Peter W. Smith
Peter W. Smith
|Born||February 23, 1936|
Portland, Maine, U.S.
|Died||May 14, 2017 (aged 81)|
Rochester, Minnesota, U.S.
|Education||Northeastern University (BS)|
University of Notre Dame (MBA)
Peter W. Smith (February 23, 1936 – May 14, 2017) was an American investment banker who had a 40-year career managing corporate acquisitions and venture investments. He was active in Republican politics. In 1998, he was identified as a major financial supporter of the 1993 Troopergate story, in which several Arkansas state troopers accused U.S. President Bill Clinton of having carried out sexual dalliances while he was Governor of Arkansas. In 2017, he confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that he had tried in 2016 to contact computer hackers, including Russian hackers, in an attempt to obtain opposition research material to use against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Ten days after speaking to the paper, he committed suicide in a Minnesota hotel room, citing ill health.
From 1969 to 1980 he was a senior officer at Field Enterprises, Inc. From 1975 to 1997 he was president of his own firm, Peter W. Smith & Company, specializing in buyout transactions. From 1997 to 2014 he was Managing Member of DigaComm, LLC where he primarily managed early venture investments. At the time of his death he was Chairman Emeritus of Corporate Venture Alliances, LLC.
He was national chairman of the College Young Republicans. He was a board member and officer of the Atlantic Council of the United States and was also active with the Heritage Foundation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Brookings Institution. He was a contributor and fundraiser for the Republican National Committee and GOPAC as well as individual candidates. Smith was a major donor to Newt Gingrich's GOPAC, giving over $100,000 from 1989 to 1995—a sum which made him one of GOPAC's top 20 donors.
In December 1993, two Arkansas state troopers publicly claimed that they and other troopers had been used to facilitate and conceal multiple extra-marital affairs of then-Governor Bill Clinton. The stories were published in an article by then-conservative author David Brock in the American Spectator and also in a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times. Smith had arranged for the troopers to meet Brock. In February 1994 Smith started a "Troopergate Whistle Blower Fund" to provide support for the troopers and pay their attorney fees; the fund ultimately raised about $40,000. Altogether Smith said he spent about $80,000 on the case, including a $5,000 payment to Brock. Smith described his donations as an independent effort to encourage anti-Clinton stories in the mainstream press.
Several emails sent by Smith to the Illinois Republican Party turned up among those hacked from party computers and posted on DCLeaks, which U.S. intelligence officials believe to be an outlet for the foreign military intelligence agency of Russia, GRU. The emails were about a 2015 congressional election.
In May 2017 Smith told the Wall Street Journal that he had been actively involved, during the 2016 presidential election campaign, in trying to obtain emails he believed had been deleted from Hillary Clinton's computer server. In that quest he contacted several known hacker groups, including some Russian groups. Smith was working on behalf of Trump campaign advisor Mike Flynn. He was shown some information but was not convinced it was genuine, and suggested the hackers give it to WikiLeaks instead. As part of this effort, Smith donated $150,000 to "the Washington Scholarship Fund for the Russian students", including $100,000 of solicited money and $50,000 from his personal funds.
Personal life and death
Smith died on May 14, 2017 in a hotel room in Rochester, Minnesota. He had checked into the hotel, which is near the Mayo Clinic, the day after speaking to the Wall Street Journal. Nine days later he was found with a bag over his head that was attached to a helium source. Medical records list Smith's cause of death as "asphyxiation due to displacement of oxygen in confined space with helium." Police discovered a suicide note by Smith that stated no foul play was involved in his committing suicide, and that he was in poor health and his life insurance policy was expiring. However, it has been reported that that insurance policy was good for 8 more years.
- Peter W. Smith. "Peter W. Smith: Executive Profile & Biography". Bloomberg. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- "Principals". Corporate Venture Alliances website. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- "Peter W. Smith". Chicago Tribune. legacy.com. May 20, 2017. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
- Murray Waas (March 30, 1998). "Gingrich Money Man Peter Smith Helped David Brock Sock Clinton". Observer. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- Brock, David (January 1994). "His Cheatin' Heart". American Spectator. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- Rempel, William C.; Frantz, Douglas (December 21, 1993). "Troopers Say Clinton Sought Silence on Personal Affairs : Arkansas: The White House calls their allegations about the President's private life 'ridiculous.'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- Rempel, William C. (April 1, 1998). "Chicago Banker Identified as Troopergate Fund Benefactor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
- "FBI Notified Illinois GOP of Potential Email Hack in June". Govtech.com. December 12, 2016. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- Harris, Shane (June 29, 2017). "GOP Operative Sought Clinton Emails From Hackers, Implied a Connection to Flynn". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- Cohn, Alicia (June 29, 2017). "GOP investigation sought connection between Clinton's emails and Russia: report". The Hill. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- Borger, Julian (June 30, 2017). "Russia hackers discussed getting Clinton emails to Michael Flynn – report". The Guardian. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- Tau, Byron; Volz, Dustin; Holliday, Shelby (October 7, 2018). "GOP Operative Secretly Raised at Least $100,000 in Search for Clinton Emails". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
- Skiba, Katherine; Heinzmann, David; Lighty, Todd (July 14, 2017). "Peter W. Smith's final day: 'It seemed like he had a lot on his mind'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
- Skiba, Katherine; Heinzmann, David; Lighty, Todd (July 13, 2017). "Peter W. Smith, GOP operative who sought Clinton's emails from Russian hackers, committed suicide, records show". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
- "Report: GOP operative who looked for Clinton emails committed suicide". CBS News. July 13, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017.