The Clinton Foundation: Favors for Cash for Favors for Cash

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Hillary Clinton and her friends, donors, and former employees in the media have rushed to defend the Clinton Foundation from Donald Trump’s criticism — but internal documents show the Democratic National Committee is worried the foundation will collapse Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“He’s going after me personally, because he has no answers on the substance,” Clinton said of Trump on Wednesday. “That’s even why he’s attacking my faith and of course attacking a philanthropic foundation that saves and improves lives around the world.”

“It’s no surprise he doesn’t understand these things. The Clinton Foundation helps poor people around the world get access to life-saving AIDS medicine. Donald Trump uses poor people around the world to produce his line of suits and ties,” Clinton railed.

In truth, the deeper people dig into the foundation, the more scandal they expose — and it is still five months before election day.

Start with the obvious.

The Clinton Foundation was placed on a watch list by a highly skeptical watchdog, Charity Navigator, after it found that only $9 million of the $140 million raked in by the foundation in 2013 went to direct aid. “The group spent the bulk of its windfall on administration, travel, and salaries and bonuses, with the fattest payouts going to family friends,” the New York Post wrote in April 2015.

“Some of the tens of millions in administrative costs finance more than 2,000 employees, including aid workers and health professionals around the world,” the Post allowed. “But that’s still far below the 75 percent rate of spending that nonprofit experts say a good charity should spend on its mission.”

Bill Allison, senior fellow of another watchdog group called the Sunlight Foundation, was quoted by the New York Post saying “it seems like the Clinton Foundation operates as a slush fund for the Clintons.”

Let’s look at one minor example of how the slush fund works.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal revealed that a $2 million commitment from the Foundation’s “Clinton Global Initiative” went to a for-profit company, Energy Pioneer Solutions Inc., with deep ties to the Clintons:

Energy Pioneer Solutions was founded in 2009 by Scott Kleeb, a Democrat who twice ran for Congress from Nebraska. An internal document from that year showed it as owned 29% by Mr. Kleeb; 29% by Jane Eckert, the owner of an art gallery in Pine Plains, N.Y.; and 29% by Julie Tauber McMahon of Chappaqua, N.Y., a close friend of Mr. Clinton, who also lives in Chappaqua.

Owning 5% each were Democratic National Committee treasurer Andrew Tobias and Mark Weiner, a supplier to political campaigns and former Rhode Island Democratic chairman, both longtime friends of the Clintons.

Not only did the Clinton Global Initiative potentially violate tax-exempt charitable foundation law by acting for private benefit, but Bill Clinton also personally endorsed the company’s request to former Energy Secretary Steven Chu (infamous for wishing that Americans could pay $9 or $10 per gallon for gas like the Europeans do) for a federal grant of $812,000.

The Clinton Foundation knew this deal looked sketchy, as one of Bill Clinton’s top advisers tried to purge it from the agenda of a conference, and it was removed from the Clinton Global Initiative website to “avoid calling attention to Mr. Clinton’s friendship with one company co-owner, [Julie Tauber] McMahon, and to protect the integrity of Mr. Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Obama’s Energy Department ran interference by portraying grants under the relevant program to private companies as “rare but permitted.” The Wall Street Journal dug up a 2010 news release from the department portraying Energy Pioneer Solutions as a “women-owned small business,” even though only two of the five owners were women.

The defense against these suspicious actions basically amounts to the assertion that Bill Clinton is a popular guy who is friends with a lot of people.

This universe of intimately-connected people using government power and connections to shovel money around – including taxpayer money – is exactly what has made private-sector America so angry.

Know the right people, make the right donations, brandish the right Party credentials, and you can do very well, under the same system that produced the middle-class income freeze, stomped the private-sector workforce down to Jimmy Carter levels, and “lowered the unemployment rate” by turning 1 full-time job into 2.5 part-time jobs.

Now consider the DNC documents recently captured-and-released by a hacker.

The Clinton Foundation figures in a number of the documents released by the hacker (or hackers) known as “Guccifer 2.0,” who apparently raided the poorly-secured computer system of the Democratic National Committee. Most of the media reported the dumping of the DNC’s rather tepid Trump opposition research file onto the Internet, and then stopped talking about the hack, because Guccifer 2.0 has dropped a lot of damaging information about Clinton and the DNC, and none of it has been challenged for accuracy.

Common Dreams reported on the latest trove of DNC hack data on Tuesday, citing a 113-page “Hillary Clinton Master Doc” that runs down many of the Party’s concerns about Clinton’s vulnerabilities.

“The documents reveal that the DNC was particularly worried about Clinton’s speaking fees, her book advance, and her somewhat exacting luxury travel requirements for appearances,” writes Common Dreams.

Among these concerns are Clinton’s rock-star demands for first-class accommodations and luxury jet travel, which would seem to waste an awful lot of money that could be going to starving African orphans and AIDS patients. One of the documents flatly falsifies Clinton’s statements that her exorbitant speaking fees were proposed by her customers, by proving that she demanded those gigantic fees, plus an array of royal privileges that included absurdly large and expensive private jets. (Amusingly, she also charged a thousand bucks for a stenographer to write up an instant transcript… which she refused to share with her hosts.)

“Moreover, the DNC appeared particularly worried about the ‘vulnerabilities’ of the Clinton Foundation, such as its acceptance of million-dollar plus donations from private corporations and foreign governments, its veiled finances, and its record in Haiti,” Common Dreams adds.

The DNC document stash included a lengthy dissertation on all the inconvenient donations the Foundation has collected over the years, including millions from Saudi sheikhs, oil companies, health care companies, media companies, and even the sort of venture capitalists Obama told us were job-sucking vampires back in 2012.

In a fun little footnote, Common Dreams notes that these mostly 2015-vintage documents hardly included any oppo research on poor Bernie Sanders, which could “lend more weight to accusations that the primary was ‘rigged’ in favor of the former Secretary of State.”

So who’s rising to her defense?

Even a veteran media partisan like Al Hunt thinks the Clinton Foundation could be trouble. A couple of weeks ago, after waving aside as many Clinton problems as he could, including what he called the “trumped-up scandal” of Benghazi (Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, and Ambassador Chris Stevens could not be reached for comment), Hunt said the Foundation could be a “self-inflicted wound” on par with Monica Lewinsky and Hillary’s email server.

Hunt insisted on celebrating all the “extraordinary good works” the Foundation accomplished with that tiny slice of its vast income, but said it could “present an inherent conflict of interest” for Hillary Clinton, and found her insistence that it would continue running as-is, with extra “transparency,” unacceptable.

“Some of the donors have been influence-seekers, including a Canadian businessman who, according to critics, who may have sought to parlay his Clinton connections to reap business benefits with dictators. The foundation also set up a Canadian subsidiary that effectively skirted some disclosure requirements,” Hunt acknowledged, suggesting that only a complete, clean break with the Foundation could save Clinton from conflict-of-interest controversy.

That’s remarkably facile thinking. Even if Clinton took Hunt’s advice, the facts of what the Clinton Foundation has been doing for years would remain.

It served an important role in the Clintons’ political machine, and that role cannot be erased by Hillary stepping away from the wheel now.


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