Revelations About The Clinton Foundation Continue To Dog The Clinton Campaign
The Clinton Foundation's foreign donations continue to be a problem for the Clinton campaign, and the story isn't likely to go away any time soon.
Bloomberg News is reporting that the Clinton Foundation failed to disclose more than 1,100 donations from foreign sources received during the time that Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State despite having signed an agreement with the Obama Administration that those donations would be disclosed:
Hillary Clinton’s presidential run is prompting new scrutiny of the Clintons’ financial and charitable affairs—something that’s already proved problematic for the Democratic frontrunner, given how closely these two worlds overlap. Last week, the New York Timesexamined Bill Clinton’s relationship with a Canadian mining financier, Frank Giustra, who has donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation and sits on its board. Clinton, the story suggests, helped Giustra’s company secure a lucrative uranium-mining deal in Kazakhstan and in return received “a flow of cash” to the Clinton Foundation, including previously undisclosed donations from the company’s chairman totaling $2.35 million.
Giustra strenuously objects to how he was portrayed. “It’s frustrating,” he says. And because the donations came in through the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP)—a Canadian affiliate of the Clinton Foundation he established with the former president—he feels doubly implicated by the insinuation of a dark alliance.
“We’re not trying to hide anything,” he says. There are in fact 1,100 undisclosed donors to the Clinton Foundation, Giustra says, most of them non-U.S. residents who donated to CGEP. ”All of the money that was raised by CGEP flowed through to the Clinton Foundation—every penny—and went to the [charitable] initiatives we identified,” he says.
The reason this is a politically explosive revelation is because the Clinton Foundation promised to disclose its donors as a condition of Hillary Clinton becoming secretary of state. Shortly after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the Clinton Foundation signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Obama White House agreeing to reveal its contributors every year. The agreement stipulates that the “Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative” (as the charity was then known) is part of the Clinton Foundation and must follow “the same protocols.”
The Washington Post has further details about this latest revelation regarding questionable and arguably unethical operations at the Clinton Foundation:
A charity affiliated with the Cl
inton Foundation failed to reveal the identities of its 1,100 donors, creating a broad exception to the foundation’s promise to disclose funding sources as part of an ethics agreement with the Obama administration.
The number of undisclosed contributors to the charity, the Canada-based Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, signals a larger zone of secrecy around foundation donors than was previously known.
Details of the organization’s fundraising were disclosed this week by a spokeswoman for the Canadian group’s founder, mining magnate Frank Giustra.
The Canadian group has received attention in recent days as a potential avenue for anonymous Clinton Foundation donations from foreign business executives, including some who had interests before the U.S. government while Hillary Rodham Clinton was secretary of state.
The partnership, named in part for Bill Clinton, sends much of its money to the New York-based Clinton Foundation. Two of the partnership’s known donors — Giustra and another mining executive, Ian Telfer — are featured in the soon-to-be-released book “Clinton Cash” for their roles in a series of deals that resulted in Russia controlling many uranium deposits around the world and in the United States.With the foundation’s finances emerging as an issue for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, a foundation official this week defended the arrangement with the Giustra group, noting in a blog post that Canadian law prevents charities in that country from disclosing their donors without the donors’ permission.
The Canadian partnership has in recent days begun to reach out to its 28 largest donors, each of whom gave donations equivalent to at least $250,000 in U.S. dollars, to seek permission to release their names, said a person familiar with the foundation, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
The large number of undisclosed supporters of a Clinton-affiliated charity raises new questions about the foundation’s adherence to the 2008 ethics agreement it struck with the Obama administration, which was designed to avoid conflicts of interest during Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department.
Former senator Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), who as the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee quizzed Hillary Clinton during her 2009 confirmation hearings about potential conflicts stemming from foundation fundraising around the world, said Tuesday that he considered such undisclosed donations to violate the spirit of the ethics agreement.
“Clearly, there was an expectation and a commitment that large donations to the Clinton Foundation would be disclosed,” Lugar said via e-mail.
In other news, Jonathan Allen at Vox has identified at least 181 donors to the Clinton Foundation or one of its related charities who lobbied the State Department during the time that Clinton was Secretary of State. Even if it was the case that Clinton was not directly involved in any of these matters herself, the appearance of impropriety is quite palpable to the point that it led NBC’s Chuck Todd to openly wonder earlier today why it is that the Foundation continued to solicit any foreign contributions at all during the time that Clinton was at Foggy Bottom. Clinton herself may not have been involved in the day-to-day operations of the Foundation at that time, but her husband and many people close to her most certainly were, and the idea that she was ever really completely separated from what was going on at the Foundation is something that strains credulity. Had the Foundation at the very least refrained from accepting foreign donations at the time she was in office, or even better had refused to accept donations from entities or individuals involved in matters before the State Department, then there wouldn’t be any issue right now. They failed to do that, however, and more importantly they clearly failed to comply with the requirements set forth in the Memorandum of Understanding that was entered into before Clinton took office, a copy of which I have embedded below. While that may not have necessarily have been illegal, it certainly seems to be unethical and, at the very least, it raises legitimate questions about the operation of the Clinton Foundation, its operations during the time that Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State, and Clinton’s own involvement in decisions made by the State Department involving donors to the Foundation.
In just over a week, issues regarding the Clinton Foundation have quickly become a story that it is going to be hard for the Clinton campaign to ignore. The New York Times first reported about the upcoming book detailing donations to the Clinton Foundation, and that was quickly followed by another report regarding Foundation donors involved in the business dealings of a Russian energy company. Soon after, the Foundation itself announced that it was filing amended tax returns for multiple years due to the fact that information regarding foreign donations was not correctly reported. Now, we learn that the Foundation and one of its related entities failed to disclose more than a thousand foreign donations as required by the agreement entered into with the Obama Administration. Throughout it all, both the campaign and the Foundation and their defenders have responded mostly by attacking the sources of the reports and dismissing the claims rather than providing anything approaching clear answers to the questions that these reports are raising. As Ron Chusid, a liberal blogger, puts it, this is clearly not working for them:
Clinton supporters have concentrated on trying to make it appear that they are dealing with attacks from the right. In reality, Clinton does not currently have Fox problem as much as she has a problem with The New York Times, Reuters, AP, The Guardian, media Fact Checker sites, and some liberal magazines. They have concentrated on claiming to debunk Peter Schwitzer’s book Clinton Cash by screaming that there is no smoking gun in the book. The reality is that Schwitzer’s book is only a small part of the evidence against Clinton, with other reports doing more to demonstrate her guilt than Schwitzer, who never claimed to prove the case in his book. Clinton supporters felt so threatened by the fact that Schwitzer has also been working a similar book on Jeb Bush, diminishing their claims of a right wing attack, that they have been repeating a false claim from a pro-Clinton blog that he is not writing the book on Bush. Their “evidence” consists of a statement that the conservative publisher of Clinton Cash is not publishing the book on Bush, but Schwitzer had said he is seeking a different publisher for that book.
While failing to respond to the real questions, Clinton supporters also demand deflect from the facts in demanding that a quid pro quo be demonstrated, but such evidence is rarely preserved in such cases. Nor is it considered necessary for proof, at least when people other than the Clintons are involved. The standards in such a case are that the Clintons failed to abide by the regulations. That is the key fact, but beyond this there is demonstrated transfers of unusual amounts of money, both in the form of contributions to the Foundation and unprecedented speaking fees paid to Bill. This was followed by those who made the payments receiving favors, sometimes including changes in position on the part of Hillary Clinton. Analogous cases in matters such as insider trading are based upon establishing such violations of rules and in patterns of the transfer of money, not in proving a quid pro quo.
To a large degree, of course, the Clinton’s are following the same strategy in responding to these revelations that they have followed in responding to so many of the other allegations made against them. The difference this time, though, is that the reports aren’t coming from Fox News, the conservative blogosphere, or talk radio, they are coming from some of the most well-respected institutions in the traditional media and, indeed, likely from reporters who lean in Hillary Clinton’s direction politically. Dismissing them as just another partisan attack isn’t likely to work, especially given the fact that the lack of a real race on the Democratic side in 2016 means that the journalists covering her are going to be looking for something to talk about, and there are few things juicier than stories about Bill, Hillary, and tons of money from foreign sources. It’s still far too early to tell where this story is going to go, but it’s not going away and the Clinton campaign will need to answer it with more than just denials and evasions eventually.
Here is the 2009 Memorandum of Understanding between Clinton and the White House: