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-sector people who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton donated money to the Clinton Foundation. That looks highly improper, as if she 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 what she told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations during her Jan. 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 give the appearance that U.S. policy is up for sale. Too bad, she shrugged. She said that she had worked out an agreement with president-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, and she refused to change it. The agreement imposed little 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 listen. But under the agreement, the Clinton Foundation, not the White House or the State Department ethics officers, would have the final say. Amazing.
The agreement protected the foundation from government oversight, but it didn’t protect the nation.
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, saying, “The agreement as written already goes far beyond what any spouse of a cabinet official has ever done.” Of course it did. No other cabinet nominee in American history was the wife of a former president — or had a high-profile, big family foundation looking for funds.
Lugar then asked if the agreement could be amended to disclose the timing of gifts, the amounts, and future pledges, not just donors’ names. Clinton used her stock answer, saying, “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 fundraising, the foundation would be the arbiter of what’s “appropriate,” not the U.S. government. Amazing.
Her jaw-dropping reassurance was, “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.
Then Senator 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 been worked out between all of the parties,” she blathered, noting that the concerns “were thoroughly discussed.” But they were not remedied.
Clinton gave the senators the runaround 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 Sen. Vitter stuck to his principles.
Recently released emails 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 one with foundation help once they were donors. Pay to play.
Betsy McCaughey is chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and author of “Government by Choice: Inventing the United States Constitution.” To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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