USA Today editorial board: Man, this Clinton Foundation seems shady

How shady is it? That’s the question that bedevils the editorial board of USA Today. It has some trouble coming fully to that conclusion that the conflicts of interest rise to the level of disqualification, so the board suggests another option — close it down for the campaign:

The foundation that Bill Clinton created after leaving the White House in 2001 has many things to commend it. It addresses AIDS, global poverty, childhood obesity and other areas that don’t always get the attention they deserve. It also leverages Clinton’s many contacts overseas.

Had Clinton been a typical former president, interested only in remaining active and cementing his legacy, the Clinton Foundation would a big success.

Er … really? The opposite is actually true — if the Clinton name wasn’t attached to it, it would be considered a borderline fraud. Its passthrough rates for actual programmatic grants only came to 15% of its revenues while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, and just 6.4% in the first year after it (2013). More than 60% of the revenues got spent on administration alone; in 2013, the foundation spent almost as much on just air travel as it did on grants. It’s so questionable that Charity Navigator has the Clinton Foundation on its “watch list” of “problematic charities,” and the Sunlight Foundation’s Bill Allison says it operates more like “a slush fund for the Clintons.”

USA Today’s editors admit that “the foundation is a mess,” in a somewhat passive description that disconnects responsibility for that ethical morass from the Clintons themselves:

With Hillary Clinton running for president twice and serving as secretary of State in between, it was bound to be viewed as a way for foreign donors to get close to the Clintons — a danger the foundation appears to have discounted. Much like the Clintons themselves, the foundation has seemed intent on playing by its own rules, and is highly defensive when confronted on its errors.

“The foundation” doesn’t run itself. It’s been run by the Clintons all along. They made the decision to “discount” the danger of corruption, and the Clintons have acted “highly defensive” as the reality of their political pay-for-play scheme has emerged. The editorial continues to assign admissions and wrongdoing to “the foundation” throughout the editorial rather than the people who were in charge of it, namely Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea. It’s a curious case of accountability dodging on behalf of someone who wants to run for the country’s highest office.

Finally, they recommend that Hillary distance herself from the stench she and Bill have created by shutting down the foundation:

If she really wants to be president, she needs to put the foundation’s work on ice during her campaign. That would eliminate the appearance of a back channel to the corridors of power. It would also help establish whether the foundation’s donors are more interested in addressing social problems, or cozying up to the Clintons.

Oh, please. Did those donors worry about the 6.4% passthrough rate in 2013, or the 15% rate over the previous four years? More to the point, who’s worried about the donors when the people who ran this scheme want to use that influence to take over the White House again? The prime issue isn’t the people who bought influence, it’s the people who were selling it.

Hillary doesn’t need to shut down the Clinton Foundation as much as American voters need to shut down the Clintons for good.