governments, including Russia and China. McMaster left the White House post Monday. (EXCLUSIVE: Outgoing National Security Advisor McMaster Worked For Foreign Think Tank Funded By China, Russia)

McMaster spoke before many of the foreign think tank’s forums, and was a featured speaker before the 2009 “Manama Dialog.”

The organization’s website boasts, “The IISS is a non-partisan organisation, independent of government and other bodies.”

But the proposal marked a tilt toward currying private favor with both Secretary Clinton and the Obama administration, according to a former member of the institute’s management team who agreed to speak to TheDCNF on the basis of anonymity.

“My take on the whole thing is that IISS’s CEO saw the Clinton Foundation as another opportunity to bring in more money in exchange for publishing politically suspect research,” he told TheDCNF in an interview.

“IISS had identified a desire within the U.S. administration to spread messages in support of its foreign policy goals. It is my understanding that the implied deal was that IISS would produce research which was broadly in support of the Obama administration’s strategic aims,” he continued.

The actual pitch to the Clinton Foundation described the hoped-for relationship as a “partnership proposal.”

“As Secretary Clinton has recognised in her public address to the Manama Dialogue, IISS’s research provides an original, authoritative and constructive analysis (‘a critical friend’) on many of the security and humanitarian challenges facing the United States in its work to provide international security,” the IISS proposal stated.

After the 2010 address by Clinton, the institute’s fundraising team met with the Clinton Foundation to create “a new strategic partnership,” according to the proposal.

“Following initial conversations with the Clinton Foundation, we are now proposing the creation of a new strategic partnership, through which the foundation will provide annual support of $250,000 per annum for the next three years to support IISS’s research work,” the proposal stated.

“The primary distribution channel for this research will be through our publication which are universally regarded as providing excellent independent, internationally sources information and commentary on events and issues of importance to national, regional and global security,” IISS stated in its proposal.

“This will be distributed to governments, international organizations and wider IISS membership to ensure the global security community is provided with the best possible objective information on relevant military and political developments.”

IISS promised the foundation it would create a new program on “conflict resolution” that would be used in private, backroom meetings with diplomats around the world. “This will include the development of ‘track two’ meetings around the world for ministerial and non-governmental agencies.”

“Track two,” or track II, is understood in the diplomatic world to mean “back channel” meetings.

IISS also promised “tailored benefits” for the Clinton Foundation. “In return for supporting the institute’s research, the IISS will provide the Clinton Foundation with a range of tailored benefits commensurate with our highest-tier corporate membership package.”

These included “Private briefings from IISS experts on specific security issues in order to assist the Clinton Foundation in its own research,” and a notice: “business class and appropriate accommodation should be provided to IISS researchers.”

Another apparent perk: “Ten sets a year of the Institute’s publications.”

In the proposal, the institute said its CEO, John Chipman,” would be “honored” to meet with foundation representatives about the proposal.

“The institute’s director-general and chief executive would be honoured to meet formally with senior representation from the foundation to discuss the development of an effective, mutually-beneficial partnership and the parameters of the foundation’s support,” the funding proposal concluded.

Though the Clinton Foundation eventually rejected the proposal, the institute embraced many Obama foreign and military policies.

“As you know, IISS went on to produce favorable research on the Iranian nuclear deal,” the former management team member told TheDCNF. “I suspect Chipman hoped that – if they started putting out publications which the Obama administration  favored – the Clinton Foundation might see the value of funding IISS.”

The institute’s worldview conformed to the Obama administration’s views on trade, Israel and Syria, the source added.

Indeed, the institute warmly welcomed many Obama administration officials. One of its most visible recruits is Jonathan Stevenson, who from 2011–2013 served as Obama’s National Security Council director for political–military affairs, Middle East and North Africa.

IISS confirmed it had sent the proposal to the Clinton Foundation, saying in an email statement to TheDCNF, “All IISS fundraising with governments, private companies, foundations and high-net-worth individuals is consistent with the Institute’s values of independence and excellence.”

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