Politico: Taxpayers funded Clinton Foundation staff

Say, how is Clinton nostalgia working out for Democrats these days? Some of them may long for the days when Clintonian freeloading meant stealing furniture from the White House. That amounted to chump change compared to the millions received by the Clintons in the years since they loaded up the moving van at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency. That comes to over $16 million, according to an analysis by Politico’s Kenneth Vogel, and includes cash that has gone into salaries for staffers at the Clinton Foundation:

Multiple sources familiar with Clinton’s funding say the special federal money has supplemented the salaries of some employees of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, a global nonprofit that has served as Hillary Clinton’s primary platform as she prepares for a presidential campaign expected to launch in coming weeks.

Critics for years have questioned why taxpayers need to support former presidents when they and their families can reap huge paydays, like the then-record $15 million book advance paid to Clinton for his 2004 memoir. But scrutiny of the act — and of the vast financial empire built by the Clintons — is poised to intensify as questions mount about the family’s commingling of personal, political, government and foundation business. …

Of the $16 million requested under the former presidents fund, nearly $3 million has been slated for staff salary and benefits, according to GSA budgeting documents.

The documents do not list the names or positions of the former presidents’ federally paid employees. But sources say that several Bill Clinton staffers who have been paid through the GSA have also been paid through the foundation or his personal office. They include Doug Band, the former White House aide who previously helped run the foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative, and senior foundation official Laura Graham, whose foundation salary increased from $74,000 in 2005 to more than $180,000 in 2013, according to tax filings. Another Clinton insider believed to have been on the GSA payroll is Bill Clinton’s chief of staff Tina Flournoy, a former union official who advised Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign and whose arrival on her husband’s staff in 2012 was seen by some insiders “as Hillary’s planting a sentinel,” according to a report in New York magazine.

The $16 million haul, in both cash and services, also belies Hillary Clinton’s claim of poverty as the two exited the White House, a claim she made to much derision during her book tour last summer. Not only did the Clintons do well off of their prior public service (while Hillary served in the Senate, too), they managed to pass off a considerable amount of the expenses associated with their family business onto taxpayers. It’s difficult to fail when a business of any kind gets a $3 million subsidy for its salaries. Vogel skewers the poverty claim, noting that the Clintons took in $16 million on their own in the first year after their White House exit.

This presents a few problems for Hillary as she prepares to run for office again. The commingling of taxpayer funds with their foundation looks corrupt even if it’s not legally actionable, especially since the Clinton Foundation’s raison d’être was to maintain Hillary’s political viability for another Clinton presidential run. Even worse, the decision to accept foreign-government donations — millions of dollars — during Hillary’s tenure as Secretary of State while taxpayer funds went to the foundation’s payroll heightens the conflict of interest involved.  It also echoes the sexual peccadilloes of the 1990s version of Clintonland, with Hillary spending taxpayer dollars on a “sentinel” for Bill … basically a babysitter/snitch to keep him in line.

Finally, it shows that the Clintons have been leeching off of the public for too long as it is, and now they want voters to give them a second income stream from the same festering trough. Given the anti-establishment trend in the nation outside the Beltway, that’s hardly a selling point for 2016. Republicans will leap all over it if Democrats don’t do something to put an end to the Clinton circus, or at least give their party an alternative.

Jill Lawrence wants to have that choice:

O’Malley, Webb and Sanders are reveling in some attention — finally — as Democrats and the media realize that Clinton might not be invincible. As her disappointing press conference confirmed, there will not be a fresh new Clinton era. Hillary is still Hillary, a package deal in which Democrats must take the defensive, self-protective, lawyerly control freak along with the hard worker, serious policymaker, loyal partisan and potential pathbreaker. There’s plenty of time for the upstart trio, or other players to be named later, to mount an intra-party case against Clinton. Right now, instead of Democratic White House hopefuls making arguments against their GOP counterparts, there’s a void. They should fill it while they have a chance.

David Harsanyi wonders why Democrats are afraid to have it:

Many Democrats probably feel like there’s no other viable choice. But despite the generous treatment she’s received from the media, Hillary has never been an especially electrifying or potent political power. She badly fumbled her first preordained presidential nomination to Barack Obama – falling into every trap imaginable along the way. Nearly every high-profile project she took on during her husband’s administration turned into a disaster. Her time as Secretary of State is now riddled with questions. And she has never effectively rallied grassroots activists to her cause – probably because her only real cause is Hillary. …

Hillary may well win the presidency for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with her charisma or acumen. But the next four to eight years will be about the drama surrounding Hillary. She’s not even officially running yet, and it’s already all about Hillary (even much of the liberal punditry has acknowledged her troubles are mostly “self-inflicted”). It is almost surely going to be four to eight years of putting out fires that have nothing to do with policy. Democrats may ask themselves if that can work. What they should be asking themselves is if it’s worth it.

Like 2008, activists and donors wouldn’t find it difficult to support and fund more idealistic or competent alternatives if they emerged. There are many ambitious senators and governors in this country. November 2016 is a long way off. Do it.

The Democratic circling of wagons around the Clintons looks like desperation borne of … even more desperation. If Democrats sign off on corruption, cronyism, and incompetence for 2016, they should not be surprised when Republicans remind voters of it from Florida to Ohio to Nevada, and all parts in between.

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