April 24, 2015

"Here we go again," I thought when I saw this op-ed in the Times this morning: "Candidate Clinton and the Foundation".

Nothing illegal has been alleged about the foundation, the global philanthropic initiative founded by former President Bill Clinton. But no one knows better than Mrs. Clinton that this is the tooth-and-claw political season where accusations are going to fly for the next 19 months. And no one should know better than the former senator and first lady that they will fester if straightforward answers are not offered to the public.

And if they don't fester, why, we'll poke dirt in and around the topic until they do! See, they're concerned. They want to help.

The increasing scrutiny of the foundation has raised several points that need to be addressed by Mrs. Clinton and the former president. These relate most importantly to the flow of multimillions in donations from foreigners and others to the foundation, how Mrs. Clinton dealt with potential conflicts as secretary of state and how she intends to guard against such conflicts should she win the White House.

Still waiting for the Times to address the issue of them rehashing a 2008 story that's already been debunked. Tap tap tap....

The only plausible answer is full and complete disclosure of all sources of money going to the foundation. And the foundation needs to reinstate the ban on donations from foreign governments for the rest of her campaign — the same prohibition that was in place when she was in the Obama administration.

I'm trying to be fair here, but I'm wracking my brain to remember the Times expressing any similar concerns about, say, Ginni Thomas, who's a Teabagger anti-Obamacare lobbyist who happens to be married to a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court -- who is about to vote on a pivotal Obamacare ruling.

The messiness of her connection with the foundation has been shown in a report by The Times on a complex business deal involving Canadian mining entrepreneurs who made donations to the foundation and were at the time selling their uranium company to the Russian state-owned nuclear energy company. That deal, which included uranium mining stakes in the United States, required approval by the federal government, including the State Department.

Even though Clinton wasn't involved and the people who were say she did nothing whatsoever to influence them. And the Times also neglected to mention the dozen or so other agencies who also had to sign off on the deal.

The donations, which included $2.35 million from a principal in the deal, were not publicly disclosed by the foundation, even though Mrs. Clinton had signed an agreement with the Obama administration requiring the foundation to disclose all donors as a condition of her becoming secretary of state. This failure is an inexcusable violation of her pledge. The donations were discovered through Canadian tax records by Times reporters. Media scrutiny is continuing, with Reuters reporting that the foundation is refiling some returns found to be erroneous.

There is no indication that Mrs. Clinton played a role in the uranium deal’s eventual approval by a cabinet-level committee. But the foundation’s role in the lives of the Clintons is inevitably becoming a subject of political concern.

Oh look, they forgot this part where Frank Giustra, the man who made that donation, patiently explained:

I sold all of my stakes in the uranium company – Uranium One – in the fall of 2007, after it merged with another company. I would note that those were sold at least 18 months before Hillary Clinton became the Secretary of State. No one was speculating at that time that she would become the Secretary of State.

It seems clear that the Clintons screwed up on their disclosure agreement with the Obama administration, but as someone who worked for a 501(c)4 lobbying firm with a 501(c)3 educational foundation attached, I found the reporting requirements for even a small firm are a royal pain in the ass. And our boss told us it was more important not to miss a filing deadline than it was to have 100% accuracy -- because you could always file an amended report later.

The one thing that actually bothers me is the non-reporting of those donations Clinton agreed to report. But I'm willing to wait for her explanation, especially because there's no credible evidence of a quid pro quo. Unlike the Times, I don't subscribe to INIYAC (It's Nefarious If You're A Clinton).

It’s an axiom in politics that money always creates important friendships, influence and special consideration. Wise politicians recognize this danger and work to keep it at bay. When she announced her candidacy, Mrs. Clinton resigned from the foundation board (Bill Clinton remains on the board). This was followed by the announcement of tighter foundation restrictions on donations from foreign countries, which had resumed after she left the State Department.

These half steps show that candidate Clinton is aware of the complications she and Bill Clinton have created for themselves. She needs to do a lot more, because this problem is not going away.

In other words, the New York Times will make sure the problem doesn't go away. The Times determined to vindicate themselves for their dead-end Whitewater jihad, Judy Miller's yellowcake and the 2008 attempt to make this same story into a scandal. And they will do whatever it takes. As Charlie Pierce explains them, these are the Clinton rules:

  • The very first Clinton Rule, established by most of the original reporting into the Whitewater non-scandal, is that if you can blow enough smoke, you can say there’s fire.
  • This, by the way, is Clinton Rule No. 2 — what is business as usual for every politician since Cato is a work of dark magic when practiced by either Clinton.
  • Clinton Rule No. 3 — if you have blown enough smoke, you then can claim that there is a “climate” of fire.

Yes, the Heathers have decided that Hillary Clinton is a stuck-up skank who wore pink on the wrong day -- and they're going to make sure everyone knows it. Who does she think she is, anyway?

I try not to think about the time, money, and energy wasted on stories like this when there are actual human beings who might be helped by better political policies -- because I might start crying and never stop.

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