The U.S. government in 2010 paid for a poll that, in part, gauged former President Bill Clinton’s favorability in Haiti, according to State Department emails released Wednesday by the conservative advocacy group Citizens United.
The question was included in a broader survey meant to assess Haitians’ confidence in international relief efforts. Greenberg Quinian Rosner Research, the firm that conducted the poll, also conducted six other polls in Haiti on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development over a three-year period.
“The whole connections between the State Department and Bill Clinton were excessive and more excessive than one would think they needed to be.”
Brian Concannon, executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, said asking about Clinton may have served as a “bellwether” for overall feelings toward the United States or the American nonprofit organizations operating in the impoverished Caribbean nation. But he said it seems unusual at a time when Clinton’s wife was secretary of state.
“The whole connections between the State Department and Bill Clinton were excessive and more excessive than one would think they needed to be,” Concannon said.
The September 2010 survey asked respondents to rate Clinton on a scale of zero to 100. For the record, the poll showed an average “cool” rating of 41 out of 100 toward the former president and a “warm” score of 35. That made Clinton less popular than the United States as a whole, but the polling company noted in its report that it marked an improvement from a survey taken in the previous June.
A State Department official said officials used the poll to guide the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission’s efforts to direct donors who “provided crucial humanitarian and reconstruction assistance” taking place in the country.
“At the time, Bill Clinton was co-chairman of the IHRC’s board, in addition to serving as the U.N. Special Representative for Haiti,” the official wrote in an emailed response to LifeZette.
The Clinton Foundation has come under fire for alleged mismanagement of funds and cronyism in Haiti. ABC News on Tuesday cited State Department emails showing a senior aide to Hillary Clinton sending the names of would-be reconstruction contractors to Clinton Foundation officials to determine whether they were “WJC VIPs” — William Jefferson Clinton VIPs — or “FOB” — Friends of Bill.
Those who passed that test got special consideration, according to the report. Officials referred those who did not have Clinton ties to the general government website.
The State Department emails indicate that Bill Clinton brushed off potential political concerns over the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, an organization he chaired to oversee relief efforts.
“Spoke to wjc [Bill Clinton)],” the former president’s chief of staff, Laura Graham, wrote in an email to then-State Department Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills in March 2010. “He is in agreement on our solution to the 7.1 problem and with giving intl ngo a non-voting seat (he preferred voting seat but agreed w the potential conflict issue). He is aware of the electoral risk as it relates to ihrc and said he wasn’t worried abt that issue … a successful commission will make it difficult for anyone new to overturn.”
It is not clear what the “7.1 problem” referred to. But some Haitians have expressed displeasure over the handling of relief efforts in their country. Many criticized the fact that only half of the commission’s voting members were from the Haitian government. The Haitian Parliament refused to extend the charter after it expired in October 2011.
In a May 2010 email, Bob Nash, a senior adviser to James Lee Witt Associates, made a pitch on behalf of his boss. Nash told Graham that he was seeking a meeting with the former president about a company named Smartmatic, which had worked to bring elections to underdeveloped countries.
“I will send you some info on them,” he wrote. “Jams lee will ask if the president has time to meet with them and hear their thought on the Haiti elections.”
Graham forwarded the email to Mills.
“FYI — I told Bob that BC cannot engage on the issue — hiring a contractor to help with elections and that I would refer the email to you,” she wrote.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in January 2010, Hillary Clinton complained about the slow pace of U.S. relief efforts.
“Why can Israel set up a full field hospital w operating rooms and the US military can’t/won’t and only offers surgery on the Carl Vinson which has to fly patients over and even flew Snjay [sic] Gupta there to do an operation since they did not have a neurosurgeon?” she asked in an email.
In another email, Mills thanked Under Secretary of State Judith McHale for arranging for “Temporary Protected Status” for Haitians in the United States.
“Perfect and many thanks for this deployment on TPS,” Mills wrote.
That status grants protection to foreigners in the United States, including those who entered illegally. It was designed to offer temporarily relief to people whose home countries are devastated by war or natural disaster, as was the case in Haiti. But critics have argued that the federal government has abused the original intent by continually renewing TPS.
The TPS designation for Haitians, for instance, remains in effect six years after the earthquake. It covers some 50,000 people in the United States.