To the delight of Republicans everywhere, the Clintons are digging in — and digging themselves a hole — on their foundation’s haul of millions from Arab states. The Wall Street Journal, which broke the initial story, reports:
The Clinton Foundation on Wednesday defended its practice of accepting donations from overseas governments, amid concerns from some ethics experts that such contributions are inappropriate at a time when Hillary Clinton is preparing to run for president.
A Wall Street Journal review of donations to the Clinton Foundation in 2014 showed the charity received money from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman, among others. The donors included Canada’s foreign affairs department, which is promoting the Keystone XL pipeline. . . . In its statement, the foundation said: “The Clinton Foundation has strong donor integrity and transparency practices that go above and beyond what is required of U.S. charities and well beyond the practices of most peer organizations. This includes the voluntary, full disclosure of donors on our website for anyone to see.”
This is as clueless as it is typical of Hillary Clinton, who never met anyone whose money she was unwilling to take and never understood the appearance of impropriety (cattle futures, anyone?). What the statement ignores, blatantly so, is that we are not simply talking about any foundation. This is money going to fatten the coffers and fund the lavish travel of a woman who wants to run for president.
Political science professor and analyst Larry Sabato remarked on Wednesday, “The ethical questions are obvious to everyone.” Well, not quite everyone.
One marvels at the insularity in Hillaryland, where no one ever thought this was a problem and no one presumably has the nerve to tell her this is untenable. This is one issue on which Democrats and Republicans, mainstream and conservative media, and most anyone who thinks about it can agree. It’s blatantly wrong, not even close to the line. Ron Fournier writes: “This is sleazy because of the clear conflicts of interest. What do these foreign countries expect in exchange for their donations? What pressure would Clinton face as president to return financial favors? Even if you give her the benefit of the doubt (having covered the Clinton since the 1980s, I’m still willing to do that), you can’t deny that this flip-flop creates a perception of foreign favoritism in a political system that most Americans already think is corrupted by money.” I’m not sure why she or any candidate gets the benefit of the doubt in situations like this, but his point is indisputable.
This is not only a function of the Clintons’ greed and blinding self-interest, but the problem with a noncompetitive primary. If Clinton keeps this up — or continues to make egregious gaffes — are Democrats simply stuck with her? If this occurred in the GOP presidential primary field, the press would blast the candidate for corruption (isn’t that what it entails — currying favor by delivering financial benefits to a future officeholder?) and then a pack of competitors would descend on the ethically challenged dunce, lampooning and lambasting him. (Look at how New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was treated when stories came out about his luxury travel financed by everyone from the king of Jordan to Jerry Jones.) This is what primaries are for — to sniff out trouble, eliminate the unelectable and prevent a general election calamity. The presence of competition in primaries, as in business, imposes some discipline and self-awareness.
Republicans should pray Clinton keeps the money and keeps taking it. It is an easily understood, perfect microcosm of the Clintons’ world. And it is precisely because of issues like this that Republicans are feeling good about 2016.