Under fire from both critics and political allies, the Clintons have sent up signals lately that they will cut ties to their family foundation if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in November. Bill Clinton told Clinton Global Initiative staffers that the annual meeting next month will be its last, and both Bill and Hillary have declared that they will stop raising funds for it. The foundation itself stated that it will stop accepting funds from foreign governments and scale back its operations considerably if the Clintons return to the White House.
However, the Wall Street Journal reports that they’ve already started walking back almost all of those commitments. That includes keeping a Clinton on the foundation board regardless of whether it presents potential conflicts of interest:
The Clinton Foundation is considering exceptions to its plan to stop accepting corporate and foreign donations and reduce family involvement as a way to insulate Hillary Clintonfrom potential conflicts of interest if elected president.
As recently as this summer, the foundation was discussing with some allies plans forChelsea Clinton to leave the board, along with former President Bill Clinton, if Mrs. Clinton should win. But on Wednesday, foundation spokesman Craig Minassian said Chelsea Clinton plans to stay on the board. Mr. Clinton told donors he still plans to leave.
While the parent Clinton Foundation will stop accepting money from foreign governments and corporations, the foundation’s largest project, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, might continue to accept foreign government and corporate funding, Clinton health initiative officials said Wednesday.
Needless to say, this won’t impress those who already see the State-Foundation nexus as problematic. As Politico’s Katy O’Donnell puts it, they’re scoffing at the plan as it stands now:
Richard Painter, former ethics counsel in the George W. Bush administration, said that if the Clintons really wanted to separate themselves, they could do it tomorrow.
“That could be done in one board meeting — change the name, have the board members resign and be replaced with people with no ties to the Clintons. No one in the Clinton family should be there. … That’s an easy step to take. It could be done in an afternoon,” Painter said. …
But ethicists said that process could occur without any involvement by the Clintons or those close to them. In particular, they noted that Chelsea Clinton’s continued role during that transition poses possible conflicts.
“Without a doubt, moving forward, having Chelsea at the foundation is really going to create problems for [Clinton],” Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn said, noting that ethics rules typically recognize the child of an official as being directly linked to their interests.
Painter shared that view. “To keep it in your family, that reiterates the problem — that people say a gift to the Clinton Foundation is a gift to the Clintons,” he said. “… You don’t need to have Clinton family people in the foundation to perpetuate the vision or the intent of the donors, unless the intent of the donors is to get close to the Clintons, which would not be proper.”
Let’s get down to brass tacks. The foundation now proposes to have foreign governments send money to a Clinton family organization while Hillary Clinton is president, and while Chelsea continues to participate in leadership — and want us to believe that this is a firewall against influence. How so? Because the Clinton Foundation office isn’t in the West Wing?
It’s utterly absurd, especially because it essentially replicates the foundation’s claims during Hillary Clinton’s tenure at State. Recall that they signed a Memorandum of Understanding that prohibited undisclosed foreign-government donations and that the operations of State and the foundation would remain entirely separate, even with Bill Clinton on the latter’s board. How well did that work out?
Think of this in terms of sports trades. The foundation is trading in Bill and Hillary for Chelsea and players to be named later. With the decision to continue accepting foreign-government donations to the family foundation of the president, we can expect lots of players, who will only be named later. Much, much later.