A new report from The Washington Post outlines former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s position “as a powerful ally” for airplane manufacturer Boeing, advocating for foreign countries to purchase their airplanes or soliciting sizable donations from the company.
In October 2009, on an official visit to Russia, Clinton made—in her words—a “shameless pitch” for state-controlled airline Rosavia to buy Boeing planes. The push was part of a larger effort by the Obama administration to double exports from the U.S., and Boeing is already the country’s largest exporter.
A more muddled event involving Boeing surrounded the United States’ pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World’s Fair (the government does not fund the country’s presence there). Nick Winslow, who was in charge of getting the pavilion built, told the Post that he submitted a list to Clinton’s office of companies that could be solicited for donations.
State Department officials ruled out soliciting Boeing and other large firms with significant business relationships with the government. The list also included banks that had received federal bailouts.
“About half of [the names on the list] came back with an ‘X’ through it,” Winslow said. “Boeing was one of them. We weren’t even allowed to talk to them.”
Agency lawyers had nixed Boeing out of concern that the department’s work lobbying for the company’s interests overseas could present the appearance of a conflict of interest, said a former agency official familiar with the decision.
After an appeal, it was ruled that the expo effort could accept donations from Boeing, but only up to $1 million. Later, for reasons unknown, that cap was raised and Boeing donated $2 million.
A State Department spokesman did not illuminate exactly how these decisions were arrived at, but told the Post that donors like Boeing were “appropriately vetted and approved for participation at the 2010 Shanghai Expo, end of story.”