If former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell (R) might go to jail for receiving lavish gifts for a donor for whom he made a few phone calls, what would be the remedy if, once in office, Hillary Clinton extended her office not only to make calls but also to approve policy and financial arrangements worth billions back to these countries? How will the American people ever be satisfied we are getting her undivided loyalty? No matter how much she protests, her judgment would be questioned as influenced by gratitude toward the foundation’s wealthy patrons. And, of course, a president cannot recuse himself or herself from dealings, so there is no practical way to avoid the conflict.
It is bad enough when Clinton takes gobs of money in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs, oil and chemical companies, and other titans of industry — although that, too, raises the potential for conflicts of interest. But a foreign government should never have any claim on the loyalty of a U.S. president, which is why foreign donations directly to a campaign are illegal. We cannot give her a pass simply because her entity is a “foundation,” not a PAC or campaign entity.
There is no conceivable way, I would suggest, that the foundation can keep the foreign monies if she wants to run for president. It is unseemly in the extreme and raises potential for liability down the road. But even if she were now to give all the money back, she has had use of the money in the meantime (the time value of money is something, after all). More important, her egregious judgment and untrammeled greed raise real questions about her priorities and ethics. Republicans should and will, I predict, pummel her with this. If the MSM is not entirely in her pocket, they will as well. Imagine if Jeb Bush’s education foundation took millions from Saudi Arabia. Surely there would be cries for him to withdraw from presidential pre-campaigning.
The irony here is that it is not the “Israel lobby” that buys influence. It is Arab states that lavishly fund universities and think tanks. And now they are buying a president. I await with baited breath the outrage from Tom Friedman and the other Israel-bashers who accuse lawmakers of being bought and paid for by Israel. Or do the rules just apply to Israel?
Hillary, give the money back. Or don’t run. You can’t keep the money and run.