Bill Clinton said last week that the Clinton Foundation would no longer accept foreign or corporate money and also that he would resign from its board should Hillary Clinton win the Presidency.
The logic of this, one assumes, is to allay any fears that President Hillary Clinton would allow access and influence to be purchased by foreign powers by contributing to a foundation that exists substantially to line the pockets of the three and to provide a foundation...but the other kind, not the non-profit kind—for Clinton power-brokering, career advancement and mutual back scratching.
Allow me to pause for a brief expansion on that…
The New York Times, which really is good at telling the truth while deceiving its readers anyway, describes the Clinton Foundation as working “globally to combat AIDS/H.I.V., malaria, childhood obesity and climate change, and promotes women’s rights and other causes.” This is true, but it is also lying by omission, because it intentionally omits the shady side of the story. Here is how Jonathan Chait, as full-throated a Clinton booster as you can find in the pundit ranks, describes the Foundation:
“The purpose of the Clinton Foundation is to leverage Clinton fame into charitable donations. That purpose has important positive effects — shaking loose donations for AIDS prevention and training African farmers and other worthy causes. But it also has the unavoidable side effect of giving rich people a way to curry favor with a powerful elected official.”
Exactly. Perfectly stated, except that “giving rich people a way to curry favor with a powerful elected official” is a euphemism for “quid pro quo,” or better yet, bribery. It is unethical, and also illegal if you can prove it, which is generally hard to do, especially when the “contributions” are designated for worthy causes, though much of them somehow end up paying for the Clintons’ regal lifestyle. Chait’s uncritical assessment of this per se corruption is stated thusly:
“There’s a reason the term politician is synonymous with lying, calculation, and ambition — these are common qualities for politicians. The Clintons are common politicians, motivated in general by a desire to implement policy changes they think will make the world a better place, but not immune to trimming and getting rich in the process. None of their behavior is disqualifying, given the number of elected officials, presidents included, who have done the same”
Translation: “Everybody does it, but the Clintons are just better at doing it and getting rich in the process. Stop bitching.”
That Chait says that behaving this way isn’t disqualifying explains everything, including why the metastasizing ethics rot in our government will slowly but surely result in the predatory elected official conduct common in Africa if the public doesn’t insist that it is disqualifying, and start recognizing ethically-hollow opinion makers like Chait for what they are…enablers and courtiers.
Parenthetical discourse over; thank-you for your attention.
Recently revealed e-mails that Hillary withheld from the State Department (and claimed she destroyed because they involved nobody’s business but her own) reveal that Clinton’s State staff, which means Clinton herself, was involved in trading favors with foundation donors from overseas. Congress had demanded and received a sworn promise from the Obama Administration, a.k.a Obama, that Clinton would have no such conflicted dealings and that the Clinton Foundation would not accept donations from entities seeking bounty from the State Department. Ah, but it depends on what the meanings of “donations,” “favors,” bribes” and “influence peddling” is, just as in similar recent technical disputes like What is “classified?” What is “marked classified”? What’s a “red line”? What’s “ransom”?
It is certain to all but the Clinton Corrupted that Hillary, often through Bill, violated the spirit and sometimes the letter of this promise, as the Clinton Foundation accepted many contributiona, and “speaking fees” for Bill, that created at least “an appearance of impropriety.” As this realization began to dawn on that public that shouldn’t find corruption and venality “disqualifying,” and the news media that blocks and tackles for the Clintons found they couldn’t bury it, and as the FBI decided that it couldn’t avoid investigating it, the Clintons got together and decided to make the recent announcement delivered by Bill.
Hardly. It is a direct admission that the foundation accepting foreign and corporate money while Hillary is President would stink of bribery, self-dealing, selling influence and conflicts of interest. But if that is true, and it is, what is the proper description of the foundation accepting foreign and corporate money while Hillary was Secretary of State, or now, while she is running for President? Ethically, what is the difference between a foreign government giving millions to the foundation of presumed future President now, knowing that they are paying for “future considerations,” and doing it after the election? Ethically, what is the difference between a foreign government giving millions to the Clinton Foundation while Clinton was Secretary of State, and giving it to the foundation of the future President, or the actual President?
Just to refresh you recollection:
Recent donors include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, Germany and a Canadian government agency promoting the Keystone XL pipeline. United Arab Emirates, a first-time donor, gave between $1 million and $5 million in 2014, and the German government—which also hadn’t previously given—contributed between $100,000 and $250,000. A previous donor, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has given between $10 million and $25 million since the foundation was created in 1999. Part of that came in 2014, although the database doesn’t specify how much.
The Australian government has given between $5 million and $10 million, at least part of which came in 2014. It also gave in 2013, when its donations fell in the same range. Qatar’s government committee preparing for the 2022 soccer World Cup gave between $250,000 and $500,000 in 2014. Qatar’s government had previously donated between $1 million and $5 million.
Oman, which had made a donation previously, gave an undisclosed amount in 2014. Over time, Oman has given the foundation between $1 million and $5 million. Prior to last year, its donations fell in the same range….
What’s the difference? Ethically, absolutely nothing! All of the donations were and are inappropriate, they all create conflicts of interest, they all violate the governments strict prohibition of the appearance of impropriety, and they are all too close to quid pro quo, pay-to-play bribes for comfort. If the Clintons admit that such contribution would be ethically impermissible while Hillary is President, then they have also admitted that similar contributions have been equally unethical for the last eight years.
What’s stopping Hillary from paying the I.O.U’s of corporations and foreign powers that gave the foundation millions before she was elected? Nothing at all, since a sense of right and wrong isn’t involved, there being none. Isn’t this obvious? Do the Clintons really believe that the public is too gullible and stupid to figure that out?
Well, they obviously do, and they may be right.
There is one way, and one way only, the Clintons could prove that they are determined to avoid any conflicts or appearances of impropriety related to Clinton Foundation activities. Return the contributions, including those listed above, which of course they cannot do, and wouldn’t do if they could.
Meanwhile, Reuter reports, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), which is the largest program of the Clinton Foundation, says that it is still weighing whether to continue accepting foreign donations should Clinton be elected. The foundation’s most recent annual report showed that CHAI spent almost 60% of the $250 million the foundation spent in 2014. CHAI files separate tax returns from the Clinton Foundation, but is included in the foundation’s audited expenses, annual reports and other promotional literature.
CHAI is a separate legal entity from the Clinton Foundation with its own Board,” Regan Lachapelle, a CHAI spokeswoman, said in an email. “The CHAI Board will be meeting soon to determine its next steps.”
You see, it’s not really the Clinton Foundation, and the donations it receives next year from, say, Iran, will be completely beyond reproach.
So how stupid are you?