The Clinton Foundation, Big Money, and Access

clinton foundationThe Clinton Foundation story highlights a real problem: Big Money gets access.

Unfortunately, the Clintons have not admitted their mistake and many of their supporters decline to criticize them. That makes it more difficult to get Big Money out of politics.

The Clintons are not the problem, which is systemic. I will still vote for Clinton.

But denying that the Clintons are part of the problem will not help us solve it.

Whether specific favors were done is secondary. The primary point is that in general large donations work. They get donors in the door and improve their chance to get what they want. Why would the wealthy donate otherwise?

Mutual back-scratching may be natural. But when large sums of money are involved, it changes the transaction. We cannot scratch backs they way they can.

Why did Clinton Foundation staff ask State Department staff for any favors for their donors? They could’ve just told them, “Sorry. I can’t help you. That would not help us achieve our charitable mission. We are are not political. We can’t help you with the government.”

Prior to being appointed Secretary of State, Senators warned Hillary to avoid even the appearance that donors would be able to influence the government by donating to the Clinton Foundation.

But she ignored their advice. And they think making Chelsea President of the Foundation will solve the problem?

Granted, access is the main issue. But State-department approved arms deals suggest the strong possibility that donors got more than access.

To prevent them from influencing the government, foreign governments buying American-made arms are barred from making campaign contributions. But it was legal to donate to the Clinton Foundation.

Seventeen of the twenty countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation saw increases in arms exports authorized by Clinton’s State Department. All of the countries listed on the Foundation’s website as having donated $5 million or more received arms. None of the countries that receive no U.S. arms donated to the Clinton Foundation. Were those mere coincidences?

And it’s been documented that Hillary was personally involved in at least one of those deals. As David Sirota reported:

…an assistant secretary of state, Andrew Shapiro, declared that the deal had been “a top priority” for Clinton personally. Shapiro, a longtime aide to Clinton since her Senate days, added that the “U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army have excellent relationships in Saudi Arabia.”

American defense contractors also donated to the Foundation and paid Bill Clinton speaking fees.

Sirota wrote:

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to allow those with business before the State Department to finance her foundation heightens concerns about how she would manage such relationships as president, said Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics.

“These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment,” Lessig told IBTimes. “Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?”

If Hillary and her supporters were to acknowledge that she mishandled this issue and use it as an example of why we need to get big money out of politics, it would be encouraging.

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