On Thursday evening, alongside Trump's unexpected statement of "regret", Bill Clinton made another just as important announcement when he said that should Hillary become president, the $2 billion Clinton Family foundation will no longer accept money from any corporate and foreign donors and will bring an end to its annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting regardless of the outcome of the November election. To this we responded that this was to be expected: after all "once Hillary is president, she will no longer need a backdoor way of legally receiving Saudi and other foreign money: at that moment, billions in Saudi dollars will be deemed perfectly acceptable for passage through the front door, mostly in exchange for weapons and ammo."
Other had similar reactions, with the announcement drawing skepticism on Friday mostly from the right left as critics wondered why the Clintons have never before cut off corporate and overseas money to their charity, and more importantly why they would wait until after the election to do so. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tweeted Friday that the Clintons’ continued acceptance of those dollars during the presidential campaign is a “massive, ongoing conflict of interest."
The left also spoke up, when Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator who was a leading surrogate for Clinton’s rival in the Democratic primary race, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), said the restrictions were a good step but should be imposed immediately. “In my opinion, and in the opinion of lots of Americans, this should have been done long ago,” she said.
As it turns out, the self-impossed restrictions would be more stringent than those put in place while Clinton was secretary of state - ironically when the temptation to bribe the top US diplomat was far higher - when the foundation was merely required to seek State Department approval to accept new donations from foreign governments, permitting the charity to accept millions of dollars from governments and wealthy interests all over the world. They would also be stricter than the policy adopted when Clinton launched her campaign that placed some limits on foreign government funding but allowed corporate and individual donations, for the simple reason that Hillary was willing the accept cash for any and all future favors.
Others questioned why Clinton had now decided that the foundation should rule out donations that she apparently thought were acceptable during her tenure as the country’s top diplomat. “Is it ok to accept foreign and corporate money when Secretary of State but not when POTUS???” Donald Trump Jr., son of the Republican nominee, tweeted Thursday night.
But how much of the Foundation cash actually came from abroad? According to a WaPo analysis of disclosed donors, more than half of the Clinton Foundation’s major donors would be prevented from contributing to the charity under the proposed self-imposed ban. The analysis, which examined donor lists posted on the foundation’s website, found that 53% of the donors who have given $1 million or more to the charity are corporations or foreign citizens, groups or governments.
The list includes the governments of Saudi Arabia and Australia, the British bank Barclay’s, and major U.S. companies such as Coca-Cola and ExxonMobil.
According to public record, there are at least 59 donors who "donated" between $1 and $5 million, 5 who donated between $5 and $10 million, 11 who donated between $10 and $25 million, and 2 who donated in the top, $25+ million bracket (the full bracket breakdown can be found here).
As the WaPo puts it, "the findings underscore the extent to which the Clintons’ sprawling global charity has come to rely on financial support from industries and overseas interests, a point that has drawn criticism from Republicans and some liberals who have said the donations represent conflicts of interest for a potential president."
The foundation's spokesman had a canned, prepared response: Craig Minassian said that the limits would be imposed “to avoid perception issues while ensuring the people who depend on our programs continue to be served.”
But isn't blocking outside funding essentally confirming that all the Foundation does is peddle influence, and confirming all those "perception issues"? Issues such as this: nearly half of likely voters, 47%, said they were bothered a lot by the foundation’s acceptance of money from foreign countries while Clinton was secretary of state, according to a Bloomberg News poll in June. That’s similar to the 45% of voters who were bothered by Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns.
Minassian did not directly answer questions about why the restrictions would be tighter than they were when Clinton was at State. As for why they would not be imposed until after the election, he said that the foundation did not want to presume the outcome and that taking action “before then would needlessly hurt people who are being helped by our charitable work around the world.”
There are other questions: why - if Hillary loses - will the foundation continue to accept foreign cash, even if it would henceforth suggest the pandering to wealthy foreign special interest groups; although the answer is quickly answered - should Hillary lose, her political career, and her presidential aspirations will be finished, and as such nobody will donate further as no possible future favors could be recovered from a post-loss Hillary.
Another relevant point, brought up by WaPo, is that the announcement of the new rules is unlikely to defuse the foundation as a potent campaign issue.
Critics seized on the fact that the restrictions would go into effect only in November, if Clinton was elected, meaning donors could race to give money before the deadline — but in time to curry favor with a Democratic nominee who is leading in the polls. The left-leaning columnist Jonathan Chait wrote on the website of New York magazine Friday that the new policy is an “inadequate response to the conflicts of interest inherent in the Clinton Foundation” and demonstrates that Clinton “has not fully grasped the severity of her reputational problem.”
Even with the restrictions wealthy individuals would have the opportunity to use foundation donations as “chits” he said. “Ultimately, there is no way around this problem without closing down the Clinton Foundation altogether,” he wrote.
Which also confirms what many critics - mostly on the right - had been saying all along, namely that it is not a question of when the Foundation should be shuttered, but why it has accepted hundreds of millions in mostly foreign donations over the years, which is the clearest form of buying favors from a person who has never made a secret of her intention of being US president one day.
Finally, while the fate of the Clinton Foundation is being decided, Hillary's key financial backers continue to make their presence felt, and as Politico reported today, just two megadonors accounted for almost two-thirds of the July contributions to Hillary Clinton's main super PAC in July. They were investors Donald Sussman, founder of the Paloma Partner hedge fund, and Daniel Abraham, each gave $3 million to Priorities USA Action. The super PAC's total haul was $9.9 million, down from $11.9 million in June. The group finished July with $38.7 million cash on hand.
Other donors included Jay Robert and Mary Kathryn Pritzker with $450,000 each and, of course, billionaire George Soros, who gave $35,308.