February 17, 2016

One Year Anniversary: Clinton Foundation Turned Back On Foreign Government ATM

One year ago today, the Wall Street Journal broke the story that the Clinton Foundation’s self-imposed ban on taking donations from foreign governments had ended. This is not an auspicious anniversary for Hillary Clinton, as the Wall Street Journal story highlighted the many “ethical quandaries” that come with a presidential candidate’s foundation taking money from countries like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.

Ethical experts called on the Clinton Foundation to immediately reimpose the foreign donation ban:

“Kirk Hanson, director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California, said the Clintons should immediately reimpose the ban, for the same reasons it was in place while Mrs. Clinton led U.S. foreign policy. ‘Now that she is gearing up to run for president, the same potential exists for foreign governments to curry favor with her as a potential president of the United States,’ he said.”

The reports on the Clinton Foundation also led to Bill Clinton being asked multiple times about the practice:

Yet, while Bill Clinton had to defended the Clinton Foundation, he didn’t exactly hold the Clinton Foundation to a high ethical standard in an interview with NBC. In defending the Foundation, Clinton said only that they never did anything “knowingly inappropriate”:

“In an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden, the former president said his charity has never done anything ‘knowingly inappropriate.’ Under pressure, the foundation recently announced it will only accept contributions from six Western governments going forward, but Clinton says that’s no acknowledgment the old policy — under which Saudi Arabia gave between $10 million and $25 million, for instance — was a mistake. ‘Absolutely not,’ Clinton told NBC News during his current tour of Africa to visit a wide variety of the foundation’s projects.”

The Clinton Foundation’s foreign donations had led to widespread criticism from newspaper editorial boards as varied as the Nashua Telegraph, Raleigh News & Observer, and the Toledo Blade. Even the New York Times got into the act, saying:

“Substantial overlap was found between foundation contributors and familiar Clinton campaign donors and money bundlers. Considering the Clintons’ popularity and influence in their party, this is no surprise. But it does make it important that Mrs. Clinton, in defending the family’s efforts on behalf of the world’s needy, reassure the public that the foundation will not become a vehicle for insiders’ favoritism, should she run for and win the White House. Restoring the restrictions on foreign donors would be a good way to make this point as Mrs. Clinton’s widely expected campaign moves forward.”

Most importantly, the Clinton Foundation’s acceptance of donations from countries like Saudi Arabia with its abysmal record on women’s rights, has opened Hillary Clinton up to charges of hypocrisy:

“The donations from countries with poor records on women’s rights, however, presented a difficult appearance problem for a candidate running in part as the embodiment of women’s aspirations to equality. ‘It’s a perfect example of the conflict of interest here,’ said Richard W. Painter, a White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush.”

So happy anniversary, Clintons! The good news is it shouldn’t be too long until you are again able to take as much cash from foreign dictators as you want!