Political Corruption, Money In Politics, And The Clinton Foundation

The revelations just keep coming, new ones seemingly every few days.  The first one I can remember came to light back in April 2015, when it emerged that, in a series of transactions from 2009 to 2013, Russian state nuclear energy agency Rosatom had taken control of uranium mining firm Uranium One (including major uranium mines in the U.S.) with approval of the Hillary Clinton State Department.  According to the linked New York Times article, the deal had been "orchestrated" by Canadian mining financier and Bill Clinton buddy Frank Giustra.  Giustra had contributed $31.3 million to the Clinton Foundation.  The Chairman of Uranium One (Ian Telfer) contributed $2.35 million.  And then there was the $500,000 "speech" fee to Bill personally.

And that one was before the long-buried Hillary emails started coming out in response to FOIA requests.  In the past couple of months, we now have, as further examples:

  • ABC News reported in June 2016 that Chicago securities trader Rajiv Fernando, a guy with no particularly relevant experience, got himself appointed to the government's International Security Advisory Board.  He had donated "between $100,000 and $250,000" to the Clinton Foundation.
  • Last week we learned from the Daily Caller that in 2009 the Crown Prince of Bahrain, having gotten nowhere in efforts through official channels to get a meeting with Madame Secretary of State, tried going through Clinton Foundation channels.  He promptly got the meeting he wanted.  His contribution to the Foundation?  $32 million.
  • And now this week it emerges that if you wanted to get invited to official State Department functions during Hillary's tenure, and seated next to the right people, the way to do it was to make a generous contribution to the Clinton Foundation.  Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation wanted to go to a State Department dinner and sit next to Joe Biden?  No problem.  She contacted Doug Band of the Clinton Foundation, who contacted Huma Abedin of Hillary's State Department staff, and voila! it was done.  Rockefeller Foundation contribution to Clinton Foundation?  $25 million.  The linked Washington Examiner story from August 29 includes numerous other examples of same.

OK, you kind of knew this was how it worked, but this is seeing it taken to whole new levels of payments, pervasiveness, and brazenness.  This can't possibly be OK, can it?  Let's have a review of the relevant law.

Just over two months ago, in June, the case of Bob McDonnell, former governor of Virginia, came before the U.S. Supreme Court.  The funny thing is that, in many written and televised discussions of the Clinton Foundation situation that I have seen over the past few weeks, few have mentioned the McDonnell case at all, and those few only in passing.  Here is a copy of the decision.  McDonnell had accepted a series of personal gifts from a businessman interested in getting his product studied by the University of Virginia.  The total amount of the gifts (some were in kind) was in the range of $200,000 -- really, ridiculously small time compared to the Clintons.  In return, McDonnell set up several meetings with university officials in a position to green light the studies the guy wanted done.  But the officials never gave the approval and the studies were not done.  Nevertheless, federal prosecutors prosecuted McDonnell, and he was convicted of multiple counts of bribery; and the conviction was affirmed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  But the Supreme Court reversed -- unanimously.  The Court held that the mere act of setting up meetings was not an "official act" as defined by the federal bribery statute, and not a sufficient quid pro quo to support a conviction under that statute.

If you think about that, you will realize that this recent precedent makes a criminal prosecution of Hillary for these Foundation transactions rather difficult.  In the large majority of what has come to light to date, Clinton did more or less the same thing that McDonnell did -- facilitate meetings for big donors.  The big exception is the Russian uranium deal, where a major transaction actually occurred to the significant benefit of Hillary's donors.  Of course, this is the one of the listed incidents on which email traffic (that might establish a quid pro quo) has not yet surfaced.

But, you ask, what about campaign finance restrictions?  Surely it can't be OK to give tens of millions of dollars to a "foundation" of someone you completely know is shortly going to be running for President -- particularly when it was obvious to everyone that contributions to the Clinton Foundation were being used to keep the campaign-staff-in-waiting employed, and to support the personal lifestyles of the three Clintons, including private and first-class air travel and top hotels.  For example, this Politico article from 2014 reports that the Clinton Foundation raised $145 million in 2013, of which almost $9 million was spent on travel expenses.  There's this classic line:

The Board recognizes that, due to extraordinary security and other requirements, William J. Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton may require the need to travel by charter or in first class, the determination of which will be made on a case-by-case basis.

No, actually the campaign finance laws don't cover this subject at all.  That's some $2 billion in contributions to the Foundation, of which tens of millions went to support the Clintons' personal lifestyle and proto-campaign, and none of it counts at all against the "campaign finance" restrictions.  Hey, it wasn't yet a "campaign"!  Keep that in mind next time you hear Hillary talking about the need to "reverse Citizens United" and "get money out of politics."  You can be one-hundred-percent sure that any "reform" put through by Hillary would not touch any of her own sordid activities.

So there you have it!  And let's just add one more thing to the mix:  Hillary's entire economic plan for how to supposedly "improve the economy" consists of one government spending program after another.  Who do you think is going to get those multi-tens-of-billions-of-dollar government contracts for uneconomic "green energy" and "infrastructure" projects?  Do you think that contributions to the Clinton Foundation, or for that matter, to the Clinton campaign, might give anyone a leg up?

So what are you going to do about it?  I have only two ideas:

  1. You don't have to vote for this woman.
  2. You need to recognize that government spending of money and allocation of the resources of society is inherently corrupt.  Government spending will always preferentially go to those who have curried the favor and greased the palms of the relevant government functionaries.  There is no conceivable collection of anti-bribery laws, or campaign finance laws, that can improve this situation other than a little at the margins.  The only significant improvement can come from shrinking the government and letting the private sector expand.  

At least Hillary has done us the favor of showing us how this game is played at the highest levels.