In 2009, the State Department under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bypassed ethics guidelines to take a $2 million donation from Boeing, the Washington Post reports, just a month after Clinton helped Boeing secure a multi-billion dollar contract with Russia.
Helping Boeing win a $3.7 billion bid to sell dozens of planes to Rosavia, the state-owned Russian airline, was one of Clinton's top priorities when she visited Moscow in 2009. Advocating for the American company abroad was "the job that every Secretary of State is supposed to do and what the American people expect of them -- especially during difficult economic times," Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill told the Post. "She proudly and loudly advocated on behalf of American business and took every opportunity to promote U.S. commercial interests abroad."
At the same time, Clinton was attempting to resuscitate the dismal fundraising for the privately-sponsored U.S. pavilion planned for the 2010 World's Fair expo in Shanghai.
State Department officials told planners to skip soliciting some firms with major business ties to the government, including Boeing, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. The expo organizers, however, appealed the ruling and were told they could accept a donation of up to $1 million from Boeing. Ultimately, however, Clinton announced Boeing would give $2 million to help the U.S. pavilion.
State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach told the Post that donors were "appropriately vetted and approved for participation at the 2010 Shanghai Expo, end of story."
As the Post notes, Mr. Obama has made it his goal to increase U.S. exports, resulting in a close relationship with Boeing -- the nation's top exporter. Mr. Obama joked last year that he expected a gold watch from the aerospace company after his presidency, for being a "top salesman."