A Stupid and Sleazy Clinton Decision

If Hillary Clinton wants to be president, the Clinton Foundation should stop accepting money from foreign countries.

Hillary Clinton testifies on October 27, 2011.
National Journal
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Ron Fournier
Feb. 18, 2015, 7:33 a.m.

This is sleazy and stu­pid. Just as Hil­lary Clin­ton is get­ting ready to run for pres­id­ent again, her fam­ily’s char­it­able found­a­tion secretly lif­ted a ban on ac­cept­ing money from for­eign gov­ern­ments.

The Wall Street Journ­al dis­covered the eth­ic­al breach dur­ing a search of dona­tions of more than $50,000 pos­ted on the found­a­tion’s on­line data­base. “Re­cent donors in­clude the United Ar­ab Emir­ates, Saudi Ar­a­bia, Oman, Aus­tralia, Ger­many, and a Ca­na­dian gov­ern­ment agency pro­mot­ing the Key­stone XL Pip­line,” re­por­ted James V. Grim­aldi and Re­becca Ball­haus.

This is sleazy be­cause of the clear con­flicts of in­terest. What do these for­eign coun­tries ex­pect in ex­change for their dona­tions? What pres­sure would Clin­ton face as pres­id­ent to re­turn fin­an­cial fa­vors?

Even if you give her the be­ne­fit of the doubt (hav­ing covered the Clin­ton since the 1980s, I’m still will­ing to do that), you can’t deny that this flip-flop cre­ates a per­cep­tion of for­eign fa­vor­it­ism in a polit­ic­al sys­tem that most Amer­ic­ans already think is cor­rup­ted by money.

The Clin­ton Found­a­tion stopped rais­ing money from for­eign gov­ern­ments in 2009 at the ur­ging of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. To their cred­it, the Obama team was wor­ried about the per­cep­tion of the sec­ret­ary of State’s hus­band, Bill Clin­ton, rais­ing money while she rep­res­en­ted U.S. in­terests over­seas. After leav­ing the State De­part­ment, she of­fi­cially joined the found­a­tion, which changed its name to the Bill, Hil­lary & Chelsea Clin­ton Found­a­tion.

This is stu­pid be­cause it un­der­mines the nar­rat­ive of her un­of­fi­cial cam­paign — one of the world’s most fam­ous wo­men chal­len­ging the “glass ceil­ing” of U.S. polit­ics. Some of these donor coun­tries have no re­spect for wo­men. Saudi Ar­a­bia has such a poor re­cord that Clin­ton her­self praised the “brave” Saudi wo­men who de­fied their na­tion’s ban on fe­male drivers.

This is sleazy be­cause her found­a­tion takes money from coun­tries that fund ter­ror­ism. A Wikileaks cable quoted then-Sec­ret­ary of State Clin­ton say­ing, “Donors in Saudi Ar­a­bia con­sti­tute the most sig­ni­fic­ant source of fund­ing to Sunni ter­ror­ist groups world­wide.” The United Ar­ab Emir­ates also was im­plic­ated in the memo.

This is stu­pid be­cause it plays in­to a dec­ades-old knock on the Clin­tons: They’ll cut any corner for cam­paign cash. In the 1990s, Bill Clin­ton and his top aides used the White House as a tool to court and re­ward big donors. It was the second-biggest scan­dal of his pres­id­ency.

The Wall Street Journ­al ex­posed this leg­al but un­eth­ic­al shift on the same day a new poll sug­ges­ted that 50 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans be­lieve Hil­lary Clin­ton rep­res­ents the fu­ture. No oth­er po­ten­tial can­did­ate ranked high­er on the past-versus-fu­ture test.

But noth­ing screams “the past” louder than a Clin­ton fun­drais­ing flap. If Hil­lary Clin­ton wants to be a cred­ible can­did­ate for the fu­ture, the Clin­ton Found­a­tion needs to knock it off.

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