Hillary actually warned us about Clinton Foundation scandals
Contrary to what is widely reported, the Clinton Foundation never agreed to stop raising money from foreign governments while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. Such funding should have been off limits — because it risks the appearance that US foreign policy is up for sale.
But even after Republican and Democratic senators pressed her in 2009 to accept limits, she refused. That should have red-flagged the Clintons’ intentions.
Now, reports about a possible link between Clinton Foundation funding and State Department approval of the sale of US uranium interests to Russia should trigger demands that Hillary and Bill forswear foreign funds or end their bid to regain the White House.
At Hillary’s Jan. 13, 2009, confirmation hearing, members of the Foreign Relations Committee expressed their concerns. But Hillary stonewalled them.
She’d already worked out an agreement with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, and she refused to change it in any way. The agreement imposed no limits on who could give — including foreign governments — or how much.
If the State Department or the White House had concerns about a proposed gift, the foundation would listen, the agreement said. But the Clinton Foundation, not the White House or State Department ethics officers, would have the final say.
This agreement wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. It protected the foundation from government meddling, but it didn’t protect the nation.
The senators could see that, and made dire predictions during the hearing. Those predictions may be coming true. If so, the senators are to blame, not just Hillary. Despite their fears, they fawned over her that day and rubber stamped her 16-1. Only Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana voted “nay.”
Presidents generally get their way on Cabinet picks. Only two nominees have been turned down since World War II. But the senators who confirmed Hillary, without extracting any meaningful limits on fundraising from foreign countries and donors, failed us.
At the hearing, Sen. Richard Lugar methodically questioned Hillary about her loophole-ridden “Memorandum of Understanding,” signed by Valerie Jarrett and a foundation representative. Lugar hammered that “the Clinton Foundation exists as a temptation for any foreign entity or government that believes it could curry favor through a donation.”
He requested that Hillary tighten up the agreement: “I believe that contributions from foreign companies and individuals have the potential to raise appearances of conflicts of interest that are as serious as those raised by contributions from foreign governments.”
Hillary responded: “The agreement as written already goes far beyond what any spouse of a cabinet official has ever done.”
Well, duh! No other cabinet nominee in American history was the wife of a former president, elected to the Senate, a presidential candidate herself, a nominee for secretary of state — and with a high-profile, big-family foundation looking for funds.
Lugar asked if the agreement could be amended to disclose the timing of gifts, the amounts and future pledges, not just donors’ names. Hillary flatly refused: “The agreement already goes far beyond what any spouse of a Cabinet official has ever done.”
Shockingly, she made it clear that if any concerns were raised by the Obama White House or the State Department about foundation fundraising, the foundation would be the arbiter of what’s “appropriate,” not the US government.
“In many, if not most cases, it is likely that the foundation or President [Bill] Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.”
Translation: It will depend on the amount of money being dangled in front of the ex-president. If the amount is large enough, national interest be damned.
Vitter took a turn at questioning Hillary, raising concerns about foreign individuals and companies — not just countries — donating to the foundation. He cited one foundation donor who was tangled in a web of connections with Iranian terrorism. One partner of the donor had been named by the Treasury two days earlier as “a terrorist entity” and another partner, Bank Melli, “had long been thought to be a procurement front for the Iranian nuclear program.”
Clinton regurgitated the stock answer: “Well again, this is an agreement that has been worked out between all of the parties, and the fact is that the concerns that were raised in the discussions between the foundation and the president-elect’s team were thoroughly discussed.”
Now we learn that there may have been a quid pro quo between the sale of US uranium interests to Russia, which required State Department sign off, and cash to the Clintons and their foundation.
The United States cannot risk even the appearance of such influence-buying. The Democratic Party should demand from its candidate what the Senate failed to get from her: an air-tight agreement that the Clintons will stop collecting foreign cash.
Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.