It was necessary, and overdue, for former President Bill Clinton to make clear that if Hillary Clinton is elected president, his global foundation will no longer take money from corporations or foreign governments.
There were too many troubling questions and awkward appearances regarding Clinton Foundation donors receiving special access while she was secretary of state. The potential conflicts would become untenable with her in the Oval Office.
But damage has been done to her campaign, feeding Donald Trump’s childish taunts of “crooked Hillary.” Monday, he called for the foundation to shut down immediately and for a special prosecutor to investigate.
Such criticism is rich coming from Trump, who would have his own conflicts as president with his real estate and other investments around the world and who refuses to release his tax returns. Still, independent watchdog groups, and even some Clinton allies, say the foundation should be disbanded if she becomes president.
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No documents have shown Clinton making decisions in favor of donors while secretary of state. But emails – yes, it’s another aspect of the email scandal – have shown donors seeking, and in some cases, getting meetings with Clinton and other top officials.
Judicial Watch, a conservative nonprofit group, sued for Clinton’s emails and released another batch Monday. The exchanges include ones between top Clinton aide Huma Abedin and foundation executive Douglas Band about face time for Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain, whose scholarship program gave $32 million to the Clinton Global Initiative.
Foundation donors are known because it discloses them. Although some of donors to Judicial Watch are known, the organization, which reported $36 million in receipts in 2014, doesn’t disclose its donors.
Founded in 2001, the Clinton Foundation and its related charities have raised an estimated $2 billion, including tens of millions from countries that the State Department criticized for their records on human rights. Saudi Arabia, for instance, gave between $10 million and $25 million, according to disclosures that generally report donations in broad ranges.
The Clintons and their defenders deny any impropriety. No doubt, the Clinton Foundation has done good works around the globe, using money from the rich and powerful to help the poor and powerless. It says it has funded more than 3,500 projects in 180 countries, including helping farmers increase crop yields in Africa, providing earthquake relief in Haiti and making anti-HIV drugs more accessible to millions.
Hillary Clinton joined the foundation board after stepping down as secretary of state in early 2013, but she left the board last year before starting her campaign. As she gets closer to the presidency, it’s imperative that Clinton further distance herself.