Editor’s Note: This blog post first appeared in New York Magazine. We reprint in part here.
ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos disclosed today that he has donated $50,000* to the Clinton Foundation. Everybody agrees this is terrible. Stephanopoulos has apologized and ABC has accepted his apology. Republicans believe his gestures of abjection have not gone far enough.Rand Paul proposes that Stephanopoulos recuse himself from moderating the 2016 presidential debates. Senator Mike Lee, through his spokesman, demands that he recuse himself from all 2016 coverage. Clinton Cash” author Peter Schweizer calls it a “massive ethical breach.”
But … why? Paul accuses Stephanopoulos of harboring a “conflict of interest.” But donating money to a charitable foundation is not an interest. His money is gone regardless of what happens to Clinton’s presidential campaign. It’s true that some donors have an incentive to use the Foundation to get close to the Clintons in a way that might benefit their business interests. And yes, as I’ve argued, the Clintons have handled those conflict-of-interest problems really poorly. But none of those problems reflects poorly on Stephanopoulos. The mere fact that a donation might come with an ulterior motive does not taint all donations. If Stephanopoulos needed some angle to get in the room with the Clintons, donating to their foundation would not be the way to do it.