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.

27 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: At the Clinton Foundation, Access Equals Corruption

  1. “An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.” – Plato

    So Hillary isn’t even honest by that low bar. Shout out to Goldman Sachs: Have I ever got a bargain for you. I will speak for only tens of thousands of dollars & mere First Class tickets. I will be happy to drink cheap scotch instead of 20 year old single malt. And at the end of the day I won’t do anything you ask. (Word to the wise: wash out the coffee pot after I leave…)

      • > Where have you seen that she did not deliver anything?

        Ted’s column above. 😀 I admit I have had no personal experience bribing her. (Hill? Call me, the NSA has my number.)

    • Where have you seen that she did not deliver anything? I understand she didn’t deliver everything (cf Bono) but I understand she gave a LOT (if the payment was sufficient).

      Since it’s all perfectly legal under US law, it’s NOT corrupt. ‘Corrupt’ means illegal.

      And Mr Rall says that access should be based on merit. It IS. Just read Mr Brooks column in the New York Times. The rich and powerful are rich and powerful because they earned it, the US always gives the greatest rewards to those with the greatest merit! (Like picking the right parents. Most of us failed miserably at that simple task, and paid the price as we richly deserved.)

      (Someone mentioned that Yale admitted someone that ESU rejected, but that’s because Yale has more money and can ferret out merit where ESU cannot.)

      • “Since it’s all perfectly legal under US law, it’s NOT corrupt. ‘Corrupt’ means illegal.”
        By whose definition? There are many corrupt activities that are not illegal, and I feel certain that you are aware of many. (Think about the “too big to fail” banks, for example.)

      • Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?
        Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.

        (I already did Plato – let’s misattribute this one to King Solomon.)

  2. Ted, I can’t argue with anything you say here; and I first met Hillary in 1987 in Little Rock.

  3. Extracting money from someone by who might use their power to grant a favor is like using a gun in a robbery when the gun was never fired.

    The person handing over the money doesn’t know if the favor would be really granted or if the gun would really be fired.

    Don’t fire the gun and it’s still an armed robbery; don’t grant the favor it’s still a corrupt practice.

    It’s the implication facilitating the hustle that is corrupt and should be illegal.

    Try asking a cop about to give a ticket if he has any tickets to sell for the Policeman’s Charity Ball.

  4. Let me try.

    We have people who insist, insist, that the Clinton Foundation is aboveboard, and it’s just a witchhunt. That there was no pay to play.

    But, HRC admits, she sees where some people might perceive there is a possibility of impropriety being seen (where none exists, of course).

    Have I summed it up correctly? HRC’s argument is that nothing funny went on, but she understands … NOW … that it COULD have the appearance of something inappropriate.

    Okay. My question: Now that it has, and now that she’s had to backpedal on the issue (sorry, “evolve”) could someone on the left side of the aisle finally admit that HRC simply is not clever enough for the job? Because, really, she isn’t. There are lots of women who are, but HRC is not one of them. What else has HRC simply not seen yet? Oh, right, here’s one: If she wins the election, she won’t have sufficient numbers in the House and Senate to get any legislation passed. And after four Jimmy Carter-esque years of malaise, the Republicans WILL win in 2020, and those Supreme Court vacancies (which will be there ALL through HRC’s reign — unless she puts in a slightly-to-the-right moderate who is pro-choice but who will uphold every law that makes it impossible for a woman to exercise that choice) will be filled 72 hours after Mark Rubio is sworn in, and then you can kiss good-bye every pissant incremental progressive change made in the past 50 years.

    • I had to check. Once upon a time, a simple majority was enough to confirm a president’s appointment, and the odds strongly favour a Democratic Senate.

      But the new and improved filibuster rules adopted at the end of the civil rights fights mean one needs at least 60 votes to confirm. And in come cases, 100 votes, since even one Senator can delay an appointment, possibly until it’s withdrawn.

      And no one thinks the Senate will have 60 or more Democrats and Democrat-leaning Independents.

      Best guess: President Hillary will have a Democratic Senate with 51 – 55 Democrat Senators and a Republican House for two years, then a solid Republican Congress for two years.

      So she won’t be able to keep very many of her domestic promises, but she can still liberate Syria and Russia from their evil dictators, as she’s sworn to do.

  5. One small correction. Hillary did not give one- to two-hour speeches. Her contracts stipulated that the speech was limited to 20 minutes and the “grip and grin” time for photo ops was limited too — not to mention the outlandish perks she demanded. They made rock star demands look petty. If I remember correctly, she even banned Q&A sessions after her homily.

    These weren’t speeches, so much as money-laundering opportunities.

  6. As usual, you demonsstrate perfectly the complete and utter failure of ‘progresssives’: they obsess over something that ‘looks’ bad (to them) while giving a complete pass to people who actually DO bad.

    And they never meet a right wing smear they werent eager to repeat(anything to punsh they deem insufficently “pure”) even when debunking it requires no more effort than expected of a middle school student writing their first paper.

    Above is the link to Charity Navigator’s four star rating of the Clinton Foundation (The Red Cross only gets three stars, btw ) which you could’ve easily found for yourself, iff you cared eveen remotely about truth, honesty or fairness rather than just penning an anti Clinton screed.

    • Score one for Whimsy, Charity Navigator does indeed list the Clinton Foundation as a four star charity.

      However, in his eagerness to vet Clinton, he has himself neglected to follow the money trail or the links that Ted provided above. The Saudis donated somewhere between 10 and 25 million dollars, and here we thought that it was only Bushies who held hands with Saudi princes.

      From the article: Clinton’s State Department also approved of “$165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation,” including “Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar,”

      > “iff you cared eveen remotely about truth, honesty or fairness rather than … ” maintaining the status quo? …”while giving a complete pass to people who actually DO bad.”

      Silly progressives, here we’re looking for someone who does GOOD.

      • >The Saudis donated somewhere between 10 and 25 million dollars, and here we thought that it was only Bushies who held hands with Saudi princes.

        So? Unless you have proof that they got something they wouldn’t get otherwise for their couch change this will remain a non-issue to those of us who understand how the world ACTUALLY works.

        >From the article: Clinton’s State Department also approved of “$165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation,” including “Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar”.

        Correlation does not prove causation. Now I know that the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” means NOTHING to you if ignoring it means you can hate on Hillary, but got news for you friend: this proves nothing. zero. zip. nada. bupkus. sweet fuck all, etc.

        >iff you cared eveen remotely about truth, honesty or fairness rather than … ” maintaining the status quo?

        For those of us with reasonable/realistic/rational expectations, contnuing the incremental improvement of the status quo is excellent. “Progressives”, on the other hand. . .not so much.

        >Silly progressives, here we’re looking for someone who does GOOD.

        First, its cute that you think you’re a progressive. You aren’t. As far as I’m concerned you lost all right to that title when you made it clear that depite the lip service you pay to the causes you claim to value, you are willing to help elect people who will roll back progress. You’re a “progressive”.

        Second, as most “progresssives” are, you are not looking for anyone that does GOOD. You haave demonstrated repeatedly that you would be incapable of recognizing someone doing good if they bit you on the ass. You are looking for someone to deliver you the impossible, immediately. Most “progressives” are.

        Finally, given how badly you and yours have ruined the Democratic party by shoving it so far right, its going to take a minimum of a decade of “progresssives” abandoning their ‘stuck on stupid’ punishment strategy and actually supporting Democrats for you to see anyone even approaaching what you’d consider “good”.

        The rest of us reasonable people (you know, actual progressives) are just glad you didn’t screw things up worse.

      • > this will remain a non-issue to those of us who understand how the world ACTUALLY works

        Priceless, absolutely priceless. You are 100% correct – it’s a non-issue. Those who understand how the world ACTUALLY works know that the sheeple don’t understand that very thing. Even on those rare instances when the press do report corruption in high places, the sheep simply yawn and go back to grazing.

        So, I bet you believe that Cheney’s salary and options from Halliburton had nothing to do with the sweet no-bid contracts they got in Iraq, right?

        The sheeple considered it a non-issue.

        Or that Reagan’s arms deals with Iran had nothing to do with the hostages, right?

        The sheeple considered that it a non-issue as well.

        Forget ‘how.’ The best way to know for whom the world ACTUALLY works is to follow the money.

      • On the contrary, CH-

        The fact that you find it impossible to answer any of my points without first twisting them into grotesque strawmen shows that you’re an illiterate fool. The fact that you’re apparently unaware that all it takes is a trip through the archives to show that you’ve said much about Hillary’s unproven corruption and little to nothing about Trumps proven corruption shows that you’re an illiterate, memory-impaired fool. And the fact that you actually believe that this election is about you and who represents what you think, rather than what’s best for the country shows you’re an illiterate, memory-impaired, selfish, egotistical fool.

        >>It doesn’t matter how many times it fails, they insist that it’s actually a success. They follow the herd, do what they’re told. and ignore objective reality in favor of dogma.

        Sound familiar?

        It’s very familiar. I’ve watched “progressives” like you fail and impede progress for 40 years with that very same strategy of insisting your failures are successes because they lack the maturity (or in your case the basic intellectual capacity) to override their own ego and admit that they are the PROBLEM, not the solution.

        And I think you feel compelled to respond to me so viscerally (even though you have to twist my arguments into grotesque strawmen to do so) is because deep down inside you know I’m right.

      • No presidential candidate in my lifetime ever ‘cared about the country.’ Most of all Obama or Hillary.

      • (Final response – this is getting circular)

        Last election, 51% of the people voted for Obama, while 0.4% voted for Stein.

        Your constant assertion that 0.4% of the electorate has more control than the other 51% is patently absurd. The fact that you reiterated it in the same post in which you used “basic intellectual capacity” is downright hilarious.

        (And yes, *MY* vote is about what *I* think. If that’s selfish, then I suppose you think it’s magnanimous to vote for what the DNC thinks. I, however, have a different word for it.)

    • Interesting. The Clinton Foundation was added to Charity Navigator on Thursday, 1 Sep ’16.

      As of 31 August ’16, Charity Navigator refused to list them because of ‘irregularities’.

      But, after Snopes pointed this out, the Clinton Foundation got busy and ‘fixed’ those irregularities and got the highest rating Charity Navigator gives.

      The Clinton Foundation: always getting on top of things.

      • Gold star for doing Whimsy’s homework for him!

        > The Clinton Foundation: always getting on top of things.

        I’ll bet Hillary gets on top … or rather, she is The top …

      • Whimsical,

        If my reading up on the subject is correct, the way Charity Navigator works is by looking at IRS forms. I’m just wondering, who in the IRS has the balls to audit Bill and Hill? But even the audit — if it ever happens — is actually not that relevant. Here, from what I keep running into, is how the Clinton Foundation works:

        1. Billary collects a “donation” from, say, Saudi Arabia. SA then gets to brag about how it gives to worthy causes (keep in mind, for the Saudi government, writing a check for a billion dollars is like you or me picking up the tab for a round of drinks with friends). SA then gets access to the inner circle of people who the Clintons know. Relationships are forged, deals are worked out, and so forth. The Clintons have plenty of connections, so everyone wants to stay on their good side. (At this point, other people have already pointed out how the quid pro quo occurs: donation is followed by favorable legislation.) So, for a pittance, SA now has access to the people who control how legislation gets introduced and put into place.

        2. The shakedow– I mean, the donation — is then used for an initiative of some sort by the Clinton Fondation. Here’s a question: has anyone ever tracked where all those donations go? I mean, to whom those donations go and who gets to come along for the ride? One of HRC’s projects was to get cookstoves to Indian women. Oh, how selfless, how feminist! How can anyone hate HRC? She’s so great and good! HRC, working with those planet-loving humanitarians at Exxon and BP, started a program to get those cookstoves to rural India, which, totally just by coincidence, is a mostly untapped market of a billion people. The cookstove program was a failure: most of the stoves broke, they were too expensive for the women to maintain, etc. But, Exxon and BP now have a shiny “we wuv people” thing to trot out after the next oil disaster. AND, they have a foothold in a new market. AND, they have “relationships” with people in the region for when, inevitably, that area opens up for exploitation. Just like with SA, the corporations can “buy in” through the Clinton Foundation for what is, to them, a pittance.

        Has ANYONE looked into that? And by “looked in” I mean done more than run IRS forms through an algorithm or googled?

      • Thank you for proving my point again, gentlemen, as you usually do.

        We have two candidates- one of whom has been investigated repeatedly without there ever being enough evidence to as much as indict, let alone convict her. But you don’t LIKE her, and she’s doing something that looks bad – to you.

        Another who just had to pay a fine to the IRS (proof) that he is actually DOING the thing you’re accusing the candidate you don’t like of.

        Which one do you talk about? Well, given that you’re “progressives”; and to “progresssives” expressing their opinions is the absolute most important thing they can do- damn the consequences- you spread the unproven smears about the candidate you don’t like of course, and give a complete pass to the one actually doing the thing you don’t like.

        Sad, but not remotely surprising. You are all so reliable, you prove me correct every time.

        And no, CH, I do not view Halliburtons contracts as PROOF that Dick Cheney was corrupt -as the only REAL progressive on this board (as opposed to “progressives”) I’m not about to put my feelings above the principle of innocent until PROVEN guilty.

      • What’s obviously gone far, far, over your head is that it is not about “like” – we’re not looking for a BFF, we’re looking for someone who will do a good job as POTUS.

        What it is about is “this person does not represent me, is not aligned with my best interests, and does not have the experience necessary to do the job – therefore I am very much concerned about the consequences of voting for her.”

        You, on the other hand, will vote for whoever you’re told to vote for without stopping to consider the consequences. If Trump was running as a Democrat you’d be here telling us what a wonderful guy he was.

        The fact that you believe Cheney is innocent merely confirms that which we already knew: you are a gullible fool. The fact that you believe no-one here badmouths Trump shows that you are an illiterate gullible fool. The fact that you will once again follow the rest of the sheep to the polls to do your masters’ bidding shows that you are an illiterate, gullible, fool who is incapable of learning from his mistakes.

        And that is the very definition of a conservative. Conservatives keep making the same mistakes over and over. It doesn’t matter how many times it fails, they insist that it’s actually a success. They follow the herd, do what they’re told. and ignore objective reality in favor of dogma.

        Sound familiar?