State Department Emails Shed New Light On Clinton Crony’s Pitch For African Company

Chuck Ross | Reporter
  • Hillary Clinton’s emails as secretary of state have revealed that her longtime friend, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, lobbied her heavily on behalf of Symbion Power.
  • Soon after Wilson began contacting Clinton about Symbion, a foreign aid agency chaired by Clinton awarded the company $47 million in contracts to build a power plant in Tanzania.
  • A newly released email shows Clinton told Wilson she visited the power plant at his urging.

While serving as secretary of state in 2011, Hillary Clinton visited a power company in Africa at the urging of former Ambassador Joe Wilson, a longtime Clinton friend who happened to serve as a director at the company Symbion Power.

Emails released by the State Department since 2015 have showed Wilson lobbied Clinton heavily on behalf of Symbion, which he joined in June 2009. By September 2010, a foreign aid agency chaired by Clinton awarded Symbion a nearly $47 million contract to build a power plant in Tanzania.

But while Symbion and the agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), have downplayed Wilson’s influence on Clinton, an email recently released by the Department of State shows Clinton heard of the company through Wilson, the former ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe. Clinton also paid a diplomatic visit to Symbion’s facility in Tanzania at Wilson’s request.

“You did not oversell Symbion. I was very impressed by the project and the people who are part of the team. Thx for bringing the company to my attention and then pushing for me to make the stop,” Clinton wrote in an email to Wilson on June 12, 2011, just after a visit to Symbion Power’s energy plant in Dar es Salaam.

The State Department quietly released the email on Aug. 28. The documents appear to have been missing from the 30,000-plus emails that Clinton turned over to the State Department in December 2014. Clinton deleted another 30,000 emails from her private server, but many of the documents have been retrieved by the FBI. (RELATED: After An Email To Hillary, Company Directed By Ambassador Joe Wilson Was Awarded Africa Contract)

Sec. of State Hillary Clinton with Symbion CEO Paul Hinks (center) and MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes at Symbion Power plant in Tanzania, June 12, 2011. (MCC.gov)

Other emails show Wilson either contacted Clinton directly or via their mutual friend, Sidney Blumenthal. Some of the emails contained pleasantries about the others’ family, but most of Wilson’s outreach focused on Symbion, which was founded in 2005 by Paul Hinks.

“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 that was routed through Blumenthal.

Clinton appeared interested in the topic, writing to aides: “Pls be sure I see Joe.”

Wilson followed up with Clinton in a Nov. 10, 2009, email.

“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, noting that Blumenthal had previously given Clinton detailing Symbion’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,” added Wilson.

Clinton also forwarded one inquiry from Wilson to Jacob Lew, who served at the time as deputy secretary of state for management and resources. In the Dec. 22, 2009, email, Wilson pressed Clinton and Lew on the process to obtain U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contracts in Afghanistan.

Clinton and Wilson also met at the State Department in December 2009, according to Clinton’s calendars.

It is unclear whether Wilson’s relentless lobbying helped Symbion, but he has argued in a lawsuit he filed against Symbion in 2015 that his work for the company helped it secure federal contracts.

In an Oct. 15, 2015, court filing, Wilson claimed he “was directly and deeply involved on behalf of Symbion in pursuing and developing the business opportunities for Symbion, including the Millennium Challenge Fund.”

Symbion disputed Wilson’s claims, saying his contacts with Clinton did not contribute to the firm winning the $50 million MCC contract. Instead, Symbion called the revelation of Wilson’s emails “embarrassing.” MCC has also denied that Clinton helped Symbion win the Tanzania contract. (RELATED: Clinton Crony Claimed He Was ‘Deeply Involved’ In Obtaining Contract From Agency Controlled By Clinton)

Hillary Clinton State Department

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends a UN Security Council meeting on the sidelines of the 67th UN General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York, September 26, 2012. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GettyImages)

But other emails show Clinton could likely be taking direct action to help Symbion at Wilson’s request.

In one series of emails from July 2011, Wilson asked Clinton to intervene in a business dispute between Symbion and Jeffrey Immelt, who then served as CEO of General Electric.

“I know that you mentioned that you were going to call Jeff lmmelt after your trip,” Wilson wrote in a July 20, 2011, email.

“When you make that call, I would appreciate your telling him that Symbion, which is already operating a GE plant in [Tanzania’s capital, Dar es Salaam] can only expand that plant to meet the challenge if GE is prepared to share some of the inherent risk with us and waives the payment guarantee requirement.”

It is unclear whether Clinton spoke to Immelt about Symbion, but emails show that she did forward Wilson’s request to Johnnie Carson, the then-Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Carson then contacted Alfonso Lenhardt, the U.S.’s ambassador to Tanzania, who then reached out to GE.

Clinton could not be reached for comment for this story.

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