The Clinton's Cookie Jar

Today: Clinton Foundation; Receipt of millions from foreign governments makes many uneasy.

BOB: After The Wall Street Journal reported that the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation has accepted donations from foreign governments, Republicans seized on the issue hoping to inflict damage on Hillary Clinton's potential 2016 presidential campaign. The Republican opposition research group, America Rising, demanded the Clinton Foundation stop accepting donations from governments abroad and return donations already received.

CAL: Seems reasonable to me. Some of those donors — Saudi Arabia, for example — are not exactly known for their charitable spirit, especially when it comes to women and religious minorities. They will want something in return if Hillary is elected president. What other motivation could they have for giving so much money?

BOB: It's not reasonable; it's pure politics. Republicans are so afraid of a potential presidential run by Hillary that they attack a foundation that focuses on programs to aid people in poverty at home and abroad. According to its website, the Clinton Foundation's Global Initiative program has facilitated projects in 180 countries that have assisted 430 million people. For Republicans to attack a charity that assists the poor is disgraceful.

CAL: The Clintons have sucked up so much money since leaving office they resemble a high-powered vacuum cleaner. Even liberal Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcusacknowledged this in a column that she called "a friendly intervention." Marcus' message to Hillary: "You have a money problem. It's time to deal with it before it gets worse." It's not about the foundation's charitable work; it's about the huge amounts of cash she rakes in from speaking fees, which will diminish any attacks she may make on the "truly well off" 1%.

BOB: The Clinton Foundation was established in 2001 shortly after Bill Clinton left the White House. It has raised nearly $2 billion, partially from foreign governments. The foundation instituted a foreign gifts ban in 2009, when Hillary Clinton was named secretary of State. The foreign ban was lifted after Clinton left the State Department in 2013. It is now considering reactivating the ban if Hillary runs for president. How many pounds of flesh does the GOP want?

CAL: The ban should be reinstated, and any recent money donated should be returned to those foreign governments. A New York Times story accurately described the problem: "For all of its successes, the Clinton Foundation has become a sprawling concern, supervised by a rotating board of old Clinton hands," (read: cronies) "vulnerable to distraction and threatened by conflicts of interest. It ran multimillion dollar deficits for several years, despite vast amounts of money flowing in." Sounds like the federal government, Bob.

BOB: Clinton Foundation spokesman Craig Minassian defended the foundation's transparency in making public all donations. In a statement posted to its website, the foundation said, "Should Secretary Clinton decide to run for office," it will review its contribution policy on foreign partners "just as we did when she served as secretary of State." I guess they had no choice, but it's sad to see resources meant for people in poverty around the world get caught up in U.S. politics.

CAL: Back to the mostly pro-Clinton Times story: "Efforts to insulate the foundation from potential conflicts have highlighted just how difficult it can be to disentangle the Clintons' charity work from Mr. Clinton's moneymaking ventures and Mrs. Cinton's political future." She will have an image problem that Republicans are sure to exploit, just as Democrats used Mitt Romney's wealth against him, saying he could not relateto average Americans.

BOB: I understand why foreign government contributions to the Clinton Foundation could raise ethical issues should Hillary run for president. But for all of the hand-wringing, no one has cited one case of a conflict of interest.

CAL: It isn't just their foundation. As The Journal has noted, Wall Street has provided one of the largest sources of campaign funds for the Clintons since 1992, with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. as the largest single contributor, giving close to $5 million. The newspaper quotes a Republican fundraiser as saying, "Clinton Inc. is going to be the most formidable fundraising operation for the Democrats in the history of the country. Period. Exclamation point."

BOB: Money is at the root of most that is wrong in American politics. It's time to review what damage the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has done to our political system.

CAL: I agree that money has corrupted our politics, but limiting campaign contributions from certain groups and individuals that generally go more to Republicans than Democrats creates an unequal playing field favorable to Democrats. That was one argument that led to the court ruling to which you refer. If I had my way, I would have a short campaign season, a certain amount of free TV time or, even better, campaigns on the Internet, which would cost very little. Paying for expensive political ads on TV is so last century.