The FBI is investigating Terry McAuliffe’s ties to the Clinton Foundation, and donations made by a prominent Chinese businessman to both the Virginia governor’s campaign and to the foundation. Why are we not surprised?
The Clinton Foundation has come under scrutiny for years, charged with being a vessel for Bill and Hillary Clinton’s personal political ambitions rather than their philanthropy, acting as a holding pen for the couple’s long-serving political warriors and a conduit for contributions they would rather keep under the radar. As even The New York Times acknowledged in 2013, an examination of the record reveals “just how difficult it can be to disentangle the Clintons’ charity work from Mr. Clinton’s moneymaking ventures and Mrs. Clinton’s political future.”
It is not clear that any evidence of impropriety will emerge from the probe. But it is clear that Bernie Sanders has erred by not hammering the seamy history of the foundation on the campaign trail. He often hints that Hillary’s wealthy donors – and especially Wall Street fat cats – might expect something in return for their largesse. It is high time he showed off the numerous instances in which companies donated to the Clinton Foundation, paid Bill Clinton lavish speaking fees and were seemingly rewarded by government assistance while Hillary was secretary of state.
Bernie has an almost impossible path to the nomination, but if he could gin up righteous anger about how Bill Clinton earned $105 million for 542 speeches from 2001 to 2013, he might indeed turn the heads of some of those slavish Superdelegates lined up behind Hillary. As he has pointed out, polling suggests he is more likely than Hillary to beat Donald Trump in a head-to-head contest. Isn’t that what Democrats want?
The most inflammatory charges about the Clinton Foundation stem from Peter Schweizer’s 2015 book Clinton Cash. Spurred by that best-seller, The Wall Street Journal and others have conducted their own investigations into the foundation. The Journal summarized “…that at least 60 companies that lobbied the State Department during [Clinton’s] tenure donated a total of more than $26 million to the Clinton Foundation.”
Early on, Bernie Sanders swore off discussing Hillary’s email scandal. He has also ignored the revelations in Clinton Cash. Now that a movie of the same name has been launched, which makes Schweizer’s allegations more accessible, Sanders’ camp should seize the moment.
Clinton Cash will not win any Oscars. It is a low-budget film in which author Peter Schweizer simply narrates a repeated pattern of purported Clintonian unethical behavior. It may lack exciting production values, but the film’s impact is devastating. It shows what The Times describes as “the blurry lines between business, politics and philanthropy that have enriched and vexed the Clintons and their inner circle for years.”
One of the more incendiary tales first reported in Schweizer’s book charges that Hillary helped win approval for Russia’s state nuclear agency to buy a controlling interest in Uranium One, one of America’s largest uranium mines, in exchange for $2.35 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation. The payments were not included on the Clinton Foundation website, as was demanded by an agreement with the Obama administration. Instead, the funds flowed through a Canadian offshoot, the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, and therefore escaped notice.
At about the same time, Bill Clinton was paid a $500,000 speaking fee by a Russian investment bank, causing The New Yorker to ask, “Why was Bill Clinton taking any money from a bank linked to the Kremlin while his wife was secretary of state?” Good question. The uranium deal raised national security concerns; numerous Congressmen had petitioned to block the purchase.
The Wall Street Journal separately reported how Hillary intervened in a dispute between U.S. tax authorities and Swiss bank UBS. The bank turned to Clinton for help and she solved the problem. Soon after, UBS funneled substantial cash to the Clinton Foundation, rising from less than $60,000 through 2008 (before she was in office) to about $600,000 by the end of 2014. That was just the beginning. UBS also foot the bill for some $32 million in foundation programs and paid Bill Clinton an extraordinary $1.5 million to appear at various bank gatherings – his largest payday since leaving the Oval Office.
Bernie Sanders has vastly outperformed expectations in this campaign, mainly by focusing on Hillary Clinton’s close ties to Wall Street and Big Money. Against all odds, and to the fury of the Democrat establishment, he refuses to bow out. Even Clinton fans wonder why Hillary can’t put Sanders away. Hillary’s sinking polls suggest the Vermont socialist is hurting her chances in November.
Democrats have only themselves to blame. In their haste to crown Queen Hillary, they overlooked…well, everything. They decided that the rosy afterglow of Bill Clinton’s presidency, celebrated for economic growth not seen since, would suppress the scandals that tainted those eight years. They chose to ignore the infidelities, the perjury, Travelgate, the Whitewater scandal and so much more. They also dismissed the more recent investigation into Benghazi as a Republican witch-hunt; concerns about Hillary’s private email server were simply more of the same. Ancient history, the party decided. They were certain: the country is ready for a woman president!
Here’s what they neglected: the stench of corruption lingers. Like the smell of smoke that seeps into clothes and drapes and never entirely disappears, charges of dishonesty are almost impossible to stamp out. Even people too young to remember the long-running saga of Clintonian misbehavior have a vague sense that the iconic power couple did something wrong. When Bernie Sanders hints that Hillary’s wealthy donors expect something in return, it resonates.
And that’s before any discussion in this campaign cycle about the pattern of pay-to-play that Peter Schweizer narrates so clearly in his devastating Clinton Cash. This is the weapon that could knock Clinton out. We’ll see if Sanders grabs hold of the opportunity; if he doesn’t, you can bet that Donald Trump will.