by Lanny Davis – 8/30/16
There are some serious people whom I respect, including some editorial writers and pundits, who have called for shutting down the Clinton Foundation if Hillary Clinton is elected president, even if Bill Clinton resigns from leadership, as he has promised to do.
Their reasoning, however, is based on an entirely subject perspective: They see an “appearance” of conflict of interest.
But not one of them — not one reporter who has breathlessly written about foundation donors attending meetings or lunches at the State Department — has cited a single fact showing that Hillary Clinton as secretary of State ever made a decision or influenced others on policy matters because of a foundation donation.
Of course there are also less serious, highly partisan individuals who have called for the Clinton Foundation to shut down. Many of them are Republican members of Congress who regularly meet with big donors to their political committees, and their staffs regularly set up meetings in Washington for them. Of course many Democrats do the same.
There is one big difference, however. Unlike most GOP members of Congress, most Democratic members favor comprehensive campaign finance reform, including a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United, which allowed unlimited, secret corporate donations.
There is one group of people around the world we can be certain wants the foundation and its related entities to continue. Here is a small portion of that group:
• The 11.5 million people in the developing world who have been provided access to HIV/AIDS treatment, many of whom would probably be dead today if it weren’t for the Clinton Foundation;
• The 50,000 children in Kenya, Ethiopia and Malawi who have depended on the health clinics and healthcare assistance subsidized by the Clinton Foundation;
• The coconut sugar farmers in Indonesia living lives of poverty and deprivation whose quality of life has improved with training in best agricultural practices;
• The millions of children in America who, in large part because of the Clinton Foundation, are healthier as a result of the 90 percent reduction in the total beverage calories sent to U.S. schools.
Even the rabidly partisan new campaign manager for Donald Trump— at least for now — Kellyanne Conway, admitted on CNN last week that “the Clinton Foundation does a lot of good work.”
To those serious people who are still concerned about “appearances,” I suggest they can be reassured by the foundation’s transparency and efficiency, as confirmed by the nation’s leading charitable organization evaluators:
• The foundation’s donors — more than 300,000 — are all disclosed on the Clinton Foundation website. That includes donations from all foreign governments.
• The foundation’s Forms 990 tax returns and other IRS documents and audited financials are all publicly available online.
• According to the American Institute of Philanthropy’s CharityWatch, the Clinton Foundation spent 87 percent of its budget on charity in 2014, earning an overall “A” rating. The widely respected organization Guidestar gave the Clinton Foundation its highest “Platinum” rating and lauded the foundation for its “transparency.”
CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield recently interviewed Daniel Borochoff, president of CharityWatch, asking “who will be hurt the most” if the foundation is shut down, referring to “what some call a ‘scorched-earth campaign’ against the Clinton Foundation.” Borochoff’s reply?
“Well, the people,” he answered. “The millions of people that get reduced cost, reduced medical pills for like AIDS, and there’s all kind of programs that they do that help millions of people, and people are going to die unless people get the help.
“For a second, if you pull the election politics out of the equation here, [the Clinton Foundation] is a really good charity,” he continues. “So you got to look at it from the metrics of, they have good governance and accountability, they have great financial efficiency, they have valuable, important programs that help a lot of people in the world.”
So before we allow the Clinton Foundation to be pressured to shut its doors because of subjective concerns about “appearances,” before we take seriously the partisan rants by some hypocritical Republicans and rightwing Clinton haters, or — speaking of ranting and hypocrisy — by Trump himself, let’s ask the question:
Why not ask those who are suffering, starving, dying of AIDS or living in poverty around the world whether the Clinton Foundation should be shut down?
Don’t they count too?
Instead of criticizing Bill Clinton, those millions of people around the globe who have received the foundation’s help want to thank him. Shouldn’t their voices be heard?
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Lanny Davis is co-founder of the Washington law firm Davis Goldberg Galper PLLC, and Trident DMG, a strategic media firm specializing in crisis management. He served as special counsel to President Clinton from 1996 to 1998 and is a regular columnist for The Hill newspaper. He has been a friend of Hillary Clinton since they were students at Yale Law School together in 1969-70.
To read the column on The Hill, click here.