Clinton Had A Good Joke, But Her Violations Of Government Policy Are No Laughing Matter

Clinton Email Cartoon Deleted

At least someone on Hillary Clinton’s writing staff has a sense of humor, and extra points to Clinton if she thought up this joke by herself:

“You may have seen that I recently launched a Snapchat account. I love it. I love it. Those messages disappear all by themselves.”

The joke is funny, but the email scandal is no laughing matter. Back when George W. Bush was in office, we condemned his administration for actions such as this. Politicians and government officials should be held to the same standards, regardless of party. Hillary Clinton even accused those in the Bush administration of “shredding the Constitution.”

Government transparency is an important concept, and the change to email would result in the loss of a tremendous amount of documentation. This is even more important when a Secretary of State has outside conflicts of interest as Clinton did. Members of both parties had concerns when Hillary Clinton was made Secretary of State. The Obama administration instituted stricter rules regarding email in 2009, and made an agreement with Clinton to disclose all the donors to the Foundation when Secretary of State. There were two things which Clinton was supposed to do, and she ignored both. She then proceeded to unethically make decisions regarding parties which had made substantial contributions to the Foundation. In addition, Bill Clinton received extraordinarily high speaking fees from such parties.

This is especially foolish considering that she knew how much scrutiny she would be under, and presumably thought she might run for president again one day. If you are not doing something dishonest, it only makes sense to follow the rules and keep your nose clean in such a situation. Apparently she thought the money was worth the risk.

The New York Times also has more information available on the email classified as top secret which were found on Clinton’s private server, directly contradicting her previous statements on this topic:

This week, the inspector general of the nation’s intelligence agencies, I. Charles McCullough III, informed members of Congress that Mrs. Clinton had “top secret” information, the highest classification of government intelligence, in her account.

Some of that information, according to a memorandum the inspector general sent to the heads of the Senate and House intelligence and judiciary committees, may have come from a program called Talent Keyhole, which relies on satellite intercepts of conversations or imagery data. The program involves some of the most secure information in the intelligence agencies’ computer systems.

Specifically, the inspector general told members of Congress that two emails should have been classified as top secret, with one of them designated “TOP SECRET//SI//TK/NOFORN.” Officials familiar with the nomenclature said that “SI” stood for “special intelligence,” usually indicating an intercepted communication, and that “TK” was routinely used as an abbreviation for Talent Keyhole, showing that the communication or an image was obtained from a satellite…

The investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails has its roots in her decision to use only a private email account for her official business when she was secretary of state, an unorthodox decision that gave her some control over what was made public. She faced criticism when her use of the account became known this year, and after deleting what she said were more than 31,000 personal emails, she turned over more than 30,000 work-related emails for the State Department to make public.

We already know that some of the over 31,000 emails which she deleted turned out to relate to Libya and terrorism, and some of the email which was turned over appeared to be altered, contradicting her claims of the email being personal.

The classified email found so far in this sample of only forty emails were in email received by Clinton and not sent by her. This does not really alter the underlying issue of Clinton’s violation of government policy leading to classified email inappropriately being on her home server. As I have previously discussed, the Obama administration has been  hard on any violations of policy regarding classified information. Clinton was responsible for the information being on a private as opposed to secure government servers due to her failure to follow government policy, regardless of whether she had any intent for this to occur.

If Hillary Clinton were to be treated consistently as others have been treated who mishandled classified information (which I suspect will not be the case), she would be indicted. On the other hand, despite many conservative bloggers who dream of her going to prison, those indicted in situations comparable to her have been able to negotiate plea bargains which led to probation, fines, and loss of security clearance. It would create an awkward situation should Clinton be stripped of her security clearance and then be nominated by a major party as a candidate for president.

Update: The Washington Post reports on why the Clinton camp is getting nervous about this story:

The FBI’s interest in Clinton’s e-mail system arose after the intelligence community’s inspector general referred the issue to the Justice Department on July 6. Intelligence officials have expressed concern that some sensitive information was not in the government’s possession and that Clinton’s unusual e-mail system could have “compromised” secrets.

That investigation, still preliminary, is focusing on how to contain any damage from classified information that might have been put at risk. Officials have said that Clinton is not a target. But, according to legal experts, this type of security review can turn into a criminal investigation if there is evidence that someone intentionally mishandled government secrets…

The issues around Clinton’s e-mails have also intensified as it has become clear that a number of her statements defending her actions now appear to be false.

As she did that Sunday in Iowa, Clinton has said multiple times that she never sent or received any e-mails containing information that was classified at the time.

But the intelligence community’s inspector general, reviewing a small sample of Clinton’s private e-mails, has contradicted that claim. While the e-mails may not have been marked that way, they contained classified information. The IG said this week that he had discovered information in two e-mails that intelligence agencies considered to be top secret, the highest category of classification…

The controversy highlights one of the problems with Clinton’s decision to use her own e-mail system during her four years running the State Department.

At many agencies that handle sensitive information, discussions of classified material and sharing of classified documents must take place on specially secure classified computers. The government protections don’t extend to private accounts.

Other Cabinet secretaries have been known to use private accounts, including one of Clinton’s predecessors, Colin Powell.

State Department rules require employees to “use, hold, process, or store classified material in data and word processing systems . . . only under conditions that will prevent unauthorized persons from gaining access,” according to the agency’s Foreign Affairs Manual. A 2009 executive order also specifies that classified information “may not be removed from official premises without proper authorization.”

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Lawrence Lessig–Long Time Critic Of Clinton’s Ethics–May Run For Democratic Nomination

Lawrence Lessig

Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and prominent government reform activist, has stated he plans to run for the Democratic nomination, provided he can raise one million dollars by Labor Day. He says that if elected he would only remain in office long enough to enact government reforms, and then turn over the job to his vice president. He has suggested Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders as possible running mates:

“Until we find a way to fix the rigged system, none of the other things that people talk about doing are going to be possible,” Lessig said in an interview with The Washington Post, borrowing a phrase that has become Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s rallying cry. “We have this fantasy politics right now where people are talking about all the wonderful things they’re going to do while we know these things can’t happen inside the rigged system.”

In the interview, conducted by phone on Monday ahead of his announcement, Lessig said he would serve as president only as long as it takes to pass a package of government reforms and then resign the office and turn the reins over to his vice president. He said he would pick a vice president “who is really, clearly, strongly identified with the ideals of the Democratic Party right now,” offering Warren as one possibility. He said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whom he considers a friend and has drawn huge crowds in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, was another option…

The singular focus of Lessig’s campaign would be passing the Citizens Equality Act, a package of reforms that would guarantee the freedom to vote with automatic registration, end partisan gerrymandering and fund campaigns with a mix of small-dollar donations and public funds.

Lessig has noted that Bernie Sanders has many of the same goals, but objects that this is not his top priority.

In contrast, Lessig has often criticized the ethics of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. In 2008, in explaining his endorsement of Barack Obama, Lessig criticized Bill Clinton for his “consistent refusal to stand up for for what were strong principles, at least as he articulated them, in his campaign.” He expressed fears that with Hillary there “are things to make one suspect that she lets principle yield in the face of expedience.” He condemned Hillary for her “lack of moral character, moral courage” and criticized Hillary Clinton’s conduct during the 2008 campaign, accusing her of dishonesty and “swiftboating” Barack Obama.

More recently Lessig has been critical of Clinton’s conduct as Secretary of State in accepting contributions to the Foundation and unusually high speaking fees for Bill Clinton from those with business before her as Secretary of State:

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to allow those with business before the State Department to finance her foundation heightens concerns about how she would manage such relationships as president, said Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics.

“These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment,” Lessig told IBTimes. “Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?”

I quoted additional criticism by Lessig of Clinton’s conduct here.

It is hard to see this campaign really going anywhere. Those who have concerns about corruption in government are increasingly backing Bernie Sanders, and would not be likely to vote for Lessig over Sanders in the primaries. I think it would make more sense for Lessig to speak out on these issues while backing Sanders, and pushing Sanders to place greater emphasis on government reform in his campaign. There are many potential supporters of Sanders who are interested in issues beyond his economic platform, including government reform, support for civil liberties, and opposition to the greater military interventionism supported by Clinton.

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Endorsements For Bernie Sanders & Speculation About Joe Biden

Sanders Endorsement Ben Cohen

Bernie Sanders has landed a huge endorsement–from Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s. ABC News reports:

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has landed the sweetest food endorsement so far of the 2016 election cycle: Ben Cohen, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s.

The ice cream magnate spoke Sunday to a gymnasium of supporters in Franklin, New Hampshire, telling them “as a person who has been his constituent for the last 30 years, I can tell you: this guy is the real thing.”

In an interview with ABC News, Cohen explained his involvement.

“Finally, there’s a politician worth working for,” he said with a grin. “So I’m working for him.”

Bernie Sanders Ben & Jerrys Ice Cream

Friends of the Earth Action also endorsed Sanders on Saturday:

“He has proven himself a bold and fearless voice for the planet,” said Friends of the Earth Action President Erich Pica. “Sen. Sanders’ bold ideas and real solutions to addressing climate change, inequality and promoting a transformative economy that prioritizes public health and the environment over corporate profits, have earned him an enthusiastic endorsement from Friends of the Earth Action.”

Hillary Clinton received a ton of endorsements from party regulars who have a poor memory for eight years ago back when her nomination was considered to be inevitable. There is talk that some are now questioning their decision after seeing how poor a job Clinton is doing as a campaigner, how she is being damaged by scandals, and how support for her is rapidly falling. This includes polls showing that a majority do not find her trustworthy, and that she is doing poorly in the battleground states.

Hillary Clinton is rapidly becoming out of place in a Democratic Party which is becoming far more an Elizabeth Warren party than the old Bill Clinton/Triangulation/DLC Party. Being an outsider from the Democratic establishment is one of Bernie Sanders’ greatest strengths as a general election candidate, but such an outsider will have a real uphill battle for the nomination.

Maureen Dowd reminded readers in Sunday’s column that Beau Biden urged his father to run for president before dying. This got many people all excited, as those who are starting to panic about the prospects of a tainted Hillary Clinton running in the general election realized that there is an establishment candidate available.

Biden would be yet another candidate running to the left of Hillary Clinton. While this means he might divide the liberal vote and help Clinton, there is also a strong likelihood he could divide the establishment vote and help Sanders. I see this as win-win.

It would be great if his entry helps Sanders win. On the other hand, if it turns out that the Democratic establishment is too powerful to allow this, Biden would be far preferable to Clinton. Besides being a stronger campaigner and far more fit ethically to be president than Clinton, there are issues which do separate them. While both were wrong to vote to authorize force in Iraq, Clinton pushed for war far more strongly, including making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Biden often opposed Clinton’s push for greater military intervention when Secretary of State. Plus Biden is far more liberal on social issues. Biden did not join up with the religious right as Clinton did in the Senate, and it was Biden who pushed Obama to “evolve” on same-sex marriage.

Howard Fineman has a list of seven reasons why Biden might run. The most interesting is the second:

2. The Clintons

The vice president had a mostly cordial relationship with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and his longtime role as a champion of women’s rights amplifies his appreciation for the former first lady.

But, privately, he looks down on what he regards as a political/money-making machine. He sees the Clintons as far more interested in cash and clout than in doing good. “They’re everything he hates about the way politics operates today,” said one friend.

Biden may conclude that he is the only person in the party who can stop a Clinton return to the White House. If he enters the race, he will at least further complicate Hillary’s already dreary slog towards the Democratic nomination.

Sanders was asked by ABC News what he thought of Biden entering the race:

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said he’s “very fond” of Vice President Joe Biden, but that “the American people… want to go beyond conventional establishment politics.”

We are seeing a desire for someone outside of the conventional establishment in both parties as support soars for Bernie Sanders among the Democrats and Donald Trump among the Republicans. Of course only one of these two men would make an acceptable president.

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The Two Front Runners And Their Vulnerabilities

Graphic shows results of AP-GfK poll on Hillary Clinton; 2c x 5 inches; 96.3 mm x 127 mm;

Going by the polls, there are two apparent front-runners for their party’s nomination, but one has a far more meaningful lead than the other. While I will not totally dismiss the possibility of Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination as I discussed yesterday, it remains far more likley that we will see multiple candidates take leads for a period of time in the Republican race as we saw four years ago. Perhaps we will know when Republicans are truly scared of him when they start to bring up his previous statements, including on abortion rights, health care, and support for how Barack Obama handled the economy.

Hillary Clinton has a more significant lead in the Democratic race, and going by any conventional measures is most likley to win, but she is showing some signs of weakness which no longer make her nomination appear inevitable.

While Clinton retains a significant lead among Democrats, the AP-Gfk poll does show some softening of her support:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s standing is falling among Democrats, and voters view her as less decisive and inspiring than when she launched her presidential campaign just three months ago, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

The survey offers a series of warning signs for the leading Democratic candidate. Most troubling, perhaps, for her prospects are questions about her compassion for average Americans, a quality that fueled President Barack Obama’s two White House victories.

Just 39 percent of all Americans have a favorable view of Clinton, compared to nearly half who say they have a negative opinion of her. That’s an eight-point increase in her unfavorable rating from an AP-GfK poll conducted at the end of April.

The drop in Clinton’s numbers extends into the Democratic Party. Seven in 10 Democrats gave Clinton positive marks, an 11-point drop from the April survey. Nearly a quarter of Democrats now say they see Clinton in an unfavorable light.

“I used to like her, but I don’t trust her,” said Donald Walters of Louisville, Kentucky. “Ever since she’s announced her candidacy for the presidency I just haven’t liked the way she’s handled things. She doesn’t answer questions directly.”

While Clinton’s favorability rating fell, Obama’s stayed constant at 46 percent since April. More than 8 in 10 Democrats have a positive view of the president.

This follows another poll this week from Morning Consult showing even greater problems with trust:

Few voters say they trust former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but a majority say she has a vision for the future of the country, according to a new survey that highlights the challenges ahead for the Democratic front-runner’s campaign.

The Morning Consult poll of 2,019 registered voters shows just 19 percent say Clinton is honest and trustworthy, and only 35 percent say she has the average American’s best interests at heart.

Democrats and liberals are far more likely to credit Clinton with positive attributes, as are Hispanic and African American voters. But just 30 percent of all voters — and only 24 percent of independents — say Clinton “cares about issues important to me.”

Should Clinton win the nomination, trust issues are likely to be a greater factor in the general election. Democrats are quicker than the full electorate to ignore the scandals, and many are not paying attention to the details. Republicans are likley to bring them up far more in the general election, similar to how the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry surfaced prior to his winning the nomination, but the major attacks were held until shortly after the Democratic convention. The scandals involving Hillary Clinton’s email and contributions to the Foundation also threaten to be more damaging as, in contrast to the Swift Boat Liars, the accusations against Clinton are supported by the facts (including newspaper fact-check sites).

Distrust of Hillary Clinton may or may not play a role in the general election considering the significant faults in all the Republican candidates. Charlie Cook also pointed out that one previous candidate won a presidential election despite not being trusted–Bill Clinton:

But after a flurry of unflattering stories regarding her email practices during her tenure at the State Department and questions about possible conflicts of interest with donors to Clinton-related foundations and groups that paid her husband, former President Clinton, speech honoraria, the share of Americans who picked “is honest” dropped from the mid-70s to just 42 percent in the May CNN/ORC poll, with “not honest” jumping from the 20s to 57 percent. The ABC News/Washington Post poll also recorded an honesty drop, albeit a less precipitous one. When asked if Clinton is “honest and trustworthy” in March, Americans were evenly split—46 percent answered yes, 46 percent responded no. By May, those numbers had stretched to 41 percent yes and 52 percent no.

So will these doubts about Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness cost her the election? There is no doubt that voters want to be able to trust a president, but it should be remembered that Bill Clinton won an election in 1992 with large deficits in the honesty department. Polling by CBS News and The New York Times in April 1992 found that, when asked if Clinton has “more honesty and integrity than most people in public life,” just 16 percent of respondents said yes, while 48 percent answered no. The ABC News/Washington Post poll also reflected concern about Bill Clinton’s integrity. In June, when ABC/Washington Post polled the statement “Clinton is honest,” 39 percent agreed and 49 percent disagreed. In October, the numbers were virtually even, at 31 percent yes, 32 percent no, hardly a rousing endorsement of his integrity, yet he beat the incumbent President George H.W. Bush anyway.

Still it would make sense to chose a candidate who is trusted by the voters going into a general election campaign.

Looking at other factors, Hillary Clinton is doing extremely well with fund raising in terms of dollars brought in but lags behind Sanders with regards to donations from the grass roots:

Of the $47.5 million that Mrs. Clinton has raised, less than one-fifth has come from donations of $200 or less. That is a far smaller proportion than that of her Democratic and Republican rivals who have excited grass-roots donors on the left and right, such as Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Ted Cruz of Texas. While Mr. Sanders raised far less than Mrs. Clinton over all — about $15 million, including money transferred from his Senate account — about four-fifths of that amount came from smaller donors.

Total contributions is probably the more important factor with regards to winning elections, but this gap might also indicate that those who support Clinton in the polls are also less enthusiastic about turning out to vote in primaries and caucuses. Despite the idea that corporations are people, it takes real voters and not corporate donors turning out to win primary elections.

Clinton also got the first major union endorsement, but there has also been grass roots opposition to the recent decision by the American Federation of Teachers to endorse Clinton.

While Clinton has a tremendous lead for the Democratic nomination at this time, she also has significant weaknesses which could still influence the outcome. The contrasting campaign styles of Clinton compared to Sanders and O’Malley, along with other potential candidates entering the race, could impact the opinions of those who now state they support Clinton, largely based upon a combination of name recognition, nostalgia, and gender. The increased disqualification we are seeing with the status quo could lead to unanticipated results.

As I have discussed previously, polls at this stage have very limited predictive value with regards to the ultimate election results. Patrick Egan looked at various polling data and found only one which appears meaningful in predicting election results–presidential approval. While this is based upon a limited number of elections, and other factors certainly could impact the final election results, Obama’s improving popularity in some (but not all) polls should be encouraging for Democrats going into the general election.

Update:  The Clinton campaign is right to be happy with their lead in the polls and the money they brought in. It is also not surprising that they are ignoring the polls showing that people do not trust Clinton and do not care about where the money is coming from or who Clinton is indebted to.

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Hillary Clinton Going For A Do-Over

Clinton Announcement Video Screen Grab

Hillary Clinton is reportedly launching her campaign tomorrow. I thought she had already done this. I guess that the last launch went so badly that she wants a do-over. Sure can’t blame her. She is falling in the polls. Her favorability and trust are damaged from serious scandals. She can’t handle questions from the news media. Many liberals are not buying her selective and limited attempts to try to sound like a progressive. As Bernie Sanders has said of her listening tour, “at the end of the day, you have to have an opinion on the basic issues facing America.” Martin O’Malley has often pointed out that it is not necessary to pull him to the left like it is with Hillary Clinton. A speech will not change Clinton’s fundamentally conservative views on Wall Street, use of military force, civil liberties, the environment, and social issues.

Most likley Clinton will have a good sounding speech tomorrow, regardless of whether it lacks substance. The Note has some information on what to expect:

CLINTON TO UNVEIL TALK-ABOUT-HER-MOM STRATEGY AT FIRST CAMPAIGN RALLY: Hillary Clinton spent the opening weeks of her campaign addressing policy issues like criminal justice reform, voting rights, and equal pay for women. But as Clinton transitions to a new, more intense phase of her campaign, expect her to get personal. At Clinton’s first official campaign rally this Saturday in New York City, aides say the Democratic presidential candidate will make her most extensive pitch yet on why she should be president. And her late mother, Dorothy Rodham, will play a central role. “No one had a bigger influence on my life or did more to shape the person I became,” Clinton wrote of her mother in her most recent memoir, “Hard Choices.” According to ABC’s LIZ KREUTZ, at Clinton’s rally this weekend, where Bill and Chelsea Clinton are expected to make their first official campaign appearances, Clinton will explain how her mother’s story has motivated her to run for president. http://abcn.ws/1Iy11oL

–BACKSTORY: Over the years Clinton has often shared her mother’s life story, which was full of trauma and abuse. In Clinton’s telling, Dorothy Rodham was abandoned by her parents as a young girl and sent to live with her unloving paternal grandparents in California. At the age of 14 she left home and found work as a housekeeper.

–WHAT TEAM CLINTON IS SAYING: “She is a well-known figure but when you’re asking the American people to support you as president, even if it is for the second time, there is no skipping of steps,” Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri said in a statement. “If you want to understand Hillary Clinton, and what has motivated her career of fighting for kids and families, her mother is a big part of the story. The example she learned from her mother’s story is critical to knowing what motivated Hillary Clinton to first get involved in public service, and why people can count on her to fight for them and their families now.”

Wait a minute! Her campaign says, “there is no skipping of steps?” What about answering questions from the press? Isn’t that usually a step, as opposed to a campaign full of scripted performances with selected supporters? And what about speaking out on the big issues of the day? Isn’t that normally a step for a presidential candidate? What does she think of NSA surveillance, the situation in Iraq, or the trade agreements in the news, not to mention lots of other issues I and others have questions about? Rick Klein did reflect on this in the same post:

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: As the House votes, probably but finally, on President Obama’s trade agenda, it’s useful to take stock of what the fight has done to the Democratic Party and its 2016 debate. For starters, as Sen. Bernie Sanders pointed out Thursday, the trade issue has not divided the progressive community so much as it has cleaved it from more moderate, pro-business Democrats — including, of course, the White House. Howard Dean‘s brother, Jim, speaking on behalf of Democracy for America, warned Democrats who vote for fast-track negotiating authority or Trade Adjustment Assistance that “we will encourage our progressive allies to join us in leaving you to rot.” Yes, rot. It’s going to take more than a presidential trip to a baseball game to unwind comments like that. As for 2016, Hillary Clinton’s decision to not engage — and not even take a firm position — is itself a policy stance that has frustrated liberals along the way. But they don’t seem to have penetrated the debate in a way that’s made the Clinton campaign reconsider. The fact that a debate that’s torn Democrats apart to the point that they’re threatening to let each other “rot” has played out without the participation of the overwhelming frontrunner for president is nothing short of remarkable.

Yes, Hillary Clinton has learned to out-Nixon Richard Nixon. If Nixon’s downfall was his tapes, the lesson Clinton learned while working on Watergate was not “do not be a crook” but was to burn the tapes, or wipe the server. While Richard Nixon ran on a secret plan to end the Viet Nam war, Clinton just refuses to speak about the issues where she has problems.

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Clinton Criticized For Remaining Silent On Major Issues & Giving False Illusion Of A Move To The Left

Clinton wink

“at the end of the day, you have to have an opinion on the basic issues facing America.” –Bernie Sanders on Hillary Clinton’s listening tour

While Clinton’s opponents such as Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders meeting with the press and are willing to answer questions as to what they believe (including Bernie Sanders in his interview on NPR this week), Hillary Clinton is receiving increased skepticism and criticism from some liberals for evading questions and avoiding the press. She has made a show of speaking out on selected topics, but often leaves out key details and refuses to answer questions on other key subjects. At Vox, Jonathan Allen makes some of the same points I made in this recent post in an article entitled The selective liberalism of Hillary Clinton:

There’s a term for the way Hillary Clinton has handled policy in the early stages of her campaign: Clintonian. That is, on the issues that most divide the Democratic base from its centrist wing, she refuses to box herself into a position. She’d rather wait to see how things play out — a tendency that reinforces the often asserted (but sometimes unfair) criticism that she doesn’t have core convictions. She’s thrilled that fast-food workers are fighting for a $15 minimum wage, but she won’t say whether she’ll fight for it — or even whether she thinks that’s the right level.

She’s decidedly undecided on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, even though she called it “the gold standard in trade agreements” when she was secretary of state.

And her campaign has completely dodged the question of whether she thinks her husband’s welfare reform law was the right policy.It’s true that Clinton has rolled out a string of positions that please constituencies on the left, from support for LGBT rights and voting rights to repudiating the results of her husband’s 1994 anti-crime law and vowing to enhance President Obama’s executive action on immigration. These are important issues, perhaps more important than the exact level of a wage increase that surely won’t be $15 an hour as long as Republicans control either the House or 41 seats in the Senate. But Clinton has been very selective about how she’s courted her party’s progressive base, speaking as much to identity politics as to actual policy. On some of the more controversial policy questions, she’s taking a pass. As Ruth Marcus put it in the Washington Post Wednesday morning, “The left-leaning positions she isn’t taking are as significant as the ones she has endorsed.”

The full post discussed Clinton’s honesty problem and contrasted her with Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. It concluded:

It’s tempting to think that Clinton has plenty of time because it’s early in the presidential election cycle or because her Democratic rivals probably don’t have what it takes to beat her in a primary. But by sidestepping important policy questions, she’s giving oxygen to doubts about her sincerity. That’s a character question that should be familiar to Clinton fans who watched Barack Obama turn honesty into a weapon against her in 2008, and it’s one that crosses party lines. Ultimately, Clinton is going to have to choose a side on these issues. The longer she takes, the more it looks like she’s afraid of commitment.

In the op-ed mentioned above, Ruth Marcus described Clinton’s leftward illusion. A.B. Stoddard has similar comments at The Hill, noting that on multiple current issues, “Clinton has been silent.”

This week in particular, the president Clinton hopes to replace — if she can break the historical trend that has allowed a party to win a third consecutive term in the White House only once since 1948 — is on edge. President Obama is simultaneously awaiting the outcome of a House vote on trade promotion authority, negotiations on a nuclear deal and a Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act that could potentially dismantle the country’s healthcare system. On all of these issues Clinton has been silent.

On Wednesday Obama announced a shift in his strategy for fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), sending 450 additional U.S. troops to Iraq to bolster the training of defense forces there. Since announcing her plans to run for president, Clinton has said little of the burgeoning wars in Iraq and Syria, except that she was wrong to support the 2003 war in Iraq and that, in the face of ISIS gaining strength and territory, it will be up to the Iraqis to protect their own country.

On trade, Democrats supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal are being slammed by the AFL-CIO and other labor groups for backing Obama on the measure. Meanwhile Clinton, who helped negotiate the agreement and promoted it during her tenure as secretary of State as “the gold standard” of trade deals, has taken little heat from Big Labor. Though it is clear she has access to every detail and Obama could use her help to pass the TPP, she continues to insist she can’t pass judgment until she sees the final product.

Clinton has worked hard to avoid the press since announcing her candidacy. And because of this, her ramp-up has been mostly defined by critical news stories about: the Clinton Foundation and the connection between its donors, both Clintons’ speaking gigs and lack of disclosure of donations; her violation of an agreement limiting those donations while she worked as secretary of State; who lobbied the department during her tenure after giving to the foundation; how Bill Clinton hid some money to avoid disclosure; and how Hillary Clinton placed most of her government work at the State Department on a private email server she has now destroyed. Her favorability ratings are now below 50 percent, 57 percent of voters don’t believe she is trustworthy, and the huge leads she held over potential GOP presidential candidates have shrunk to just a few points.

Clinton doesn’t like answering questions, so she likes to say the campaign isn’t about her, it’s all about the voters. That might be fine this year because she believes no one can defeat her for the Democratic nomination, but next year in the general election it will actually be about her. Support for same-sex marriage, debt-free college, campaign finance reform and more access to early voting may be appealing to her base, but they aren’t the most urgent issues. She should find the guts to confront them soon if she really wants to be president.

As Bernie Sanders said about Clinton this week, “at the end of the day, you have to have an opinion on the basic issues facing America.” Besides these policy matters (and many others I’ve brought up from time to time which are not in the headlines), there remain many unanswered questions about the recent scandals, including those involving the Clinton Foundation. Chris Cillizia looked at Bill Clinton’s latest comments defending his actions and points out that Clinton still does not get it:

This is the latest in a string of statements by the former president that suggest he still doesn’t grasp why the Clinton Foundation questions continue to swirl and, because of that lack of understanding, remains unable to effectively parry them. Let’s go through the problems with Clinton’s answer.

First, there’s little doubt that some of the donations accepted by the Clinton Foundation have been viewed as objectionable by lots and lots of people. To cite one example: Allowing the Qatar Supreme 2022 Committee, organized to lure the World Cup to the nation, to serve as the main sponsor for a 2013 Clinton Global Initiative event. Qatar has been tied to not only allegations of wide-scale bribery of FIFA to acquire the games but is also the subject of widespread humanitarian concerns regarding the number of deaths related to the construction of the soccer stadiums to host the World Cup in 2022.

So, on its face, the claim that no one has come forward to object to certain donations/donors is just not right.

Then there is the fact that Clinton’s answer on the foundation seems to be based on the idea that he and his wife are operating in a legal sphere for the next two years. They’re not. They’re living in the world of politics — and the rules of that world are far different than those of a court of law.

Clinton’s argument boils down to the idea of a burden of proof. As in, if there’s something truly objectionable in what the foundation has done, then someone should prove it.  Legally speaking, Clinton’s right.  If you think he or the foundation broke some sort of law, then you should need to provide conclusive evidence of when, where, why, what and how.

But  of course, what we are mostly talking about when it comes to the Clinton Foundation is the gray area between contributions made by donors and decisions made by the foundation that benefited those people.  Proving that sort of quid pro quo in a legal setting is virtually impossible barring a smoking gun — like an e-mail that says: “Mr. X gave $300,000.  Let’s fund his project now.”

In politics, however, gray areas can be exploited to great advantage by your political opponents. Raising questions about the timing between donations to the Clinton Foundation and decisions made that lined the pockets of those donors is totally within the bounds of acceptable — and effective — negative messaging.  Republicans don’t need to prove that the Clinton Foundation did anything untoward. The burden of proof that there was no wrongdoing lies with the Clinton Foundation.

That reality clearly annoys Bill Clinton, and somewhat understandably. After all, the Clinton Foundation is a massive operation and, as Bill likes to point out, does lots and lots of work that has nothing to do with politics. “Do I have the most comprehensive disclosure of any presidential foundation? Yes,” Clinton said in that same Bloomberg interview. “Is our — our disclosures more extensive than most private foundations? Yes, they are, having nothing to do with politics.” (Sidebar: It’s not clear that Clinton’s claim about the foundation’s disclosure policies is totally accurate.)

Here’s the problem for Bill: No other foundation in the world is run by a former president and a former secretary of state who also happens to be the de facto Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. That fact means that the Clinton Foundation isn’t like any other foundation in the world — and  therefore, how all of those other foundations treat disclosure is sort of immaterial.

It also remains significant that Hillary Clinton had agreed to disclose donors to the Foundation when she was Secretary of State, and then failed to do so.

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Rotating First Lady

Politico reports that Lindsay Graham has said that, being a bachelor, should he be elected he will have a rotating first lady.

The political jokes out of that one are too obvious: Bill Clinton wants to know if that is something he could have done.

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Clinton Foundation Donors And Weapons Deals At Clinton State Department, Plus How The Clintons Channel Their Inner Mitt Romney

Clinton apologists who fool themselves, or try to fool others, that the scandals do not matter might at some point need to reconsider whether it really makes sense for a political party to nominate a candidate with so much dirty laundry. These are not simply attacks from Fox or other right wing sources. This is news from The New York Times, AP, Reuters, McClatchy, ABC News, NBC News,  and other mainstream sources, as well as from many liberal publications, and is based upon clearly established unethical behavior on the part of Hillary Clinton. These stories will continue through election day. Republicans will take advantage of them and, in contrast to the attacks of the Swift Boat Liars against Kerry, the attacks are based upon facts (although conservatives do frequently stretch the facts even further than what there is evidence of). The court order to release Clinton’s email every thirty days will further keep this all in the news.

Some new items have hit the news this week. Award winning liberal independent journalist David Sirota reported on the relationship between weapons deals and contributions to the Clinton Foundation:

Even by the standards of arms deals between the United States and Saudi Arabia, this one was enormous. A consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to the United States’ oil-rich ally in the Middle East.

Israeli officials were agitated, reportedly complaining to the Obama administration that this substantial enhancement to Saudi air power risked disrupting the region’s fragile balance of power. The deal appeared to collide with the State Department’s documented concerns about the repressive policies of the Saudi royal family.

But now, in late 2011, Hillary Clinton’s State Department was formally clearing the sale, asserting that it was in the national interest. At a press conference in Washington to announce the department’s approval, an assistant secretary of state, Andrew Shapiro, declared that the deal had been “a top priority” for Clinton personally. Shapiro, a longtime aide to Clinton since her Senate days, added that the “U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army have excellent relationships in Saudi Arabia.”

These were not the only relationships bridging leaders of the two nations. In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, the philanthropic enterprise she has overseen with her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing — the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15 — contributed $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to a company press release.

The Saudi deal was one of dozens of arms sales approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department that placed weapons in the hands of governments that had also donated money to the Clinton family philanthropic empire, an International Business Times investigation has found.

Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure — derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) — represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.

The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143 percent increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House.

American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements. Such firms and their subsidiaries were listed as contractors in $163 billion worth of Pentagon-negotiated deals that were authorized by the Clinton State Department between 2009 and 2012…

In all, governments and corporations involved in the arms deals approved by Clinton’s State Department have delivered between $54 million and $141 million to the Clinton Foundation as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the Clinton family, according to foundation and State Department records. The Clinton Foundation publishes only a rough range of individual contributors’ donations, making a more precise accounting impossible.

There is far more information in the entire article which should be read. He pointed out how Clinton had signed an agreement to disclose donors to the Foundation, and how this was a major issue before she was confirmed, but Hillary Clinton then ignored the agreement. He went on to look at the ethics of Clinton accepting donations from those she was making decisions about  as Secretary of State:

“The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy group that seeks to tighten campaign finance disclosure rules. “This shows why having public officials, or even spouses of public officials, connected with these nonprofits is problematic.”

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to allow those with business before the State Department to finance her foundation heightens concerns about how she would manage such relationships as president, said Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics.

“These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment,” Lessig told IBTimes. “Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?”

National security experts assert that the overlap between the list of Clinton Foundation donors and those with business before the the State Department presents a troubling conflict of interest.

I have further quoted Lawrence Lessig discussing Clinton’s unethical behavior in this post. Further in Sirota’s article (and again I recommend reading it in full):

During her Senate confirmation proceedings in 2009, Hillary Clinton declared that she and her husband were “committed to ensuring that his work does not present a conflict of interest with the duties of Secretary of State.” She pledged “to protect against even the appearance of a conflict of interest between his work and the duties of the Secretary of State” and said that “in many, if not most cases, it is likely that the Foundation or President Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.”

Even so, Bill Clinton took in speaking fees reaching $625,000 at events sponsored by entities that were dealing with Hillary Clinton’s State Department on weapons issues.

In 2011, for example, the former president was paid $175,000 by the Kuwait America Foundation to be the guest of honor and keynote speaker at its annual awards gala, which was held at the home of the Kuwaiti ambassador. Ben Affleck spoke at the event, which featured a musical performance by Grammy-award winner Michael Bolton. The gala was emceed by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe show. Boeing was listed as a sponsor of the event, as were the embassies of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar — the latter two of which had donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

The speaking fee from the Kuwait America Foundation to Bill Clinton was paid in the same time frame as a series of deals Hillary Clinton’s State Department was approving between the Kuwaiti government and Boeing. Months before the gala, the Department of Defense announced that Boeing would be the prime contractor on a $693 million deal, cleared by Hillary Clinton’s State Department, to provide the Kuwaiti government with military transport aircraft. A year later, a group sponsored in part by Boeing would pay Bill Clinton another $250,000 speaking fee.

Sirota also discussed the Foundation taking money from countries with a history of human rights abuses.

AP  reported on the pass-through or shell companies used by the Clintons to hide their finances, pointing out the similarity to actions by Mitt Romney, which Democrats objected to. First Read reported:

How the Clintons are getting turned into Mitt Romney

By itself, making money shouldn’t be an issue for Bill and Hillary Clinton; after all, so many of our past presidents have been wealthy. By itself, Bill Clinton having a shell LLC wouldn’t be an issue either. But when you add the two together, you see that the Clintons have a Mitt Romney problem on their hands — wealth and “otherness” that voters might not be able to relate to, especially when the likes of Bernie Sanders are campaigning against wealth. Of course, there’s one BIG difference between Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney: Romney wanted to cut taxes for the wealthy, while Hillary likely wants to raise them and eliminate tax loopholes benefitting the well-off. As the Clintons have said before, people like them should be paying more in taxes. And you probably won’t hear that rhetoric from the eventual GOP nominee. Still, Hillary Clinton could arguably be the wealthiest (or close to it) candidate in the 2016 field. And this shell LLC story is going to sound the drumbeats for her to release her taxes.

Not only her income taxes should be released. As Common Cause and other have argued, there should be a full audit of the Clinton Foundation.

While quite trivial compared to the other revelations, the Clinton Foundation has even been dragged peripherally into the FIFA scandal. This ties back to Sirota’s article as both involve how the Clinton Foundation took money from countries with human rights abuses.

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Watch Dog Organizations Placing Clinton Foundation Under Greater Scrutiny Due to Its Financial Irregularities

Hillary Clinton Clinton Global Iniitiative2

Reuters has reported on additional dishonesty from the Clinton Foundation regarding contributions made when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. In order to reduce the risk of the influence peddling which Clinton is now accused of, two requirements were placed on Clinton to maintain transparency when she was Secretary of State–archiving her email on government servers and releasing the identities of all donors. Clinton failed to comply with either, and then destroyed evidence. When it was found that contributions from contributors who received favors from Clinton were not listed on the tax returns. the Foundation initially claimed that they were listed on their web site. Reuters found that the the contributions were not listed on their web site as the Foundation had claimed:

The Clinton Foundation has acknowledged that the government funding totals omitted from their tax returns cannot be found on their website either, despite the foundation’s acting chief executive officer earlier suggesting they were available there.

The foreign government funding received by the globe-spanning charities of Hillary Clinton’s family has received particular scrutiny in recent weeks as Clinton seeks to become the Democratic nominee in the 2016 presidential election.

The foundation’s acknowledgement means precise totals for government grants to the charity for the last three years of Clinton’s four-year tenure as secretary of state have still not been publicly disclosed. All U.S. charities have to separately disclose each year how much they get in government funding, both domestic and foreign.

Shortly before taking office in 2009, Clinton promised the Obama administration heightened transparency concerning donors to her family’s charities to avoid accusations of conflicts of interests when she became the nation’s most senior diplomat. In recent months, the charities have said they did not comply with some parts of the agreement.

In April, Maura Pally, the foundation’s acting chief executive officer, said it was a mistake not to separately list government grants on its public tax forms for 2010, 2011 and 2012 after a Reuters review found errors, but added that the public could find the break-outs elsewhere.

“Those same grants have always been properly listed and broken out and available for anyone to see on our audited financial statements, posted on our website,” she wrote in a statement on the foundation’s website.

The audited financial statements, however, do not break out government grants separately, foundation officials told Reuters.

The Foundation has long had a reputation for being a slush fund for the Clintons but, because of the manner in which financial information on the Foundation is kept hidden, specifics are not known. Many conservative sites (such as here) are claiming that only ten percent of its budget on  charity, but I suspect that this is an exaggeration.

As reports on the abuses of the Clinton Foundation have come out over the past month, charity watchdog organizations have been taking a closer look at the Clinton Foundation. New York Magazine features an article on the recent disputes between the Foundation and Charity Navigator:

The Clinton Foundation scandal cycle is already spinning off new complications. A case in point: After being the subject of a spate of negative newspaper accounts about potential conflicts of interest and management dysfunction this winter — long before Clinton Cash — the Clinton Foundation wound up on a “watch list” maintained by the Charity Navigator, the New Jersey–based nonprofit watchdog. The Navigator, dubbed the “most prominent” nonprofit watchdog by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, is a powerful and feared player in the nonprofit world. Founded in 2002, it ranks more than 8,000 charities and is known for its independence. For a while, the Clinton Foundation was happy to promote Charity Navigator’s work (back when they were awarded its highest ranking). In September 2014, in fact, the Navigator’s then-CEO, Ken Berger, was invited to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative. Of course that was before the Foundation was placed on a list with scandal-plagued charities like Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and the Red Cross.

Since March, the Foundation has embarked on an aggressive behind-the-scenes campaign to get removed from the list. Clinton Foundation officials accuse the Navigator of unfairly targeting them, lacking credible evidence of wrongdoing, and blowing off numerous requests for a meeting to present their case. “They’re not only punishing us for being transparent but are not being transparent themselves,” Maura Pally, the Foundation’s acting CEO, told me by phone from Morocco last week. “Charity Navigator doesn’t disclose its donors, but we do and yet that means we’re suffering the consequences.”

Navigator executives counter that the Foundation has demanded they extend the Clintons special treatment. They also allege the Foundation attempted to strong-arm them by calling a Navigator board member. “They felt they were of such importance that we should deviate from our normal process. They were irritated by that,” says Berger.

The feud is a microcosm of all that is exhausting about the Clintons’ endless public battles. Generally, it goes like this: bad press about their lack of transparency sparks some real-world consequence or censure, the Clintons complain that they’re being held to an unfair standard while their critics contend that they expect to be able to write their own rules, and the resulting flare-up leads to more bad press.

The trouble with Navigator started on Wednesday morning, March 11. Foundation officials became alarmed when they received an anonymous email from the watchdog’s Donor Advisory committee informing them they would be added to the list on Friday, March 13, unless they could provide answers to questions raised in newspaper accounts. Among the press controversies the Navigator cited: A Wall Street Journal report that noted “at least 60 companies that lobbied the State Department during [Hillary Clinton’s] tenure donated a total of more than $26 million to the Clinton Foundation.” Politico, meanwhile, revealed that the Foundation failed to report to the State Department a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government, a violation of the ethics agreement the Clintons had arranged with the Obama White House. Politico also reported that the Foundation’s former CEO, Eric Braverman, quit after a “power struggle” with “the coterie of Clinton loyalists who have surrounded the former president for decades.”

The article describes the pressure the Clintons have tried to place on Charity Navigator to be removed from their watch list but I would be surprised if they do the one thing required to be removed from the list: “Sandra Miniutti, the Navigator’s spokesperson, told me that, in order to get off the list, the Clintons need to publicly address each of the controversies raised by the media with a convincing response.”

Other watch dog organizations have also been critical of the Clinton Foundation, including Common Cause, which has called for an independent audit of the Foundation.

As much as the Clintons claim this is yet another right wing attack, instead of a Fox problem the Clintons now have problems with Reuters, New York Magazine, The New York Times, AP, The Guardian, and many liberal publications which have the integrity to report on dishonesty and corruption in politicians regardless of party affiliation. Ultimately this is not a right wing problem–it is a Clinton problem.

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Greed Leaves Bill Clinton Out Of Touch With The Realities Of The Internet Age

Clinton defend Foundation

Hillary Clinton has avoided the press since announcing her presidential bid, preferring staged events where she will not be asked any embarrassing questions. Bill Clinton did answer a few questions, but showed that this once masterful politician has become out of touch. When asked about whether he would continue to speak for pay while Hillary is running for president, Bill justified this, despite the conflicts of interest, by saying “I gotta pay our bills.”

This is a gaffe comparable to Hillary saying they were “dead broke” upon leaving the White House. Bill Clinton made $105 million dollars in speaking fees between 2001 and 2013. He should have put aside enough money to pay their bills.

Clinton also said, “I’m not in politics. All I’m saying is the idea that there’s one set of rules for us and another set for everybody else is true.” First of all, Bill should consider the ethical standards politicians are held to avoid conflicts of interest when his wife is a candidate for president, regardless of whether he personally is in politics. Secondly, there is a different set of rules for the Clintons. They are ignoring the rules which other politicians follow.

Clinton said, “we’re going to come as close as we can during her presidential campaign to following the rules we followed when she became secretary of state.” The problem is that they did not follow the rules when Hillary was Secretary of State. Two rules were present to avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of influence peddling which Clinton is now accused of. Hillary Clinton was supposed to archive her email on government servers and signed a written agreement to release the identities of all donors to the Foundation. We now know that Clinton did not follow the regulations in effect as of taking office regarding email, and she failed to identify the donors.

These are revelations which would have ended most political campaigns, except that the Clintons are not held to the same rules as everyone else.

Clinton claimed he has “taken almost no capital gains in 15 years.” He actually made almost $400,000 in capital gains from 2000-2006. That might be trivial compared to the $105 million he make in speaking fees, but most voters will not see this as “almost no capital gains.”

The internet has changed things quite a bit since Bill was in the White House. Interviews are analyzed by many people for accuracy. A lot of information is easily available. Bill’s comments will be fact-checked, just like the fact-checkers analyzed Hillary’s press conference regarding her email, and found that she was not telling the truth.

Update: In an editorial, USA Today writes, Only the Clintons seem blind to foundation’s conflicts and concluded:

As Hillary Clinton begins her second quest for the White House, the foundation has once again decided to limit governmental contributions, this time to a handful of Western democratic nations. Given the problems it has had in following its own rules, this might not be enough.

If she really wants to be president, she needs to put the foundation’s work on ice during her campaign. That would eliminate the appearance of a back channel to the corridors of power. It would also help establish whether the foundation’s donors are more interested in addressing social problems, or cozying up to the Clintons.

They are right in the criticism of the actions of Bill and Hillary Clinton earlier in their editorial, and that it is not possible for them to ethically continue to solicit contributions for their Foundation while Hillary is a candidate for president (or when she is president). They are incorrect that only the Clintons are blind to this. Many Democrats, who would be outraged by such conduct from Republicans, are ignoring this behavior from the Clintons. David Siriota wrote at Salon about the hypocrisy of those on the left who oppose the abuses allowed by the Citizens United decision while ignoring Hillary Clinton’s behavior.

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