Chicago City Wire

Chicago City Wire

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Podesta email suggests 'pay for play' involving J.B. Pritzker, Clinton Foundation

Local Government

By Hoang Tran | Nov 5, 2016


Wikileaks is alleging an email chain from the email of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign chairman suggests an alleged pay-for-play agreement between the Democratic presidential candidate's foundation and the Pritzker family.

The November 2011 email chain from John Podesta's email allegedly reveals that Jay Robert "J.B." Pritzker donated $1 million to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in exchange for a potential speaking/welcoming role for Pritzker at a meeting, ensuring that a sponsor reception would occur, soliciting input around topics of importance to Pritzker (no guarantees) and soliciting relevant panelist input (again, no guarantees).

Pritzker belongs to one of the wealthiest families in America. The Pritzkers are known for the Hyatt chain of hotels, which is based in Chicago, and have a combined total net worth of $29 billion. Pritzker alone is worth $3.4 billion.

| Contributed photo

Matthew Vadum, senior vice president of the Capital Research Center, said the allegations may hold merit, especially with the controversies surrounding Clinton.

“It’s entirely possible that it is a pay-for-play arrangement,” Vadum told Chicago City Wire. “There is evidence that when Hillary Clinton served at the State Department, that people wanting to meet with her were often put through Huma Abedin, her senior assistant, and Abedin would extract a donation to the Clinton Foundation, which included the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), and then the meeting would actually be arranged.”

Pritzker and his wife, Mary Katheryn, also have reportedly each given $1.9 million to a Priorities USA Action PAC that supports Clinton. The Pritzkers have donated a total of $3,192,411 to 120 different filers over a 17-year period.

In the email chain, Clinton staffers allegedly were discussing updates on Pritzker’s donation.

“He is funding at 1M,” Valerie Alexander told Andrew Kesse, with a subject line that read "Re Pritzker."

Kesse then replied, asking whether the agreement has been verified and what the next steps are. It is then that Fred Poust responded with what the next steps may be.

Vadum suggested these donors may be seeking favors from Clinton.

“So it appears that these donors, many of them, including foreign governments, were buying access – were buying the attention, the ear of, so to speak – of Hillary Clinton,” Vadum said. “Whether she did anything beyond that was not clear in a lot of cases.”

Vadum said this is not the first time these types of allegations have surfaced.

“There is so many of them floating around that I would not be surprised if this was a form of influence peddling, that it was giving access to Hillary Clinton in exchange for a donation,” Vadum said. “As well, a lot of these wealthy individuals and large corporations, and foreign governments have been giving great deals of money to the Clinton Foundation and its various projects, including the CGI project, in hopes of currying favor in with a future Hillary Clinton administration, should she become president.”

While it is hard to prosecute the allegations in court, it makes the Clintons' charitable efforts look bad, Vadum said.

“It does call into question the integrity of the entire Clinton philanthropic network,” Vadum said. “You have to wonder: Is their primary purpose to help other people, or is their primary purpose to help the Clintons? And I’m inclined their primary purpose was to help the Clintons and that any good philanthropic work that they did was more of a cover story.”

As for the Pritzkers, Vadum doesn’t see how this will affect them in totality.

“There are a lot of Pritzkers, and they are powerful and wealthy, and I can’t see it affecting them very much unless evidence of an illegal quid pro quo emerges,” Vadum said. “But the Pritzkers have been around for a very long time, and they are wealthy and powerful. The people in Hillary Clinton’s world usually don’t get caught, usually don’t get prosecuted and sent to jail. I would say the Pritzkers can probably sleep well at night.”

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