I apologize in advance for this, because I assume all of you are as sick of commentary on Hillary, her book promotion tour, and her endless stream of statements that validate everything her critics have been saying for over a decade. However, her latest ethically tone-deaf statement is a special category of dishonesty that I vowed long ago to flag every time it was tried by a public figure, and given a pass by the news media. So here we are.
Hillary responded to the growing controversy over her absurd speaking fees, which she charges to universities as well as corporations, by saying this to ABC’s Ann Compton:
“All of the fees have been donated to the Clinton Foundation for it to continue its life-changing and life-saving work. So it goes from a foundation at a university to another foundation.”
Giving money to another individual’s charity of choice is indistinguishable from giving money directly to that individual. If a lobbyist gives corporate money to a politician’s charity, for example, that’s a crime in most states, and should be. The charity dodge is a popular one with corrupt individuals, because the average member of the public, being among those whom Abraham Lincoln noted that you can fool all the time, and also possessing the ethics analysis skills of the typical whippet, just nod and say, “Oh. Okay!”
I have to say, this drives me crazy, in part because the dodge is so effective. The banner year for this trick was 1997. First, Johnny Chung, a shady Taiwanese political operative and alleged go-between who funneled illegal campaign funds from the Chinese to the Clinton Administration, testified that Clinton Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary met with Chinese oil officials after he gave $25,000 to O’Leary’s favorite charity in 1995. O’Leary, the media and the public all seemed to shrug this off as harmless, based on the fact that the charity did good work. That, of course, is irrelevant, even if it is true. A gift to anyone or anything an official designates, favors or supports in exchange for access is a bribe.
The same year, Baltimore Orioles manager Davy Johnson was fired by team owner Peter Angelos because after Johnson fined his second baseman, Roberto Alomar, specifically to get $5,000 from him that he had refused to give as a donation to a charity that employed Johnson’s wife as a fundraiser. Johnson took the money, and gave the fine to the foundation. This is theft, in essence, yet baseball fans and even sportswriters defended Johnson’s blatant abuse of power and position by extolling the work of the charity and the character of Johnson’s wife. Idiots. The virtues of the charity, whatever they might be, could not justify Johnson’s wrongly taking Alomar’s money and using it to further his own interests, which happened to be his wife’s charity.
Now Hillary Clinton is trying the same excuse. It is fine, she says, for her to demand outrageous fees from universities that are claiming financial hardship and raising tuition on students, because what she uses the fees for is worthwhile…the “life-changing and life-saving work ” of the Clinton Foundation. The correct answer to that is “So what? It is the school’s money, and they could have and should have used it to further the schools’ mission, which is educating students, something a one hour speech from you does not do sufficiently to justify a $225,000 fee. Once it is your money, and no longer theirs, what you do with it is irrelevant to the fact that it was wrong of you to take it (and, yes, wrong of them to give it) in the first place.”
As before, this is apparently too difficult an ethics concept for some to grasp—which is why Hillary, a practiced deceiver, employed the tactic. Reading the comments on various websites reporting the story is nauseating—1997 redux. Everyone is debating the virtues of the Clinton Foundation, if they aren’t trying to rationalize Clinton’s irresponsible greed by arguing that some Republican also accepts large speaking fees,or trotting out other variations on rationalizations 1, 4, 7, 13, 22, 26, 38 and 41.
Come to think of it, “I gave it to charity” is a rationalization for bribes, theft and greed that deserves its own place on the rationalizations list.
Graphic: Godfather Politics