NYT to Hillary: Respond to an "ethical imperative" now, not later

File this under Advice That Would Have Made Sense in 2008. When Hillary Clinton agreed to accept an appointment for Secretary of State, she and the Clinton Foundation made a deal with the incoming Obama administration to cut off influence-peddling by refusing foreign-government donations.  They also pledged to disclose all incoming donations. How did those pledges work out? Er … not too well in either category, which is why the Clinton Foundation is at the heart of a pay-for-play scandal involving the State Department.

Earlier this month, Team Clinton and the foundation pledged to follow that agreement if Hillary wins the presidential election, and that this time they really, really mean it. Instead, the New York Times editorial board demands today, Hillary should cut off donations from foreign governments and corporate sources right now, and that all three Clintons should pledge to cut all ties to the organization if she wins the election:

Mr. Clinton has said he will resign from the board of the foundation and the CHAI board if Mrs. Clinton wins the presidency. Simply closing the foundation, as even some Democrats recommend, could kill programs helping tens of thousands of people. While that’s unwarranted, the foundation could do much more to distance itself from the foreign and corporate money that risks tainting Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Its plans to restrict its funding sources only after the election will likely dog Mrs. Clinton.

A wiser course would be to ban contributions from foreign and corporate entities now. If Mrs. Clinton wins, Bill and Chelsea Clinton should both end their operational involvement in the foundation and its affiliates for the duration of her presidency, relinquishing any control over spending, hiring and board appointments.

Mrs. Clinton has said she intends to give Mr. Clinton a role in her administration. Cutting his foundation ties would demonstrate that he is giving any role he would have in the administration the priority it deserves. It would also send a signal that Mrs. Clinton and her family have heard the concerns of critics and supporters and will end any further possibility for the foundation to become a conduit to the White House for powerful influence seekers.

The Clinton Foundation has become a symbol of the Clintons’ laudable ambitions, but also of their tangled alliances and operational opacity. If Mrs. Clinton wins, it could prove a target for her political adversaries. Achieving true distance from the foundation is not only necessary to ensure its effectiveness, it is an ethical imperative for Mrs. Clinton.

Isn’t that demand for a pledge precious? The Clintons have already backed down from their momentary pledge to cut ties by leaving Chelsea on the board if Hillary and Bill move back into the White House. All that does, though, is leave Chelsea in Bill’s position of running the influence-peddling part of the foundation. After all, it wasn’t Hillary pressing Doug Band to ask for “face time” for Gilbert Chagoury with the State Department — it was Bill. The only difference in this arrangement will be that influence-peddlers will work through the next Clinton generation, a development they’ll no doubt appreciate. And without a Clinton on the board, foreign donors won’t see the foundation as a reliable enough conduit for influencing a new Hillary administration.

Still, one has to wonder why the NYT’s editors aren’t falling into line on the Team Hillary talking points. They’re not alone, either. Here’s Raul Grijalva rejecting the supposed “solution” to the stench of corruption from the Clinton Foundation-State Department nexus. MSNBC’s Tamron Hall reads from the editorial, and asks Grijalva about “the perceived lack of transparency”:

“We gotta get rid of extraneous issues,” Grijalva says. Just how “extraneous” is this, though? All due respect to Tamron Hall, but the lack of transparency isn’t a perception, it’s a reality. The Clinton Foundation had to restate six years of tax filings to document the foreign-government donations it pledged not to seek or accept in the 2008 memorandum of understanding, and only released the details of corporate donations the Clintons pledged to disclose in real time under pressure from the media.

On top of that, the evidence at hand shows at least indirectly that those donations impacted the policy of the State Department during Hillary’s tenure. The Associated Press showed a rather telling correlation between corporate donors and non-governmental access to Hillary during those four years, and International Business Times detailed how foreign-government donors got bigger arms transfers on Hillary’s watch, too.

Those aren’t “extraneous” issues related to “transparency” alone. That’s corruption, which goes to the heart of why Hillary Clinton and her family should be kept as far away from the levers of power as possible. Democrats realize this, belatedly, and now want Hillary to act to stop the bleeding so that they can change the subject.