In the media’s latest blatant attempt to “criminalize behavior that is normal”, the Wall Street Journal recently highlighted yet another questionable pay-for-play allegation between Bill Clinton, the Clinton Foundation and a powerful European perfume industry trade group called the Fragrance Foundation. The alleged scandal begins with a $260,000 payment to Bill Clinton for a January 2014 speech to the Fragrance Foundation and ends with Firmenich International, one of the world’s largest fragrance and flavoring suppliers, getting access to an exclusive supply of limeoil from Haiti with a little help from their new friends at the Clinton Foundation…but only after another $200,000 of “donations” to a Clinton Foundation company, based in Haiti, called the Acceso Peanut Enterprise Corporation.
The problem for Firmenich began back in early 2014 when the “Citrus Greening Disease” began wiping out 1,000s of acres of citrus in North America driving the price of limeoil, a key perfume input, through the roof. Per the chart below, the price of limeoil hovered around $15,000 per metric ton for decades before surging to over $50,000 per metric ton in June 2014.
The reduction in limeoil supply and the corresponding surge in price for Firmenich’s key input, led the company to enlist the help of some business school students at the University of St. Gallen to research way to find “exclusive access to new lime production sources.” The details of the study were published in a paper called “Firmenich Sustainable Citrus Project.” Here are a couple of key excerpts from the study:
Especially in the US, lime fruits and oils are high in demand with global production being insufficient to cover the need of flavor companies such as Firmenich. At the same time, this global shortage in limes has been severed by the occurrence of the greening disease, which lead to a destruction of a majority of plants in Mexico and the Southern US.
To address both the issue of social inequalities and deforestation in Haiti as well as the global shortage in lime production, Firmenich, a leading flavor and fragrances company based in Geneva, Switzerland, aims to establish a project that fosters solutions to the above mentioned situation. Building cooperations with local partners in Haiti as well as small farmer families, the company has been trying to find a way to gain exclusive access to new lime production sources. Though Firmenich has already been granted financial resources, the project has not yet been implemented as a variety of challenges ranging from motivational issues of farmers, the danger of greening and local coordination to financial needs and marketing problems. Establishing a project team with four students from HSG University of St. Gallen, Firmenich has tried to gain a new sight on those issues and design new ways to implement the project.
According the University study, Firmenich needed help with “local coordination” to build new lime orchards in Haiti.
And, we suspect that’s where Bill Clinton comes in. In January 2014, The Fragrance Foundation paid Bill $260,000 for a speech at a foundation event.
According to the Wall Street Journal, shortly that speech, David Shipman, president of Firmenich’s U.S. unit and vice president of its charitable arm, approached the Clinton Foundation, one of the most active nonprofit organizations in Haiti, and “explained to them what [they] thought could be the future of limes on the island.”
Within months of starting those conversations with the Clinton Foundation, Firmentech had paid $200,000 to Acceso Peanut Enterprise Corporation, a Clinton Foundation consulting business based in Haiti, and another $175,000 to the “Smallholder Farmers Alliance” which had ties to the Clinton Foundation’s work in Haiti as well.
According to the Clinton Foundation website, Acceso Peanut Enterprise Corporation provides consulting services to local Haitian farmers looking to boost their “peanut yield and quality.” Therefore, it is obviously somewhat surprising that this particular company would have the appropriate expertise to help establish citrus orchards.
In January 2014, CGEP created the Acceso Peanut Enterprise Corporation (Acceso – Haiti), a private, for-profit company with funding and support from the Clinton Foundation Haiti team. Acceso – Haiti is a peanut supply chain enterprise that provides capacity building and inputs to significantly improve peanut yield and quality, and also purchases peanuts from smallholder farmers at favorable, fixed prices, and sorts, tests, and re-sells directly to large buyers and the general market.
But sure enough, according to an October 2015 brochure published by the Smallholder Farmers Alliance, the SFA has planted 20,000 lime trees and is well on it’s way to achieving its goal to “once again export lime oil.”
Of course, a spokesman for Mr. Clinton said his speech to the perfume industry “is in no way connected to the Clinton Foundation’s work in Haiti.”
And, likewise, Elizabeth Musmanno, executive director of the Fragrance Foundation, said she proposed inviting Mr. Clinton because he is one of “the best public speakers in the world.” She said it “had nothing to do with the Clinton Global Initiative,” referring to the foundation’s annual gathering that matches philanthropists with charities.
For those who believe those last two statements, we have some prime ocean-front property in Oklahoma that is looking for a new owner.