February 25, 2015

Deja Vu: Charges Of Ethical Lapses Abound Around Clintons

Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton

Politico’s Josh Gerstein reported this morning that while the Clintons claim they go above and beyond what is required when it comes to disclosing information about its donors, serious ethical lapses still exist:

The records also highlight a blind spot in the ethics deal the Clintons and the Obama transition team hammered out in 2008 with the involvement of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: While the pact subjected Bill Clinton’s money-making activities to official review, it imposed no vetting on donations to the Clinton Foundation by individuals or private companies in the U.S. or abroad.

Concerns about individuals seeking influence by dropping money in both buckets arose soon after the first few Clinton speech proposals landed at Foggy Bottom. In a 2009 memo green-lighting those talks, a State Department ethics official specifically asked about possible links between his speaking engagements and donations to the Clinton Foundation. However, the released documents show no evidence that the question was addressed.

So while the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation claims “transparency,” the truth is “heavily redacted” documents detailing the ethics reviews were only released after a law suit was filed:

Doubts also remain about the transparency of the ethics deal. Obtaining details on how the approval process played out in practice has been difficult and slow. For nearly three years after POLITICO filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the records in late 2009, the State Department released no information.

Heavily redacted documents began to emerge only after the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit in 2013. So far, the department has not committed to a date to produce all of the records.

And State Department officials were working with “sparse information”:

Instead, the records show State Department lawyers acted on sparse information about business proposals and speech requests and were under the gun to approve the proposals promptly. The ethics agreement did not require that Clinton provide the estimated income from his private arrangements, making it difficult for ethics officials to tell whether his services were properly valued.

​These renewed ethics charges only raise further questions as to how Hillary Clinton will be affected by the money flowing to her through the Foundation and Bill’s speeches.​