[Marxism] Haiti and Africa Projects Shed Light on Clinton’s Public-Private Web
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Mon Oct 17 07:15:04 MDT 2016
"The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the
common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie."
--Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
NY Times, Oct. 17 2016
Haiti and Africa Projects Shed Light on Clinton’s Public-Private Web
By MIKE McINTIRE
As chief of staff and counselor to Hillary Clinton at the State
Department, Cheryl D. Mills worked ceaselessly to help a South Korean
garment maker open a factory in Haiti, the centerpiece of United States
government efforts to jump-start the island nation’s economy after the
Ms. Mills took the lead on smoothing the way for the company, Sae-A
Trading, which secured millions of dollars in incentives to make its
Haiti investment more attractive, despite criticism of its labor record
elsewhere. When she presided over the project’s unveiling in September
2010, she introduced Sae-A’s chairman, Woong-ki Kim, as the most
important person at the ceremony, which included Mrs. Clinton and the
Haitian prime minister.
Mr. Kim would later become important to Ms. Mills in a far more personal
way — as a financial backer of a company she started after leaving the
State Department in 2013. The company, BlackIvy Group, is pursuing
infrastructure projects in Tanzania and Ghana, the only African nations
in the “Partnership for Growth,” an Obama administration initiative that
Mrs. Clinton helped introduce that promotes investment in developing
The partnership with Mr. Kim sheds light on the business activities of
Ms. Mills — a longtime Clinton loyalist who is likely to play a
significant role in any future Clinton White House — as well as the
interlocking public and private relationships that have long
characterized the Clintons’ inner circle. A lawyer, Ms. Mills has been a
target of Republican critics for her central role in determining which
emails from Mrs. Clinton’s private server would be publicly disclosed,
and for sharing information about Africa — later designated as
classified — with the Clinton Foundation while working at the State
During Ms. Mills’s tenure at the department, Mr. Kim’s company, Sae-A,
became a donor to the Clinton Foundation, through its Clinton Global
Initiative, and Ms. Mills remained involved in foundation matters.
According to emails hacked from the accounts of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign
chairman, John Podesta, and released by WikiLeaks, Ms. Mills helped
draft memos and consulted on internal organizational issues at the
foundation, though she used her personal Gmail account and not her
Another close Clinton aide at the State Department, Huma Abedin, was for
a time permitted to work for the foundation and an outside consulting
firm while serving as a “special government employee.” Ms. Mills was
also granted the same special designation after leaving the department,
during the period when she was getting BlackIvy off the ground. The
unpaid, part-time government role was “solely focused on Haiti” and did
not involve her activities at BlackIvy, according to her spokesman, Eric
Since teaming up through BlackIvy, Ms. Mills and Mr. Kim have maintained
close business ties, appearing together last year for the opening of a
new Sae-A factory in Costa Rica where they cut the ribbon alongside
Costa Rica’s president, Luis Guillermo Solís. In Africa, representatives
of the United States Agency for International Development have consulted
with BlackIvy and Sae-A about efforts to expand the textile trade in
Ghana, where BlackIvy says the country’s 23-cents-an-hour minimum wage
“compares favorably” to higher wages in China, Bangladesh and Vietnam.
Federal officials are barred from using their positions to negotiate
future employment or exchange services for something of value, and no
evidence has emerged to suggest that occurred with BlackIvy. Both Ms.
Mills and Mr. Kim deny that his investment was influenced by the
substantial assistance she provided his company while serving as Mrs.
Clinton’s right hand at the State Department.
Ms. Mills, 51, declined to be interviewed for this article, but Mr.
London, a BlackIvy spokesman, said she had consulted with the State
Department ethics office before accepting Mr. Kim’s investment “to
ensure it was consistent with any rules that applied to her because of
“Ms. Mills and Mr. Kim met during her work for the State Department in
Haiti during earthquake reconstruction,” Mr. London said. “She had no
personal business ventures and no discussions about any prospective
business with Mr. Kim while she was at State.”
Karen Seo, a spokeswoman for Sae-A, said the State Department’s
assistance in Haiti played no role in Mr. Kim’s decision to invest in
BlackIvy. His discussions about making the investment began in “late
2014,” she said, more than a year after Ms. Mills had left the government.
Ms. Seo said that Sae-A “currently has no plans to invest in garment and
textile manufacturing facilities in Africa,” and that Ms. Mills had no
business relationship with Sae-A outside of BlackIvy, adding that her
appearance with Mr. Kim at the Sae-A factory opening in Costa Rica was
of a social nature. “Ms. Mills was invited and came to the Costa Rica
event as a friend, as did many others,” she said.
Ms. Mills first gained public notice in the 1990s as a member of the
legal team that defended President Bill Clinton during his impeachment
trial. A graduate of Stanford Law School, she worked for Mrs. Clinton’s
unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign. While she has said she has no
formal role with Mrs. Clinton’s current campaign for president, she
remains a close confidante — she was one of the few people aware of Mrs.
Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis days before it was made public.
While at the State Department, Ms. Mills took the lead on a number of
projects important to Mrs. Clinton, perhaps none more so than Haiti.
Even before the January 2010 earthquake, the impoverished Caribbean
nation was the focus of attention from the Clintons. Mr. Clinton, whose
foundation is active there, had been named a United Nations special
envoy to Haiti, and as early as April 2009, just a few months after
becoming secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton was being forwarded emails
from Ms. Mills containing economic development ideas.
Some of those ideas were from Jean-Louis Warnholz, an economist whose
consulting business provided “intelligence on African markets.” In
emails and meetings with the Clintons and Ms. Mills, he advocated
investment in textiles and agriculture as a way to create jobs, a theory
that was fast-tracked in Haiti after the earthquake with a proposal for
an industrial park anchored by a major garment factory.
Ms. Mills soon hired Mr. Warnholz as her own adviser at the State
Department — he would later join her at BlackIvy — and the two worked
closely to push the industrial park concept. After overtures to another
South Korean garment company fell through, Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Mills
met with Sae-A Trading executives during a trip to Seoul to pitch the idea.
Sae-A supplies clothing to some of the largest American retailers,
including Walmart and Kohl’s, and has been accused of illegal tactics
against union organizers at a plant in Guatemala, charges the company
Ultimately, the United States provided about $124 million to develop a
power plant, housing and other improvements for the Haiti industrial
park, while an international development bank contributed $100 million
and the Haitians provided the land. Sae-A agreed to invest $78 million.
Sae-A was blunt about the need to make the deal worth the money.
“This is business,” a company spokesman said at the time. “At the end of
the day, it’s about making a profit.”
In addition to being good for Sae-A, the Haiti project recast the
low-profile Mr. Kim as the sort of enlightened global capitalist the
Clintons favor, earning him appearances at the Clinton Global Initiative
and other international forums. When the industrial park opened for
business in October 2012, the Clintons were on hand for the celebration.
Mrs. Clinton thanked Mr. Kim “for everything that you and the leadership
of Sae-A is doing,” and she praised Ms. Mills for being the “real driver
of our government’s support for everything that we see here today.”
Six months after she resigned from the State Department in February
2013, Ms. Mills incorporated BlackIvy Group. She has described it as a
“private operating company that builds commercial enterprises in
Mr. Kim was among a handful of prominent investors in BlackIvy,
according to a description that was once on BlackIvy’s website but has
since been removed. The deleted page carried the heading “Our Team” and
listed, in addition to Mr. Kim: Continental Grain, a multinational
agribusiness with operations in Haiti; Steve Case, the founder of AOL;
the Wall Street financier John Mack; the hedge fund founder Raymond
Dalio; and Beck, Mack & Oliver, an investment firm.
The executive chairman of BlackIvy is Anthony Welters, a retired health
insurance executive and longtime friend and mentor to Ms. Mills who has
raised money for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. His son, Bryant, works for
BlackIvy, and his wife, Beatrice Wilkinson Welters, was the American
ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago from 2010 to 2012.
In July, two BlackIvy representatives, including Bryant Welters, met
with government leaders in Trinidad, part of what the prime minister’s
office there said was a visit to explore “avenues for doing business
with Trinidad and Tobago.”
Asked why BlackIvy was in the Caribbean, far outside its stated market
areas in Africa, the company’s spokesman, Mr. London, said it had
nothing to do with Ms. Welters’s connections as a former ambassador.
BlackIvy, he said, was not actually seeking business in Trinidad, but
met with companies there “to learn about their successes in the region
and to explore opportunities for them to establish operations in Ghana
and replicate those successes.”
What BlackIvy has accomplished so far is not clear. It signed an
agreement with officials in Tanzania to develop a transportation hub,
but media reports there suggest it is progressing slowly.
A Tanzanian government audit in March questioned how BlackIvy was
chosen, saying “there was no evidence” it was through a competitive
bidding process. Mr. London said competitive bidding was not needed
because BlackIvy’s project is privately funded and there is no financial
risk to the government.
In Ghana, where BlackIvy has been pursuing an industrial park project, a
PowerPoint presentation prepared by BlackIvy cited the country’s low
minimum wage as one of several competitive advantages that made Ghana
“an ideal entry point to the West African market.”
Defending the model of attracting investment with promises of cheap
labor, Mr. London offered an argument very similar to the one American
officials made when explaining why Sae-A’s factory would be good for Haiti.
“The industrial park will increase manufacturing in Ghana — creating
jobs and catalyzing growth — which benefits the country and investors,”
he said. “Wages usually rise when manufacturing sectors expand and
produce higher-value goods, which is what we want to see in Ghana.”
BlackIvy’s rationale did not sway labor advocates like Scott Nova, the
executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, who had criticized
the Haiti project as a misguided American relief effort that glossed
over Sae-A’s labor-relations history.
“When you urge garment manufacturers producing in countries like
Bangladesh, where wages are far too low for workers to adequately
support their families, to move production to countries with even lower
wages, it undercuts the efforts of apparel workers across the Global
South to persuade governments, employers and major apparel brands to
lift wages to a decent level,” Mr. Nova said.
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