The problem, they say, is not what’s illegal, it’s what’s legal. And what Hillary Clinton has been doing with the Clinton Foundation is perfectly legal.
The foundation has been raising millions of dollars from foreign governments, even as Clinton barrels toward a run for the presidency. The donors include nations that don’t always see eye-to-eye with the United States, including Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
This is unsettling. Though Rudy Giuliani questions whether President Obama loves America, we don’t, and we don’t believe Hillary Clinton would pursue policies that help her donor countries at America’s expense. Even so, the donations create at least the perception of a conflict, not to mention avoidable political headaches.
The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have detailed foreign governments’ generosity to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Seven countries gave millions to the foundation while Clinton was secretary of state. Several have given since she stepped down. In 2014, as Clinton’s presidential run became increasingly probable, six countries gave. The United Arab Emirates, for example, gave between $1 million and $5 million last year.
Algeria gave Clinton’s foundation $500,000 while she was secretary of state, violating an agreement the foundation had with the Obama administration. Algeria at the time was heavily lobbying the U.S. government on negotiations over human rights and other matters.
The law bans foreign governments and individuals from giving to U.S. candidates. That is designed to avoid the perception or reality that foreign donors are winning special influence in the highest circles of the federal government. But the law allows foreign giving to foundations, an opening that other countries have embraced in this case. What influence would that give them with a President Hillary Clinton? It would possibly be a closer financial relationship than foreign governments have had with any other U.S. president.
It’s puzzling that Clinton would do this when it so obviously opens her to political attacks. But then, so do her expensive speeches, and this is not the first time she and husband Bill have ignored the political repercussions of their actions.
Of course, the context for all this is the astronomical amounts of money in federal elections today. It’s not just Clinton, and it’s not just foreign governments. Every presidential candidate faces tremendous pressure to raise money, so each of them is open to criticism that they are in someone’s pocket. Clinton’s foreign donations are being scrutinized now, but the corporate, super PAC and Wall Street donations of all the candidates deserve at least as much scrutiny. Thank you, Supreme Court.
Clinton, meanwhile, needs to cut off the foreign money spigot. The foundation may be funding important charitable work around the world, but it can do so without fomenting such clouds over Clinton’s possible presidency.