While attempting to minimize the importance of the special access donors to the Clinton Foundation gained with the State Department under Hillary Clinton, interim-Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee may have made matters even worse: (ABC News)
“First of all, Martha, the way I look at it, I’ve been a government official. So, you know, this notion that, somehow or another, someone who is a supporter, someone who is a donor, somebody who’s an activist, saying I want access, I want to come into a room and I want to meet people, we often criminalize behavior that is normal. And it’s — I don’t — I don’t see what the smoke is.”
Not only is this a startling admission that access is granted to major donors on a “business as usual” basis over at the DNC, Brazille’s statement also illustrates a much larger problem for her candidate and her relationship with the Clinton Foundation.
You see, Brazille is describing a scenario where, she believes, it’s perfectly understandable that a major donor to a political campaign might gain some access to a candidate or an event because of their donation. She calls this “normal” and she may be right.
Here’s the problem, Ms. Brazile: The Clinton Foundation is not supposed to be a political campaign fund!
In her defense of her candidate, Ms. Brazile seems to have highlighted the exact problem — if not illegal behavior — in how the Clinton Foundation operated in connection with the State Department. The foundation is a 501(c)3, non-profit, non-partisan charity, not a political campaign apparatus.
By equating (possibly by mistake) the Clinton Foundation charity with a political campaign, Brazile has inadvertently acknowledged that within the State Department the Clinton Foundation was seen as a political organization and was treated as if it was. And that is the problem.
For a government official to grant access to an individual or organization in exchange for political donations is, in fact, against the law. I asked former US Attorney Joe DiGenova about this Monday on WMAL radio in Washington DC and he explained “Access is a thing” and when it is a violation of the law when that thing is exchanged for money.
The fact that Brazile so cavalierly suggests that this is “normal” tells you everything you need to know about the DNC.
Political campaigns are regulated by the FEC specifically so they can keep on eye on this sort of thing. A charity like the Clinton Foundation is not.
Regardless of all of these points, let’s not forget that the presumption of impropriety was on the table during Mrs. Clinton’s confirmation hearings. That’s why she went out of her way to promise the Obama Administration and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that there would be a fire wall between the Foundation and her office.
Apparently, that “fire wall” was made of gasoline soaked rags and old newspapers.