Hillary practically promised a pay-to-play State Department
Unless you’re a high-ranking government official, it’s hard to get a meeting with any secretary of state. But during Hillary Clinton’s tenure, there was another way: pay up.
A staggering 85 of the 154 private citizens who managed to meet or speak with her by phone donated money to the Clinton Foundation. That looks improper — as if the secretary used her position to raise money for her family foundation.
Of course, appearances alone don’t prove anything. The proof of her illicit intent is in what she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her January 2009 confirmation hearing. She rejected any attempts by the senators to prevent her from turning the State Department into a cash machine for the foundation.
The senators suggested that money pouring into the foundation while Clinton was secretary of state would look like US policy was up for sale. Too bad, she shrugged. She said she had worked out an agreement with President-elect Obama’s transition team, and she refused to change it.
The agreement imposed no restrictions on who could give — including foreign governments — or how much.
In response to every request from senators to limit fundraising or disclose the size and timing of gifts to the foundation, she said no. She stonewalled them.
Clinton said that if the State Department or the White House ever had concerns about a proposed gift, the foundation would be willing to hear them out. But under the agreement, the Clinton Foundation, not the White House or State Department ethics officers, would have the final say. Amazing.
The agreement protected the foundation from government oversight, but it didn’t protect the country.
Then-Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) persistently questioned Clinton, warning that her foundation would be “a temptation for any foreign entity or government that believes it could curry favor through a donation.”
Even foreign companies and individuals pose a risk, he explained, urging that the agreement be tightened.
Clinton refused: “The agreement as written already goes far beyond what any spouse of a Cabinet official has ever done.”
No kidding! No other Cabinet nominee in American history was the wife of a former president — and with a high-profile, big family foundation looking for cash.
Lugar then asked if the agreement could be amended to disclose the timing of gifts and the dollar figure for past and future pledges, not just donors’ names. Clinton used her stock answer: “The agreement already goes far beyond what any spouse of a Cabinet official has ever done.”
She disclosed that if any concerns were raised by the Obama White House or the State Department about foundation fund-raising, the foundation would be the arbiter of what’s “appropriate,” not the US government. Her jaw-dropping reassurance: “In many, if not most cases, it is likely that the foundation or President [Bill] Clinton would not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.”
Translation: It’ll depend on the amount of money being dangled in front of the ex-president. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) cited a foundation donor who appeared to have connections to Iranian terrorism. Clinton dodged the question: “Well again, this is an agreement that has been worked out between all of the parties,” she blathered, noting the concerns “were thoroughly discussed.” But not remedied.
Clinton gave the senators the run-around in 2009 because she knew what she intended to do as secretary of state: sell her influence to raise money for the Clinton Foundation.
Sadly, all but one senator on the committee fawned over Clinton, despite her lack of cooperation, and voted to confirm her. Only Vitter stuck to his principles.
Recently released e-mails between foundation staff and Clinton’s State Department aides confirm that Vitter was right. People who couldn’t get a meeting with the secretary through official channels managed to get it with foundation help once they were donors. They paid, in other words, and they played.
Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.