Tag Archives: Emails

SYNDICATED COLUMN: At the Clinton Foundation, Access Equals Corruption

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More than half of the people who managed to score a personal one on one meeting with Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State donated money to the Clinton Foundation, either as an individual or through a company where they worked. “Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million,” the Associated Press reported.

Does that make Hillary corrupt?

It does.

At this writing, there is no evidence that anyone received any special favors as a result of their special access to Clinton. Not that treats were not requested. They were. (The most amusing was Bono’s request to stream his band’s music into the international space station, which was mercifully rejected.)

That’s irrelevant. She’s still corrupt.

Clinton’s defenders like to point out that neither she nor her husband draw a salary from their foundation. But that’s a technicality.

The Clintons extract millions of dollars in travel expenditures, including luxurious airplane accommodations and hotel suites, from their purported do-gooder outfit. They exploit the foundation as a patronage mill, arranging for it to hire their loyalists at extravagant six-figure salaries. Only a low portion of money ($9 million out of $140 million in 2013) makes its way to someone who needs it.

“It seems like the Clinton Foundation operates as a slush fund for the Clintons,” says Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group.

As a measure of how institutionally bankrupt American politics is, all this crap is technically legal. But that doesn’t mean it’s not corrupt.

Public relations experts caution politicians like the Clintons that the appearance of impropriety is almost as bad as its actuality. If it looks bad, it will hurt you with the polls. True, but that’s not really the point.

The point is: access is corruption.

It doesn’t matter that the lead singer of U2 didn’t get to live out his rocker astronaut fantasy. It’s disgusting that he was ever in a position to have it considered. To put a finer point on it, ethics require that someone in Hillary Clinton’s position never, ever take a meeting or correspond by email or offer a job to someone who donated money to her and her husband’s foundation. Failure to build an unscalable wall between government and money necessarily creates a corrupt quid pro quo:

“Just got a call from the Clinton Foundation. They’re shaking us down for a donation. Should we cough up a few bucks?”

“Hillary could be president someday. Chelsea could end up in the Senate. It couldn’t hurt to be remembered as someone who threw them some money when they asked.”

This, I 100% guarantee you, was the calculus when Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hillary for a one- or two-hour speech. She doesn’t have anything new to say that everyone hasn’t already heard a million times before. It’s not like she shared any valuable stock tips during those talks. Wealthy individuals and corporations pay politicians for one thing: access.

“It’s not pay to play, unless somebody actually gave someone 50 cents to say I need a meeting,” counters DNC interim chair Donna Brazile. “No. In this great country, when you meet with constituents, when you meet with heads of states, when you meet like Bono, who I love, you meet with them because they want to bring a matter to your attention. That’s not pay to play.”

It ain’t 50 cents.

But it is pay to play. Absolutely.

Access is a zero-sum game. If I get a meeting with a senator, that’s a meeting someone else doesn’t get. I shouldn’t get a leg up over you because I donated to a politically connected, nominally charitable foundation. For that matter, I shouldn’t get a meeting you can’t get because I know someone, or because I’m famous, or whatever. Access should be, has to be in a democracy, determined solely by meritocratic criteria. Political leaders like Hillary Clinton need to be meeting with people who can offer them the best advice and who need the most help — not those who bought their way in.

Anyone who doesn’t understand that access always equals corruption, even when access doesn’t result in favors, doesn’t deserve to hold political office.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee.)


REVISED 9/13/16: In last week’s column,”At the Clinton Foundation, Access Equals Corruption,” I wrote that the charity rating agency Charity Navigator did not rate the Clinton Foundation due to its poor performance. While that was true in the past, and I relied on that previous information while researching my piece, at present the Clinton Foundation actually receives a fairly respectable rating from Charity Navigator. This essay has been revised to reflect this changed information.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary Is So Sorry She Wasn’t Sorry Sooner

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2008/02_01/clintonDM0602_468x634.jpg Poor Hillary.

First they beat her up for refusing to apologize over the stupid/wrong/probably illegal way she mismanaged her emails as secretary of state.

Now they’re beating her up for apologizing. (About this “they”: I’m one of them.)

This is what happens when you get stuck between two competing public-relations imperatives.
On the one hand, as Clinton wrote in her memoir: “In our political culture, saying you made a mistake is often taken as weakness.” She’s right. On the other, it’s better to lance a boil than to let it fester. If everyone knows you messed up, admit it. The sooner you apologize, the sooner it becomes old news. Get out in front of bad news — if it’s going to get out no matter what, people would rather hear it from you than about you. (Classic case study: Johnson & Johnson was transparent and proactive in its response to the Tylenol tampering attacks.)

It’s hard to think of how Hillary could have done a worse job reacting to the news that she kept her emails as secretary of state on a private server in a closet at her home in Chappaqua.

First she tried to game the system. As a likely 2016 presidential contender, she knew there was “a vast right-wing conspiracy” out to get her. Given the heat that was going to be on her, why didn’t she tell her IT people to handle her emails in scrupulous over-compliance with government regulations?

Second, she was defensive, wondering why people didn’t trust her. Listen, Hillary, it isn’t personal: we don’t trust politicians. Especially those who seem to have something to hide. Which you did since, after all, you were hiding stuff.

Third, she dragged her feet. It took months before she turned over some of her emails to the State Department. It took more months before she coughed up the server.

Then there was August’s subject-free half-apology, in which she said that the private server “wasn’t the best choice.” Better to issue no apology at all than one measured in fractions.

This week’s apology came months too late and thousands of emails too little.

Like her vote in support of invading Iraq in 2003, this fiasco has hobbled her presidential campaign, hurt her poll numbers (especially among progressive Democrats, who are gravitating toward Bernie Sanders) and cast doubts about her judgment.

It’s hard to beat Barack Obama when it comes to getting out in front of bad news — he admitted using pot and cocaine back in 1995 (in his memoir), before he entered politics at all. His history of illegal drug use wasn’t an issue in 2008. Still, I’m sure that, if I were Hillary, I would have coughed up the server — and all the emails, including the personal yoga plans and Chelsea wedding ones — as soon as EmailGate broke. She’d have to do it sooner or later; sooner is better during a presidential campaign.

Still, I have some sympathy for Hillary’s dilemma. Because, like it or not, we do not reward the penitent.

I’ve faced a number of controversies over my cartoons. The only time a cartoon got me well and truly hosed, however, was after I apologized for it. I was wrong, I admitted it, and I thought people would appreciate my humanity. Wrong.

Like Hillary, I learned that regrets are for wimps — public regrets, anyway. It’ll be a frosty day in Hades before I make that mistake again.

I’ve been pressuring Hillary to apologize for her Iraq War vote. After all, she contributed to the deaths of at least a million people. She should have known better. She probably did know better, cynically backing an unjustifiable war in the charged right-wing nationalism following 9/11. (Though…why? She was a senator from New York, a liberal state that didn’t support the war.)

At this point, however, the political analyst in me knows that it’s too late for Hillary to come clean from her pet bloodbath. She should have admitted it years ago — before she and Obama destroyed Libya too.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


Hillary on Instagram

Hillary Clinton on Instagram

The Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign is now on Instagram, with a light joke about “Hard Choices”: a reference to a photo of her pantsuits in red, white and blue. It’s part of the effort to make a politician with blood-soaked hands look like just another ordinary American grandmother…and it just might work.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Her Bad! Again, Hillary Reveals Her Terrible Judgement



Hillary Clinton’s political setbacks and scandals come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: they highlight a personality with questionable judgment.

The question before the media, and American voters, is whether a person with such bad judgment should be trusted with nuclear launch codes at 3 AM.

The former Secretary of State during Obama’s first term acquitted herself fairly well during yesterday’s news conference (though I wonder why none of her advisers told her to lose that pinched I-can’t-believe-I-have-to-put-up-with-this-crap look on her face), though she did commit two rookie errors (I’ll get to those below).

To Hillary’s credit, she admitted she made a bad call in 2009, when she decided to exclusively use a private email account – whose server is kept at her private home in Chappaqua, New York – rather than an official .gov one issued by the State Department. “Looking back, it would have been better for me to use two separate phones and two e-mail accounts,” she conceded. “I thought using one device would be simpler, and obviously, it hasn’t worked out that way.”

Yes, it would have been, and no, it hasn’t.

The thing is: Hillary had all the information she needed to make the right decision back in 2009.

At the time, there was a clear-cut, well-publicized federal regulation that required government employees to keep all their emails. At the time, there was a recent history of politicians getting into trouble for falling afoul of this best practice. At the time, email was – as it is now – the default communication medium between government officials.

Given all that, she nevertheless decided to err on the side of secrecy rather than transparency. Her bad.

When her judgment failed her before — voting with Bush to invade Iraq — hundreds of thousands of people died and she lost her presidential campaign.

Again to her credit, she belatedly admitted that she shouldn’t have voted for Bush’s Iraq War. Her sort-of-apology was buried in her 2014 memoir: “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had…And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong.”

But lots of others, including 23 Senators, got it right.

At the time.

As with Emailgate, however, then-Senator Clinton had exactly what she needed to make the right decision – but then chose not to do so. As The Atlantic reported last year, she was one of six senators who read a secret 96-page National Intelligence Estimate on Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs. Because the classified document made clear that the case for war was based solely on conjecture and speculation, at least two of the other five senators who saw it decided to vote against the invasion. (Unfortunately, neither of them is running for president.)

Most pundits, me included, assumed that Clinton’s 2002 vote was motivated by rank cynicism – Bush, militarism, war were running high in the polls in the year after 9/11. Now she says that’s not true. Either way, it was a stupid decision.

At the time, it was clear to millions of Americans, me included, that Bush and Cheney didn’t have solid evidence that Iraq possessed WMDs. If they had, they would have shown us, the same way that JFK revealed spy photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba on TV. You don’t go to war based on maybes.

At the time, her vote for war was also politically idiotic. Hillary represented New York, a solidly Democratic state where opposition to invading Iraq would have been rewarded at reelection time, not punished. Also, many people who didn’t even have access to classified intelligence could tell that the United States was likely to lose the war. If she were smart, she would have seen that too. You don’t vote on wars that are likely to become unpopular by the time you’re running for election or reelection.

That’s why I voted against her in the 2008 Democratic primary. I might be able to vote for a cynical bastard.

But not a fool.

Unfortunately for Hillary, the Democratic Party, and – if she wins – the American people, she repeatedly makes the wrong call when it really matters. It was the same during the 1990s Whitewater controversy that embroiled her husband.

In an open letter to Clinton, Paul Waldman of the liberal American Prospect reminds us: “On Whitewater, where yours was the strongest voice urging your husband to fight the release of information. We all saw what happened: A story about a failed investment turned into the subject of an independent counsel investigation, which ultimately led to impeachment. All the inquiries eventually concluded that you did nothing wrong in the Whitewater investment.”

What could be stupider than masterminding a cover-up when you have nothing to hide?

Hillary messes up little decisions too.

Yesterday’s press conference featured two boners you wouldn’t expect out of a freshman state representative:

First she rather hilariously set herself up for accusations of hypocrisy. “No one wants their personal emails made public, and I think most people understand that and respect that privacy,” she said. Perfectly reasonable coming from you and me, but not from a senator who voted for the USA Patriot Act, which authorized the NSA to intercept everyone’s phone calls, emails and everything else. (Talk about lousy judgment.) Or from someone who called Edward Snowden a traitor. (A year later, she’s walking that one back too.)

Second, the multi-multi-multi-millionaire crankily channeled Tricky Dicky with a cheesy attempt to distract from the email controversy with some ridiculous I’m-a-real-person-too pleas for sympathy: “At the end, I chose not to keep my private personal emails — emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes.”

Yoga routines“? Via email?

(For the under-90 set, here’s Nixon’s “Checkers” speech: “It was a little cocker spaniel dog, in a crate that he had sent all the way from Texas, black and white, spotted, and our little girl Tricia, the six year old, named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, loved the dog, and I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we are going to keep it.”)

This woman. Wants to be. President.

“It all seems so preventable, so easily avoided,” marveled Newsweek about Emailgate and Hillary’s other screw-ups.

Yes it does and yes it does.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” You can support his work by subscribing to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


A Little Extra

After the 9/11 attacks, Americans reasoned that if they had to give up a little extra time at the airport in exchange for security, that was a bargain they were willing to make. As the NSA revelations demonstrate, however, that devil’s bargain led to a slippery slope.

America’s Spy Non-Scandal

The News of the World and other British tabloids owned by Rupert Murdoch are accused of hacking into voicemail and emails. Here in the US, we’re shocked and bemused. What about the NSA domestic surveillance program?