What Matters About The Clinton Foundation Donations For Hillary's Campaign
We think we like Hillary: She wants to close the wage gap between men and women in the US; she thinks abortion and same sex-marriage should be legalized; she wants to cut middle class taxes; and she says in her memoir “Hard Choices" she wanted Obama to become involved in Syria sooner.
There's also uproar over the amount of money that Bill and Hillary earned during public speaking engagements.
But does it even matter? We're learning where she stands on foreign policy, social issues and economics, and it sounds pretty good to a lot of Millennials.
Does all of this Clinton Foundation information make everything we like about Hillary null and void? Here's a breakdown of what people are saying about the Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by former President Bill Clinton and focused on improving the quality of life for men, women and children worldwide.
We'll also help cut through all of the noise and explain what it actually tells us about Hil:
1. Donation Math Doesn't Add Up:
One of the latest revelations came this past Wednesday: A Chicago media executive donor who contributed to the foundation seems to have given more money than was actually reported.
There's also ABC reporter George Stephanopoulos, who appears to have kept mum about his $75,000 donation. This has left a bad taste in many people's mouths, with individuals wondering why information was withheld by the foundation and the people making contributions to it.
The media is a powerful entity; many news outlets have contributed to the foundation already and “hidden” dealings make an already suspect relationship look worse.
There have been other issues with foreign donor disclosures, among them a television network that both donated to the foundation and lobbied the State Department during Clinton's tenure.
This became concerning because the group lobbied the US about its policy toward Mexico. Could its donations have influenced Hillary? Honestly, there's no proof either way.
Does it matter? Yes and no. The onus for declaring Stephanopoulos' donation was on him, not the Clinton Foundation. It was ABC News policy to disclose contributions like this one.
Per IRS policy, no charity group is required to disclose their contributions. The Clinton Foundation agreed to disclose donors (more than 300,000 on the website) as well their form 990s (which shows the flow of money into and out of the charity) on their website.
This level of transparency was most likely a result of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2008 pledge to President Obama to publish every donor. This promise was obviously not fulfilled, and that's where the problem comes in.
2. There Were Errors on Tax Returns:
The Clinton Foundation made mistakes in its reporting on important IRS documents. There was under and over reporting, as well as the omission of some government donations.
For example, the Clinton Foundation reported that it didn't receive any money from foreign or domestic governments from 2010 to 2013. This simply wasn't true, and the foundation ultimately admitted that this was an error.
The Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), a part of the foundation, also plans to refile its tax forms after making what it has called “typographical errors” in its breakdown of government donations.
Does it Matter? Not that much. Just because there were mistakes, doesn't mean that there was any actual wrongdoing.
Charity law experts told Reuters in an April 23rd article that re-filing 990s was not particularly unusual for charities; what was unusual was the amount of re-filing that may end up being done. If additional investigation shows wrongdoing, it could become a bigger issue that reflects very poorly on Mrs. Clinton.
3. Those Pesky Foreign Government Donations:
Here's where things get a little more serious. Donations to the Clinton Foundation appeared to coincide with foreign governments' political agendas. For example, Algeria donated $500,000 to the foundation to help with earthquake relief in Haiti.
A great cause, right? Well, not so fast. At the same time as Algeria made the donation (2010), they were also lobbying the State Department over human rights issues.
Qatar also donated to the Clinton Foundation, while spending millions on lobbying the State Department during Clinton's tenure. Qatar is also controversial for its support of the militant group Hamas.
Other countries that gave money include Kuwait and Oman. After Clinton's time as the secretary of state, Saudi Arabia resumed making contributions.
Does it matter? Yes. The foundation's 2008 agreement allowed for donations from foreign governments that had previously given, so technically, everything was kosher. But the timing of the donations---the way in which they coincided with extensive and expensive lobbying efforts---creates ethical rather than legal problems.
The foundation admitted that it should have consulted with the State Department Ethics Office on Algeria, but that doesn't change the fact that it simply did not. It's a clear conflict of interest.
All of this happened before Clinton's nomination was announced, which is important because foreign governments and individuals cannot donate money to political campaigns in the U.S. But the donations make it look like the foundation, and the Clintons, found a loophole and skirted the problem.
This might not actually be the case, but it looks like a concerted effort by Algeria, Qatar, and others to try to gain favor with Hillary during her time as secretary of state, and perhaps in years to follow.
If Hillary was even considering running for office, she probably should have been more concerned about this. Then again, hindsight is 20/20, and maybe she didn't feel she had anything to hide.
4. Blame Canada:
Aides to the Clinton Foundation created a Canadian charity called the Clinton Giustra Enterprise. Although it's part of the foundation, under Canadian law, there's no mandate to disclose donors.
This is why, the foundation says, it never revealed contributions from Uranium One to Clinton Giustra Enterprise. Uranium One just happens to have sold a stake in American uranium reserves to the Russian government.
This deal required the approval of the U.S. government, including the secretary of state. The way it looks on paper, the deal went through because Uranium One gave money to the Clinton Foundation.
Does it Matter? Not really. The New York Times raised concerns that this deal would give Russia even more control over uranium reserves. The article was concerned about Russia raising prices, and restricting uranium production.
Uranium might be a hot commodity, but we don't need to worry about Russia controlling it. It currently has 9 percent of the world's uranium reserves on its territory.
Foreign reserves increase this number by 3 percent, but Russia is unlikely to be able to raise prices or restrict production on reserves in the U.S. and other foreign countries.
So is it that big a deal? Probably not. Russian president Vladimir Putin is nowhere near having a monopoly on the market.
Even the Times' article points out that there is no evidence that donations played any role in the approval of the deal. Further, the deal had to be approved by representatives from a variety of U.S. agencies, not just the State Department.
Whether it was a sound deal or not should not even be the question. It should actually be, “Did Hillary make a poor decision because of donations to her foundation?” There's no evidence that she did.
5. The Clintons Are Rich:
This shouldn't be a revelation. But apparently, it's news that the Clintons make a lot of money delivering speeches.
A report revealed that Bill and Hillary combined earned $30 million in just 16 months. That means that they are in the top one-tenth of the one percent. Hillary alone commanded six figures per speech she gave between January 2014 and May 2015.
One speech to eBay employees secured her $315,000. Another in Las Vegas earned her $225,000. So basically, what a lot of upper middle class people make in an entire year.
Does It Matter? Apparently, this is a problem because Hillary's candidacy has been about appearing down-to-earth, closing the gap between the rich and the poor, and closing the wage gap. While no one can deny that these are Hillary's goals, her wealth is really pretty irrelevant in the matter.
One can be supremely wealthy and still down to earth, and even if she isn't, what successful politician is, at the end of the day, your Average Joe? It takes a certain personality type to become a politician, as well as a certain amount of wealth.
Your Average Joe doesn't have the narcissism, or the financial means, to run for president. Further, just because she's wealthy doesn't mean that she doesn't care about closing the gap between rich and poor, or the wage gap.
The rich don't necessarily need to lose money to close the gap between rich and poor; the poor can also gain money.
6. Sid Blumenthal's Done Some Sketchy Things:
It appears that Hillary Clinton had a diplomatic advisor named Sid Blumenthal, who was on the payroll of the Clinton Foundation.
At the same time as he was being paid to work for the "charity," he was also being paid to help Hillary's campaign, was advising a U.S. business on forging corporate contracts with Libya, and was advising Hillary on Libya while she was the secretary of state.
Does it Matter? Yes. Blumenthal isn't commenting, but now questions are being raised as to how Blumenthal's business relationship with Libya influenced the advice he gave Hillary about Libya.
He was also being paid by Media Matters and American Bridge--possibly while being paid by the Clinton Foundation. Media Matters and American Bridge have both helped Hillary's political campaign in its efforts against conservative opponents, and were created as "watchdog" groups.
This creates inextricable ties between a supposed charity organization, a political campaign, and the work Clinton did as secretary of state.
It looks like Blumenthal was simultaneously being paid by a foundation receiving money from foreign governments, and writing memos for Secretary of State Clinton about foreign governments. Conflict of interest, anyone?
When we look at the facts, broken down, the Clinton Foundation scandal doesn't actually make Hillary look too scandalous.
Yet. It's definitely a problem, and one that is probably the biggest obstacle to her campaign right now. But that doesn't mean she can't overcome it, because frankly, she hasn't explicitly done anything wrong, anything illegal, or anything unique to the political world. At least not that we can tell so far.
We should also remember the humanitarian aspirations of the foundation, and the fact that the millions of dollars in discussion appear to be going to worthy causes. At least until conservatives dig up another skeleton in the foundation's closet.
Citations: Foreign governments gave millions to foundation while Clinton was at State Dept (The Washington Post), Fundraiser puts spotlight on Clinton Foundation finances (Politico), Young people will hit the polls in 2016 and they want Hillary (Fusion), Exclusive Clinton charities will refile tax returns audit for other errors (Reuters), Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal (The New York Times), Who Is Sidney Blumenthal (The Wall Street Journal)