Questions About Foreign Donations To Clinton Foundation Could Dog Hillary’s Campaign

New allegations regarding foreign government donations to the Clinton Foundation seem likely to become a campaign issue.

Hillary Bill Chelsea Clinton

A book that isn’t set to be released for another two weeks is already starting to shake up the Presidential campaign, and could pose problems for Hillary Clinton going forward:

The book does not hit shelves until May 5, but already the Republican Rand Paul has called its findings “big news” that will “shock people” and make voters “question” the candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” by Peter Schweizer — a 186-page investigation of donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities — is proving the most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle still in its infancy.

The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return.

“We will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds,” Mr. Schweizer writes.

His examples include a free-trade agreement in Colombia that benefited a major foundation donor’s natural resource investments in the South American nation, development projects in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010, and more than $1 million in payments to Mr. Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline around the time the project was being debated in the State Department.

In the long lead up to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign announcement, aides proved adept in swatting down critical books as conservative propaganda, including Edward Klein’s “Blood Feud,” about tensions between the Clintons and the Obamas, and Daniel Halper’s “Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine.”

But “Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author  to pursue the story lines found in the book.

Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which includes Mr. Paul and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, have been briefed on the book’s findings, and its contents have already made their way into several of the Republican presidential candidates’ campaigns.

Conservative “super PACs” plan to seize on “Clinton Cash,” and a pro-Democrat super PAC has already assembled a dossier on Mr. Schweizer, a speechwriting consultant to former President George W. Bush and a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution who has contributed to the conservative website Breitbart.com, to make the case that he has a bias against Mrs. Clinton.

And the newly assembled Clinton campaign team is planning a full-court press to diminish the book as yet another conservative hit job.

A campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon, called the book part of the Republicans’ coordinated attack strategy on Mrs. Clinton “ on wisting previously known facts into absurd conspiracy theories,” and he said “it will not be the first work of partisan-fueled fiction about the Clintons’ record, and we know it will not be the last.”

This isn’t the only story regarding the Clinton Foundation that has come out since Clinton entered the race. Over weekend, Newsweek reported that the company owned by Victor Pinchuk, who has been a top donor to the Foundation for years now, had business dealings and other ties to Iran, although there was no allegation made or evidence presented of any sort of quid pro quo related to Iran. That’s what makes this new book different, apparently since Schweizer makes specific allegations tying donations to the Foundation to policies advocated by the State Department while Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State. While the details of what’s in the book have not be released yet, the allegations made so far are similar to those raised  earlier this month,  that Clinton had altered her position on a Colombian trade deal and human rights in return for contributions to the Clinton Foundation. Uncovering the truth behind all of this has been difficult, though because, as Conor Friedersdorf noted in March, the Clinton’s have made it exceedingly difficult to “follow the money” when it comes to donations made to the Clinton Foundation from overseas.

Not surprisingly, today’s reports are being trumpeted by the conservative blogosphere, but even Jonathan Allen at Vox notes that Clinton will likely have to deal with questions and allegations regarding contributions to the Clinton Foundation for some time to come:

Critics of the Clinton Foundation portray it as an ingenious backroom pay-to-play scheme obscured by the mom-and-apple-pie work going on at the front desk. One concern is that US individuals and corporations gain access to the Clintons, curry favor with them, and use their affiliation with the former first couple to launder their brands. They’ve collected money from folks who turned out to be pretty unsavory, including Jeffrey Epstein. In return, the Clintons get money for projects that help the underprivileged, burnish their own brands, and continue to build their political network.

The other major point of contention is the foundation’s longtime practice of accepting contributions from foreign countries. Bill and Hillary Clinton agreed to suspend most of those donations while Hillary was secretary of state, but at least one — a $500,000 check from Algeria for Haitian earthquake relief — slipped through the cracks. And the Clintons resumed taking money from foreign governments after Hillary resigned from the Obama administration in early 2013. Saudi Arabia and Norway have each given between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation since its inception, according to the organization’s records.

(…)

The truth is the foundation has undergone significant changes in management in recent years, after Chelsea Clinton was sent in to clean up what many in the Clintons’ inner circle saw as a mess. Even with those changes, the whole construct leaves Hillary Clinton vulnerable to political attack. Here’s why:

  1. It reinforces a series of powerful memes against Hillary Clinton: Republicans say she’s unwilling to play by the same rules as everyone else, and her populist turn on the campaign trail is at odds with her big-dollar fundraising, much of it from foreign governments and individuals.
  2. Perhaps more important — since most Republicans aren’t inclined to vote for her — it reminds Democrats of two toxic perceptions about Clinton within the Democratic Party: she’s too cozy with, perhaps even co-opted by, the very Wall Street and corporate titans who are most reviled on the left (Barclays, Citi, Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil, and Walmart are all foundation supporters), and she exercises poor judgment around both the money she raises and the company she keeps.

“It fuels a narrative that’s not positive,” one House Democrat who supports Clinton’s presidential bid said in an interview Thursday on Capitol Hill. “They [the Clintons] show a real tin ear when it comes to their own behavior.”

How you feel about this story will likely depend on how you feel about the Clinton’s in general, and Hillary Clinton specifically. If you’re a Republican or just generally a critic, then this is likely to be seen as yet another example of Clinton chicanery. If you’re a supporter, it’s another example of Republican hysteria about the Clinton that has a history going all the way back to the 1992 campaign for President. Looking at this as objectively as possible, though, it strikes me that this is at least a legitimate question that Clinton and her campaign, as well as the former President and the Foundation, ought to address rather than dismissing it as they have in their initial comments about the book and today’s reporting in The New York Times. Even when it came to the allegations that were being made against them twenty years ago, the Clintons were quite often their own worst enemies in the way that they would respond to things like this with denials and foot-dragging rather than addressing the issue head-on. During the Whitewater investigation, for example, it took years for Clinton to produce the billing records from her time at the Rose Law Firm, and when she did the explanation for the delay was so convoluted as to defy credibility. Similarly, President Clinton’s response to the Lewinsky scandal, up to the point of arguing in a deposition over the definition of the word “is” seemed like the perfect example of that old nickname “Slick Willie.” If that’s how the campaign and the Foundation intend to handle the ongoing questions regarding foreign donations then it’s not going to go away any time soon.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Hillary Clinton, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    Similarly, President Obama’s response to the Lewinsky scandal, up to the point of arguing in a deposition over the definition of the word “is” seemed like the perfect example of that old nickname “Slick Willie.”

    Your ODS is showing.

  2. C. Clavin says:
  3. michael reynolds says:

    It was likely leaked to avoid vetting in the initial rounds of coverage. Let’s see how things look in six weeks.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    I see Doug has fixed his Freudian lingerie.

  5. Modulo Myself says:

    The problem with arguing taking money equals corruption is that there’s nobody who isn’t taking money. Unless you’re coming out against Citizens United, or you’re trying for a new McCain-Feingold, what are you going to say?

    The only thing that sets the Clintons apart is that their money comes in from abroad rather than Sheldon Adelson and the Kochs. But the people who will dive headfirst into this conspiracy aren’t potential dem voters anyway.

    And I say this as a 24-year old Nader voter in 2000 (home state: California)–few are going to fall for the same third-party protest schtick again. The GOP brand is that toxic and vile.

    Anyway, if this book had the goods, it would be coming out next year.

  6. Guarneri says:

    C’mon. Let’s get to the important stuff. Are you now attending, or have you ever attended, a gay wedding?

  7. Larry T says:

    @James P:

    I heard Hillary had sex with Hezbollah.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:

    You are master of the non sequitur.

  9. EddieinCA says:

    21 months out a book is going to move the needle? Not likely.

    Seems as though thr GOP is already saying “We are not Hillary” in order to win GOP PRIMARIES!!!!

    WTF?

  10. DrDaveT says:

    Let me get this straight — if the Clintons somehow convince the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria to donate $500,000 for Haitian earthquake relief, that somehow
    1. Is a bad thing in and of itself
    2. Enriches the Clintons personally
    3. Is sleazier than a political campaign taking huge sums from a corporation to be used in ways that don’t actually help anyone except the candidate?

    Bizarre.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    Close…but you are missing the target.
    In the McCutcheon decision Roberts makes clear that the only possible form of corruption is where money directly changes hands in exchange for political favors. That is THE ONLY FORM of political corruption according to the SCOTUS.
    Ipso facto there can be no possible corruption here, as money is not being directly exchanged.
    http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-536_e1pf.pdf

  12. Barfour says:

    I think Democrats should be at least a little concerned about Hillary Clinton’s baggage. I have doubts that she have been disciplined enough to win the presidency. The baggage that have come out so far are not really a big deal but they are things that should have been easily avoided, especially for someone who have been planning to run for president. We will see how things eventually turn out but, if you want to successfully run for the presidency, you do not give your opponents ANYTHING that they can use aganst you.

  13. C. Clavin says:

    @Barfour:
    Her only baggage is trumped up fiction that never amounts to a hill of beans.
    Oh…and her husband got an extramarital blow job.
    From Whitewater to Benghazi…NADA…in spite of millions of taxpayer dollars spent by Republicans looking for something, anything.
    You can’t help but give your opponents something to use, when they will use anything.

  14. ernieyeball says:

    Q: So what did the Republicans do with the $11,414,162 they got from 150 Foreign Connected PACs in the 2014 election cycle?

    Foreign-connected PACs
    Election cycle: 2014
    Total: $19,280,355
    To Dems: $7,863,193
    To Repubs: $11,414,162

    A: The same thing the the Democrats did with the cash they got
    from the same PACs.
    The GOP just did $3.5 Million worth more of it.
    https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/foreign.php

  15. ernieyeball says:

    @EddieinCA:..21 months out a book is going to move the needle? Not likely.

    An endorsement from Dandy Randy Paul is all I need to suspect that this is alot more about picking the pockets of the faithful than anything else. The big mover here will be Citizen Schweizer’s bank account.

  16. An Interested Party says:

    It is rather rich that the usual suspects would try to attack Hillary on this…these people are the same ones who support Republican whores in Washington, among other places…they fail to talk about how the houses of ill repute are open for business from and for everybody…

  17. HarvardLaw92 says:

    I’m underwhelmed …

  18. al-Ameda says:

    Now that the Republican Party has merged with Netanyahu’s Likud coalition, I have a feeling that this Foreign PAC “issue” may not have an impact beyond causing Republicans to soil their pants for yet just another Hillary-related reason.

  19. ernieyeball says:

    @ernieyeball:..A: The same thing that the Democrats did…

  20. humanoid.panda says:

    Peter Schweitzer has a hagiography of Reagan’s foreign policy called Victory, in which he claims that Reagan had a grand masterplan to win the Cold War, and was playing chess while the rest of the world was playing checkers. Needless to say that this thesis absolutely ludicrous, and in a way takes away from Regan’s real achievement: figuring out that what he was doing wasn’t working and actually engaging the Soviets, despite the fury of the neocons. Couple of years ago I was in Moscow, and saw a fancy Russian language translation of his book, with the Title: The Conspiracy. A Reagan Insider Reveals how the Americans plotted to bring down the Soviet Union.

    Idiocy gets around…

  21. Rick DeMent says:

    For crying out loud Hillery’s canakels are going to become a campaign issue. Dog bites man.

  22. C. Clavin says:

    Yesterday was the best day in American Politics…ever.
    The Koch Bros are going to buy Walker
    http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2015/04/20/koch-brothers-signal-support-for-scott-walker/
    McCain says Ted Cruz is a liar
    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/04/mccain-wants-to-know-more-about-fake-cruz-chat.html
    And Michelle Bachmann says the Rapture is coming and it’s all Obamas fault
    http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/bachmann-rapture-imminent-thanks-gay-marriage-obama
    Awesome sauce…

  23. rodney dill says:

    @Larry T: Well that would meet the wolf in lambskin scenario.

  24. Fester Bestertester says:

    Great googly moogly, some right wing hack pens a conservative hit job on Hillary and the NY Times is going to treat it as fact in it’s reporting? Swift boat liars for cash rides again.

  25. Pete S says:

    Even if Ms Clinton had done something wrong here, and I have not read enough to know about it to judge, it doesn’t matter. Another shiny object will come along soon enough and distract the Republican candidates and media. This will just go on the pile of buzzwords which fire up the base and look good in a fundraising e-mail, but have no real meaning. That is the problem with the fake scandal mongering of the past several years. When a real scandal comes along, only the base is going to believe it is real and important. The rest of us are tired of hearing these things and they just go in one ear and out the other.

  26. charon says:

    @ernieyeball:

    The book is out this early to beat out anyone else who might write pretty much the same book.

  27. Jack says:

    That donation from NAMBLA won’t help either.

  28. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:
    You are fixated on bestiality, and now man-boy love.
    There is professional help and support available.
    Obamacare will cover it.

  29. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin: Bestiality is your thing, I just simply comment on it. As to NAMBLA, the records of Hillary’s donors is public, so…

  30. Gustopher says:

    I think a long running fake scandal that focuses on the Clintons’ good works through their foundation will not actually be viewed as terrible by anyone who was open to voting for Clinton. There is going to have to be something pretty awful in there for it to cause harm — are they eating endangered species to raise money?

  31. al-Ameda says:

    @Jack:

    That donation from NAMBLA won’t help either.

    The only people upset by that will be Republicans – but Republicans have no quality-control when it comes to being upset by the Clintons

  32. C. Clavin says:

    Moderators…
    I’m pretty damn liberal, and I know we tolerate a lot around these parts, which I see as a good thing.
    However being accused of bestiality is way beyond the pale…and this has happened on several occasions previously…which is why I say Jack is fixated on it. I believe he also once called a regular female commenter a “cum dumpster”.
    I ask that appropriate measures be taken.
    @Jack:

  33. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin: Typical Liberal. Eliminate speech that “offends”, which is any speech that runs counter to your beliefs.

    BTW Clavin, much like people claimed about those that dislike homosexuals…that they were closeted and resisted their actual feelings…maybe there is something to that when it comes to you and bestiality. Or, maybe you truly do not routinely hump animals.

    Me thinks thou doth protest too much.

  34. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:
    There is a huge difference between offensive language and slander.
    Moderators?

  35. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin: It’s impossible to damage your reputation. Therefore, it’s not slander.

  36. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: Oh, dear. Cliffy has the vapors. Someone, quick, get the smelling salts!

    But on-topic: there was an astonishing correspondence between other countries seeking favorable treatment from the US while Hillary was SecState, and those countries then giving Bill huge speaking fees, making big-ass donations to the Clinton Foundation, or both. It might be useful to look at Hillary’s official e-mails from those times, on those topics, but gosh darn it, she went and deleted all her e-mails and wiped her private e-mail server clean, so she’s made sure there’s no evidence.

    Also, it’s now come out that in December 2012, Darrell Issa explicitly asked Hillary about the possibility of her using private e-mails:

    “Have you or any senior agency official ever used a personal email account to conduct official business?” Mr. Issa wrote to Mrs. Clinton. “If so, please identify the account used.”

    Mr. Issa also asked Mrs. Clinton, “Does the agency require employees to certify on a periodic basis or at the end of their employment with the agency they have turned over any communications involving official business that they have sent or received using nonofficial accounts?”

    Mr. Issa’s letter also sought written documentation of the department’s policies for the use of personal email for government business. Mrs. Clinton left the State Department on Feb. 1, 2013, seven weeks after the letter was sent to her.

    When Mr. Issa received a response from the State Department on March 27, all he got was a description of the department’s email policies. According to the letter, any employee using a personal account “should make it clear that his or her personal email is not being used for official business.”

  37. Jack says:

    Questions About Foreign Donations To Clinton Foundation Could Dog Hillary’s Campaign

    Also known as “Quid Pro Dough”

  38. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Jack: Also known as “Quid Pro Dough”

    Give credit where it is due. That’s from the New York Post today.

  39. Jack says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Yes. It is. I tried to link the words…”Quid Pro Dough”, but I still have not figured out how to make that function work.

  40. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Jack: Now that I have your attention… I suggest you lay off Cliffy. Not only is he a Special Snowflake ™ who can’t take what he dishes out on a regular basis, I think he’s one of this site’s author’s pets — he routinely gets away with crap that pretty much no one else gets away with.

    No, it’s not really fair. But that’s reality around here.

  41. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Not only is he a Special Snowflake ™ who can’t take what he dishes out on a regular basis, I think he’s one of this site’s author’s pets — he routinely gets away with crap that pretty much no one else gets away with.
    No, it’s not really fair. But that’s reality around here.

    LOL – leave it to a conservative to somehow become a victim here.

    It’s all part of the general liberal media conspiracy – I looked it up in the Area 51 Directory and yes, OTB is identified as a member of the Digital Main Stream Media Conspiracy – to turn conservatives into self-proclaimed victims.

  42. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: LOL back at ya. You apparently missed Cliffy’s streak last summer, where he was tossing around some truly vile epithets without being challenged. It wasn’t until I started using them back at him that got the “All right, that’s enough, everyone knock it off” lecture.

    Which was pretty much what I was aiming for.

  43. An Interested Party says:

    Bestiality is your thing, I just simply comment on it.

    Why not just call him a poopy head and get it over with? That would be just about as effective…

    …he routinely gets away with crap that pretty much no one else gets away with.

    No, it’s not really fair. But that’s reality around here.

    It’s amazing that you would want to hang out at a place where you are so horribly mistreated…surely there has to be some charitable organization that could help you…

  44. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @An Interested Party: I hadn’t really thought about it before, but damn, I am rather saintly, aren’t I?

    Seriously… the day Cliffy and wr (and now The Q, who very well might be one of them) become typical around here, I’m gone. And so will be anyone else with a lick of sense.

  45. An Interested Party says:

    …I am rather saintly, aren’t I?

    Not really…masochistic perhaps, but definitely not saintly…