Is it a pay-to-play scheme?

Is it illegal? Is it even wrong? These questions are asked about the intermingling of the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s official activities as Secretary of State. Each side has its own vastly different viewpoint. There is no doubt that people attempted to use their favored position as Foundation donors to make contacts with government officials. Their purposes are varied and somewhat unclear. But in general either they had a favor to ask or they wished an opportunity to express their opinion on some matter of importance to them. So far, there is no evidence that these contacts directly achieved anything of value. Hence the Clinton camp claims that there is no wrong doing.

But that misses a crucial point that can be best illustrated by this example. Let us suppose that a businessman is wooing potential investors for an important project. They are reluctant because he doesn’t have a successful track record and they don’t know if they can trust his claims. In the midst of a negotiating session, he says that he must leave because he has a meeting with the Secretary of State. They are impressed but wary that this might be just another flamboyant claim. Then he offers for one of them to accompany him to meet this high government official. Naturally they decline, viewing it as a likely imposition, but now they do see this businessman in a new light. Clearly he is a man of importance with high government contacts. Perhaps becoming his partner is a worthwhile investment after all.

IMG_0544Of course this example is contrived but it does illustrate how simply having access can be very valuable even if it produces nothing directly tangible. Both Hillary and Bill are well aware of this and they exploited it to gain Foundation donations and lucrative speaking engagements. In my opinion, the case is clear. This is wrong even though it might not violate the law. While it is true that such slimy influence peddling is common in Washington, that doesn’t change the fact that it is morally repulsive.

If Hillary has been doing this deliberately with full awareness of these issues, she is morally degenerate. If she has only overstepped bounds inadvertently and with the best of intentions, then she is too oblivious to be trusted with any serious responsibilities. Neither possibility speaks well for her ambition to become our next President.

Recently the Clintons announced that they will sever relations with their foundation if Hillary is elected President. They phrase this as an attempt to eliminate any possible perception of impropriety, not as an admission that there is something wrong to be remedied. That is obtuse. This is not an issue of mistaken perceptions. If their intentions are pure then they should terminate the foundation forthwith, not wait until they have achieved their political ambitions. The Clinton Foundation has done a lot of good work and that should not be forgotten. One possibility is to turn over all of its activities to another active international charitable group, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Nothing would be lost except a money pit for the Clintons and a dangerous pothole in Hillary’s road to the Presidency.