the Beacon Journal editorial board
Is the Clinton Foundation “the most corrupt enterprise in political history,” as Donald Trump recently put it? Or a “racketeering” operation, the label urged by Rudy Giuliani, a Trump ally? The contention is that Hillary Clinton as secretary of state conducted a pay-to-play scheme, donations to the foundation yielding favors from her office.
Wild accusations are part of campaign seasons, the Trump camp of a mind to say almost anything the past year. The Associated Press encouraged the dark accusations of the Republican presidential candidate last week. It reported that more than half the people with whom Clinton met as secretary were foundation donors.
How quickly the AP account unraveled. It highlighted more than 80 such donor meetings out of 154 in all. It did not factor the thousands of meetings or calls the secretary held with government leaders, foreign and domestic, during her four years in the job.
Even in examining the 80, the paper trail hardly invites alarm. Take Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist who won the Nobel Prize for his idea of “micro” loans to the poor. Is it reasonable to conclude that he gained a meeting, or that Clinton helped him, because he gave to the foundation? Any secretary of state would make time for Yunus.
Some donors did approach the foundation to see whether they could gain access to Clinton or the department. The record so far shows their overtures proved fruitless. For instance, the crown prince of Bahrain, proceeded to get his meeting (again, little surprise) through diplomatic channels. A Nigerian businessman and donor of Lebanese descent got nowhere.
Worth adding is that the foundation performs good deeds. That is especially plain with the health initiative, millions across many nations receiving, among other things, lower-cost HIV medicines, vaccines and long-acting reversible contraceptives.
When President Obama selected Clinton for secretary of state, concerns surfaced about foreign donors seeing the foundation as a way to gain favor. That explains the agreement reached between the White House and the foundation. If the foundation has let things slip at times, these circumstances do not warrant the over-the-top call of U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio for a special prosecutor.
Ideally, during a Clinton presidency, the highly rated foundation would continue its work. If that is the objective, the Clintons must find a transparent way to separate fully the administration from the foundation, beyond the recent pledge to halt foreign donations.
The landscape changes if Hillary Clinton becomes president. It will be her presidency, and neither she nor the country needs the headache of ever weighing whether there is a conflict of interest.