At least 140 organizations that donated to the Clinton Foundation want something from the federal government, spending $350 million on K Street lobbyists in the first three quarters of 2014 alone.
In recent years, they donated $54 million to the nonprofit foundation controlled by Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton, with most of them giving money in 2014, according to an analysis by the Washington Examiner.
While there are limits to lobbying activity and contributions to political candidates, there are virtually none on giving to nonprofits — even if they are controlled by politicians or aspiring candidates for federal elective office.
Questions have been raised about the ethics of the Clinton Foundation taking money from foreign sources. But donations to the foundation from domestic sources, too, raise the possibility that their motivation is to sway one of the most powerful, and potentially the most powerful, political figures in the nation.
"Charitable contributions to a foundation associated with a government official raise some of the same ethics issues as personal gifts to that official," Professor Kathleen Clark of the Washington University Law School told the Examiner.
"One of the issues is whether the contribution or gift is given with the belief or expectation that it may result in increased access to the government official, or may make that official more likely to be responsive when the contributor or giver needs the government official's help.
"Do individuals or companies or countries believe that they need to make a contribution or give a gift in order to or to make it more likely that they'll get the treatment they desire from that government official?" Clark said.
The Clinton Foundation has received huge checks from corporations, lobbyists and foreign governments. Many of those checks came from entities that have substantial interests before Congress, current and future occupants of the White House and federal regulators. That’s why they spend so heavily on K Street lobbyists seeking to influence government policies and regulations.
Two thousand entities have given more than $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation, most of them individuals or family foundations.
The 140 figure in the Examiner’s analysis dramatically understates the number with lobbyists in Washington because the analysis only counted cases where the company itself, or its nonprofit arm, gave directly.
Many of the individual donors are high-ranking executives of major corporations, but the Examiner analysis did not attempt to connect their companies’ lobbying efforts to them as individuals.
Palantir Technologies, which sells high-priced software to national defense agencies, gave in the six figures to the Clinton Foundation and spent more than $500,000 dollars on lobbyists in 2014.
H&R Block, whose business depends on tax law, gave at least $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation and spent $1.5 million on lobbying.
Monsanto Company, accused by the Left of being an agribusiness giant that crushes small farmers with genetically modified crops, spent more than $3 million on lobbyists and gave more than half a million to the Clintons.
Also on both lists are defense contractors like United Technologies Corporation, Honeywell International, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
While some companies lobby to fend off regulation that could eat into their profits, others make money off of federal contracts. Still others, including several multimillion dollar donors to the Clintons, used K Street lobbyists to successfully create or expand government programs that line their pockets, such as TracFone and the Obamaphone program and the US Green Building Council, whose lobbyists got a carve-out written into law that required the organization to get paid every time the government constructed a building.
Energy companies whose earnings can be shaped by regulation are included, such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, Duke Energy and even smaller companies like the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and the Newmont Mining Corporation.
Healthcare companies like Merck & Co., Medtronic, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, and Procter & Gamble gave to the Clintons while simultaneously seeking to impact federal policy.
As did unions, including the Communications Workers of America, the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers.
"The nonprofits the Clintons maintain are magnets for special interest cash and give U.S. companies and foreign governments access to an influential former president and all but declared candidate for the White House," said Bill Allison, an expert in lobbying at the Sunlight Foundation.
But Kirk Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, was less concerned about the issue, saying "the simple correlation of donors and lobbying expense tells us very little. A similar correlation could be made between lobbying expense and corporate political contributions to various PACs and organizations that make independent expenditures but are controlled by Republican candidates for president. At least the contributions to and expenditures of the Clinton Foundation are transparent due to nonprofit reporting."
Foreign governments also hire US lobbyists to push their interests as they relate to trade, weapons deals and foreign aid. Countries including Kuwait, Qatar, Australia, Jamaica, Norway and the Netherlands donated to the Clinton Foundation and have also had lobbyists in D.C.
And of course, Clinton enjoyed close ties to Wall Street firms who exert influence on policy, including Barclay's, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan.
In addition to receiving money from companies that hire K Street lobbyists, the Clinton foundation has also been funded by K Street lobbyists themselves. Arent Fox LLP gave at least $25,000, and Heather Podesta gave at least $50,000.