As much as we hate our elected officials, we also seem strangely reluctant to ask very much of them, lest someone some day ask something extraordinary of us. We need to get over that.
What is the Clinton Foundation? Is it a mechanism to harness the visibility and connections of the Clinton family in order to raise money for worthy causes and do good things around the world? Yes. Is it a tool to burnish the reputation of the Clinton family? Yes. Is it a way for Bill and Hillary Clinton to continue to exert global political influence even when they are not in office? Yes. Is it a way for foreign governments, powerful corporations, and wealthy individuals of all types to gain access to and possibly influence from the Clintons in exchange for money? Yes.
It is a childish exercise to argue over whether an institution like the Clinton Foundation is wholly “good” or “bad.” It is completely plausible and even likely that the Clinton family derives a good deal of personal satisfaction from the good works of the various charities and causes that the Clinton Foundation supports. It is a certainty that there are needy people around the world who have been helped by the activities of the Clinton Foundation. It is also a certainty that powerful interests use donations to the Clinton Foundation as a way to gain access to a former president and Secretary of State and, now, a leading presidential candidate. Donations to the Clinton Foundation are political expenditures. As certain as it is that the Clintons personally believe that it is good to help poor Haitians and fight climate change, it is equally certain that the Clintons—the savviest political family since the Kennedys—understand full well that their foundation is a tool that they can use to remain global players indefinitely; that the foundation’s success is a direct result of their own political success; and that its donors are buying access and favor.
If anyone understands how this shit works, it is the Clintons. Let’s not pretend otherwise.
As long as Bill and Hillary Clinton are not powerful government officials, they should feel free to run their foundation in service to mankind and their own egos. But we are three months away from Hillary Clinton being elected President of the United States. That would make her the most powerful elected official in the world. The existence of the Clinton Foundation would then quite clearly be a backdoor path to buying influence with and access to the White House. You do not have to be a political opponent of Hillary Clinton to acknowledge this fact; you just have to be an honest person. Even if you are the sort of stubborn fantasist who wants to argue that multinational investment banks and foreign governments making large donations to a foundation controlled by the family of the American president constitutes only the appearance of impropriety, you should be realistic enough to admit that that appearance is reason enough to close the Clinton Foundation, now.
“But what about the Clinton Foundation’s good works?” Glad you asked. Here is a list of the most effective charities in the world. Anyone who cares about children or women or global health or hunger or poverty or clean water or education can give money directly to these charities, which are more effective than any of their peers at successfully making a positive difference in the world. How happy the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Hollywood billionaire Haim Saban and the Coca-Cola Company will be to learn that they do not need to donate their millions to the Clinton Foundation, where it might be misconstrued as an act of political influence-seeking—rather, they can donate directly to effective charities to get the good works done. If the Clinton Foundation’s donors believe that the world needs an organization that will work to bring together powerful business interests and global governments to tackle the world’s problems, they will be happy to hear of the existence of the United Nations. There is a foundation that supports the UN’s goals, and they could use your money. Any donors who specifically wanted to support the Bill Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark.—the least noble of all of the Clinton Foundation’s activities—could instead give their money to an established children’s literacy organization, where it will do some real good. Chelsea Clinton can buy her own books.
There are respected existing organizations capable of picking up every part of what the Clinton Foundation does. It does not need to exist. Nor do donors who want to help the world have any legitimate reason to give their money only to the Clinton Foundation. There are many fine charities ready to do good things with their money. The only reason to support the Clinton Foundation rather than any other organization is to seek backdoor access and influence. That is also the reason the Clinton Foundation should be closed down. Hillary Clinton wants to become the most powerful person in America, with meaningful influence over the multi-trillion dollar government budget. That is many, many times more important than anything her family’s foundation does. It is not unreasonable to expect a (very moderately rigorous) code of ethical conduct to be a condition of employment in the nation’s most powerful job.
I’m sure Bill and Chelsea can get other jobs. Everything is not about you.