In the nearly two-year smorgasbord of scandal (real and faux) that the Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign promises to deliver, last month’s brouhaha over her email was but an appetizer.
Not two weeks after she officially announced her run for president, Clinton has been informed that she will be hauled not once, but twice, before the House committee re-investigating the attacks on the U.S. compound in Benghazi in 2012.
With the publication of a new book alleging connections between donations to the charity she ran with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and increased scrutiny of her record as Secretary of State, mainstream and partisan media alike have caught Clinton fever again. Reporters are drawing new connections between Bill’s speeches and Hillary’s work at State, while Clinton opponents are dissecting the statements of Clinton Foundation representatives in search of falsehood or misdirection.
The book, Clinton Cash, by conservative author Peter Schweizer, makes a circumstantial case for possible wrongdoing by Clinton, tying the timing of speaking fees paid to her husband and donations to the foundation to actions taken by the State Dept. that benefited the donors.
While Schweizer has no proof of any quid pro quos, the attention generated by the not-yet-published book has forced the Clinton Foundation into a defensive posture, and in the early going, things aren’t working out very well.
Last week, the foundation was forced to acknowledge errors in its tax filings and said it would refile several years’ worth of Internal Revenue Service documentation to better identify the foreign donors that gave money to its various programs.
On Sunday, in a blog post on the foundation’s website, acting CEO Maura Pally addressed the refiling issue and also explained the relationship between the foundation and a Canadian charity called the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership.
While the Clinton Foundation disclosed money it received from the Partnership, it did not disclose the names of those who gave money to the Partnership. This looked fishy to some, because Frank Giustra, the Canadian billionaire who helped found the organization, also owned U.S. uranium-mining rights that he wanted to sell to a Russian company associated with President Vladimir Putin. The U.S. government committee that eventually approved the sale included the State Department run by Hillary Clinton.
Some of the donors to the partnership, it turned out, were also affiliated with Giustra’s company.
Pally defended the foundation, saying that it had simply complied with Canadian disclosure laws. “This is hardly an effort on our part to avoid transparency – unlike in the U.S., under Canadian law all charities are prohibited from disclosing individual donors without prior permission from each donor,” Pally wrote.
Today, though, came news of more questionable timing between the financial dealings of former President Clinton and then-Secretary of State Clinton.
The International Business Times reported on Monday afternoon that the investment bank Goldman Sachs forked over $200,000 to have Bill Clinton deliver a speech to its clients just three days before Hillary made a speech at State praising Goldman’s involvement in sending U.S. students to travel in China. A few months later, Goldman would begin lobbying the State Department on various international issues.
Also on Monday, the conservative website The Federalist took issue with a claim by the Clinton Foundation, made in a tweet last week that 88 percent of its expenditures “go directly to our life-changing work.”
Federalist writer Sean Davis notes that unless you torture the meaning of the words “direct” and “life-changing,” it’s hard to make the foundation’s numbers add up. In 2013, he says, tax returns suggest the foundation spent about 10 percent of its money on charitable grants. The vast majority went to operational expenses such as rent, travel and other overhead.
“In 2013, for example, only 10 percent of the Clinton Foundation’s expenditures were for direct charitable grants,” Davis writes. “The amount it spent on charitable grants–$8.8 million–was dwarfed by the $17.2 million it cumulatively spent on travel, rent, and office supplies. Between 2011 and 2013, the organization spent only 9.9 percent of the $252 million it collected on direct charitable grants.”
If these circumstantial allegations stick to Clinton, it can affect not only the presidential race, but also tilt the balance in the House and Senate. As of now, no other Democrat is a seriously challenging to Hillary Clinton. If someone is waiting on the sidelines, he or she could be waiting too long to raise the money necessary to make a serious run for the White House.
But take heart, America. Only 561 days until the 2016 elections.
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