Republican Party officials in Washington sought records on links between Ireland and the William J Clinton Foundation under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act as part of an investigation into the former president’s business and philanthropic links overseas.
In an FOI request sent to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) last February, the Republican National Committee (RNC) director of investigations, Scott Parker, sought documents related to the disbursement of funds from Irish Aid – the Department’s overseas aid wing – to the Clinton Foundation.
Last month, US Republican presidential candidate Donald J Trump released a series of emails attacking Hillary Clinton’s links to Irish businessman Denis O’Brien, including material on connections between Ireland and the Clinton Foundation.
In a statement, Raj Shah, deputy communications director of the RNC said that although the FOI request was not connected to the Trump campaign’s attack emails, Mr O’Brien’s relationship with the Clintons “raises questions”.
“This request was part of the RNC’s opposition research program looking into the Clinton Foundation’s activities around the world, but not directly connected to Mr O’Brien,” Shah told The Irish Times.
“However, Mr O’Brien’s extensive ties to the Clintons, the millions he’s raised for the foundation, and the considerable business interests and influence he has in parts of the world where both the Foundation and the State Department interacts with government officials raises questions and conflicts of interest and demands scrutiny.”
Mr Parker also made requests in 2015 to numerous US governmental departments, including the Federal Trade Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for records that were “sent to, received from, or interacted with” email domains linked to Hillary Clinton.
The Democratic presidential candidate’s use of a private email server has been a controversial topic during the US presidential campaign, and is commonly referred to in attacks by her rival, Mr Trump.
DFAT identified and granted the release of 42 documents created in 2003 to Mr Parker, including copies of emails on negotiations with the Clinton Foundation and a copy of a memorandum of understanding between the Clinton Foundation and the Irish government.
In the response to Mr Parker, DFAT also provided information on funds disbursed to the Clinton Foundation and an offshoot, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).
Similar information was contained in an Irish Aid briefing note provided to journalists following the release of the “Follow the Money” emails by the Trump campaign.
The briefing note showed that Irish Aid disbursed €156 million worth of funds for projects involving the health ministries of Lesotho and Mozambique, governed by three separate memorandums of understanding with the Clinton Foundation and CHAI.
Prior to his role with the RNC, Parker worked as a research analyst for America Rising, a political action committee (PAC) set up in 2013 to “serve as an organization on the right for the sole purpose of exposing the truth about Democrats through video tracking, research, and communications”.
The RNC is a political committee responsible for coordinating the Republican Party’s election strategy, as well as developing and promoting the party’s political platform.
A version of this article appeared in The Irish Times in November 2017