Hillary Clinton continues to receive criticism from the mainstream and liberal media, along with fact checkers, for major ethical violations and the dishonest responses from her supporters. When Clinton became Secretary of State there were essentially two requirements placed upon her by the Obama administration to avoid the breaches which we are now seeing: disclose all the donors to the Clinton Foundation and archive her email on government servers. She failed to do comply with each of these. Bloomberg reports that the Clinton Foundation failed to report 1100 foreign donations:
The reason this is a politically explosive revelation is because the Clinton Foundation promised to disclose its donors as a condition of Hillary Clinton becoming secretary of state. Shortly after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the Clinton Foundation signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Obama White House agreeing to reveal its contributors every year. The agreement stipulates that the “Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative” (as the charity was then known) is part of the Clinton Foundation and must follow “the same protocols.”
The Washington Post has more on this story. Elsewhere in The Washington Post, Karen Tumulty asked, Are the Clintons too cozy with the people who give them money? She is one of many journalists who have pointed out the irony of Clinton’s empty talk on campaign finance reform. Not only do the current revelations make a mockery out of any attempts at campaign finance reform, but it should be recalled that the laws now on the books came about as a result of previous actions by the Clintons:
Nonpartisan advocates of limiting money in politics say the problem is, in no small measure, one of the Clintons’ own making. “It would be in everyone’s best interest if the Clinton Foundation adopted a policy of accepting no money whatsoever from any foreign countries, foreign corporations and foreign individuals,” said Fred Wertheimer, a veteran of the fights over campaign finance who is now president of the watchdog group Democracy 21.
There is indeed an echo of the furor that was generated in the 1990s when the Clintons wooed big Democratic Party donors with overnight sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom and intimate coffees in the Map Room, where they could rub elbows with the government officials who regulated their industries…
The controversies of the 1990s paved the way for passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — also known as the McCain-Feingold Act for its sponsors, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and then-Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.). A key feature of the law was a ban on the unregulated “soft money” that the Clinton White House had been so adept at raising with its many overtures to deep-pocketed donors.
She proceeded to clash with Russell Feingold over campaign finance reform.
In light of the recent revelations, several non-partisan watchdog organizations, including some mentioned in Tumulty’s article, are questioning the ethics of the actions by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Common Cause has called for an independent audit of contributions to the Clinton Foundation.
The Clinton Foundation made insufficient responses recently and their excuses for failing to disclose some of the contributions have failed to hold up. The Washington Post Fact Checker gave Three Pinocchios for one recent misleading excuse.
This his hardly the only dishonest response from Clinton’s supporters regarding her recent ethical violations. Ron Fournier noted “the predictable, paint-by-numbers response from the Bill and Hillary Clinton political operation.”
1. Deny: Salient questions are dodged, and evidence goes missing. The stone wall is built.
2. Deflect: Blame is shifted, usually to Republicans and the media.
3. Demean: People who question or criticize the Clintons get tarred as right-wing extremists, hacks, nuts, or sluts.
This is essentially the same as what David Corn described in Mother Jones last month.
Clinton supporters have concentrated on trying to make it appear that they are dealing with attacks from the right. In reality, Clinton does not currently have a Fox problem as much as she has a problem with The New York Times, Reuters, AP, The Guardian, media Fact Checker sites, and some liberal magazines. They have concentrated on claiming to debunk Peter Schwitzer’s book Clinton Cash by screaming that there is no smoking gun in the book. The reality is that Schwitzer’s book is only a small part of the evidence against Clinton, with other reports doing more to demonstrate her guilt than Schwitzer, who never claimed to prove the case in his book. Clinton supporters felt so threatened by the fact that Schwitzer has also been working a similar book on Jeb Bush, diminishing their claims of a right wing attack, that they have been repeating a false claim from a pro-Clinton blog that he is not writing the book on Bush. Their “evidence” consists of a statement that the conservative publisher of Clinton Cash is not publishing the book on Bush, but Schwitzer had said he is seeking a different publisher for that book.
While failing to respond to the real questions, Clinton supporters also demand deflect from the facts in demanding that a quid pro quo be demonstrated, but such evidence is rarely preserved in such cases. Nor is it considered necessary for proof, at least when people other than the Clintons are involved. The standards in such a case are that the Clintons failed to abide by the regulations. That is the key fact, but beyond this there is demonstrated transfers of unusual amounts of money, both in the form of contributions to the Foundation and unprecedented speaking fees paid to Bill. This was followed by those who made the payments receiving favors, sometimes including changes in position on the part of Hillary Clinton. Analogous cases in matters such as insider trading are based upon establishing such violations of rules and in patterns of the transfer of money, not in proving a quid pro quo.
On top of this, by her own admission, Hillary Clinton has destroyed evidence. She admits to wiping the server. The usual standard in a criminal case would be to assume that any evidence which has been destroyed would be detrimental to the person who destroyed the evidence. This should certainly be sufficient to raise serious doubts in a matter of ethics as opposed to criminal prosecution.
Amy Davidson has a set of five questions on the uranium mining deal which are well worth reading in The New Yorker.The first deals with the question of a quid pro quo:
Was there a quid pro quo? Based on the Times reporting, there was certainly a lot of quid (millions in donations that made it to a Clinton charity; a half-million-dollar speaker’s fee) and multiple quos (American diplomatic intervention with the Russians; approvals when the Russian firm offered a very “generous” price for Uranium One). The Clinton perspective is that, although the approvals were delivered by the State Department when Clinton led it, there is no evidence that she personally delivered them, or of the “pro” in the equation. The Clinton campaign, in its response to the Times, noted that other agencies also had a voice in the approval process, and gave the Times a statement from someone on the approvals committee saying that Clinton hadn’t “intervened.” The Clinton spokesman wouldn’t comment on whether Clinton was briefed about the matter. She was cc’d on a cable that mentioned the request for diplomatic help, but if there is a note in which she follows up with a directive—an e-mail, say—the Times doesn’t seem to have it.
This speaks to some larger questions about political corruption. How do you prove it? Maybe the uranium people simply cared deeply about the undeniably good work the foundation is doing, and would have received the help and approvals anyway. In cases like this, though, how does the public maintain its trust? Doing so becomes harder when the money is less visible, which leads to the second question:
That led a discussion of the failure to meet disclosure requirements, and then three further difficult questions for the Clintons.
So far it looks like Schwitzer has provided valuable information in his book for legitimate, non-partisan journalists to investigate, and from media reports he has also made some mistakes. That is why it is so important that he has allowed journalists to evaluate his research. This conservative writer is certainly not the only one with ideological connections investigating this topic. David Sirota and other liberal investigative journalists have also dug up problems in the recent past, and reported earlier this week on another situation in which payments were made to the Clintons prior to receiving favors, along with millions in additional payments to Bill Clinton “just before or just after firms lobbied his wife’s State Department.”
While the more serious issue is that Clinton failed to disclose over one thousand donors, Vox reviewed those which have been disclosed and even there found a serious problem:
The size and scope of the symbiotic relationship between the Clintons and their donors is striking. At least 181 companies, individuals, and foreign governments that have given to the Clinton Foundation also lobbied the State Department when Hillary Clinton ran the place, according to a Vox analysis of foundation records and federal lobbying disclosures.
After presenting the data the article states, “That’s not illegal, but it is scandalous” and concluded:
Ultimately, it is impossible to tell where one end of the two-headed Clinton political and philanthropic operation ends and where the other begins. The “trust us” model is insufficient for the public. It’s also an ongoing political liability for Hillary Clinton. Both she and the public would benefit from greater controls. She’s not the first politician forced to defend contributions to her charity. Tom DeLay, the legendary former House majority leader and whip, was hammered by the left for taking donations for his children’s charity from corporations and lobbyists with business before Congress.
On one level, there’s little difference between special interests donating money to politicians’ campaigns and donating to their charities. The nature of the objections raised by the Clintons taking money from interested parties also applies to their solicitation of contributions to her presidential campaign — and to similar asks made by every other politician. On another level, though, a politician’s charity is a special avenue of access.
Politicians’ charities are an attractive place for special interests to funnel money. They can give much larger sums to charities than they can in hard campaign dollars. Because the charities are, by definition, nonpartisan, the contributions look less political. The politician who runs the charity usually has a pretty strong emotional tie to its sustainability and often benefits from payment in the form of travel and accommodations in conjunction with the charity’s activities. Last but not least, donations to the charity are tax-deductible, in contrast to campaign contributions.
Candidates for office should seek to set the bar for their own conduct higher than the level required by current law. More important, at a time when the American public has rightly lost confidence that politicians serve the public first, foremost, and exclusively, Hillary Clinton has fallen short of that standard.
Update: Ethical Violations At Clinton Foundation Tarnishing Clinton Brand And May Cripple Campaign