Clinton Foundation: ‘We made mistakes’

 

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Hillary Clinton running for president

 

 

There was Clinton (notably more at ease than during her first swing through Iowa a week earlier) in friendly New Hampshire last Monday and Tuesday, taking diligent caseworker notes as “everyday Americans” shared stories of economic anxiety. This is the empathetic, humble Hillary of the 2000 listening tour she took around New York state and her later, better primaries in 2008. (It’s not a subtle message: Every scheduling advisory issued by her fledgling 2016 campaign now ends with some version of this line, emailed to reporters this weekend in advance of Clinton’s next field trip: “The trip is the latest evidence that Hillary Clinton will work to earn every vote, run hard in the 2016 Nevada Caucus, and take nothing for granted.”)

But that effort is being undermined by a parallel storyline, and the well-executed New Hampshire trip was blown off basic cable by a barrage of stories Thursday documenting questionable practices by the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation — and illuminating once again what appeared to be the same old indifference to boundaries between charity, politics and wealth.

In the long term, the greatest beneficiary of Clinton’s struggles might be Marco Rubio, two decades her junior and hauling a much lighter baggage train than Clinton or Republican rival Jeb Bush. The 43-year-old first-term Florida senator surged (perhaps momentarily) to the head of the GOP pack a week after his entrance into the campaign, boosted by his capacity to run hard to the right without employing the polarizing hard-right language that scares off swing voters and big, mainstream donors. He’s new and knows how to play it up: The key line in his stump speech, borrowed from Obama ’08, is: “Yesterday is over, and we are never going back.”

It is precisely because most people don’t know enough about the young Florida Republican to ask whether there’s a less attractive Real Marco lurking behind that loquacious facade. That’s likely to change, especially when opponents begin highlighting his contortions on immigration reform, delving into his record as speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives and what the Tampa Bay Times described as a “pattern of blending personal and political spending” over the years in using state of Florida credit cards and political committee cash for travel and other expenses.

But the Clinton stories are a different order of magnitude, with no fewer than three big exposés breaking last Thursday alone: a New York Times investigation into a previously unreported Clinton family foundation donation by a Russian oligarch looking to get federal approval to expand U.S. operations (requiring Clinton State Department approval); a Reuters report that the foundation would have to refile years of tax returns because of errors and omissions; and a Washington Post story revealing that Bill Clinton earned $26 million in speaking fees from donors to the family’s foundation.

Most of the initial reports focused on her husband’s actions, and the Clinton campaign said there isn’t a “shred” of evidence she was involved, but no matter: Republicans sought to draw the clearest line possible to Hillary Clinton, whatever the paucity of public evidence. “There is every appearance that Hillary Clinton was bribed to grease the sale of, what, 20 percent of America’s uranium production to Russia? And then it was covered up by lying about a meeting at her home with the principals, and by erasing emails,” Mitt Romney told radio host Hugh Hewitt on the day the Times story appeared.

The Clinton people pointed out, rightly, that there’s not (yet) any paper trail linking any decision she made at Foggy Bottom to Bill Clinton’s machinations. But Romney wasn’t freelancing; he was capturing the Republican zeitgeist — and amplifying a GOP message (the Clintons are incorrigibly corrupt) — articulated to me by GOP operatives associated with three campaigns I talked with last week.

And several top Democrats told me they were worried, too, about the accumulation of stories — “at some point the weight just pulls everything down,” one told me. Then again, James Carville, who has spent decades fending off the kind of Clinton stories that popped up last week, thinks the recent stories fit into an old pattern of shoot-and-miss. “All of this is spaghetti journalism; throw some spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks,” he insists. “It’s always something that ends up with nothing.”

• • •

Hillary Clinton’s enemies, and more than a few of her friends, believe the story will resonate — if only because she has always been at the center of most of the family’s major financial decisions.

But that effort is being undermined by a parallel storyline, and the well-executed New Hampshire trip was blown off basic cable by a barrage of stories Thursday documenting questionable practices by the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation — and illuminating once again what appeared to be the same old indifference to boundaries between charity, politics and wealth.In the long term, the greatest beneficiary of Clinton’s struggles might be Marco Rubio, two decades her junior and hauling a much lighter baggage train than Clinton or Republican rival Jeb Bush. The 43-year-old first-term Florida senator surged (perhaps momentarily) to the head of the GOP pack a week after his entrance into the campaign, boosted by his capacity to run hard to the right without employing the polarizing hard-right language that scares off swing voters and big, mainstream donors. He’s new and knows how to play it up: The key line in his stump speech, borrowed from Obama ’08, is: “Yesterday is over, and we are never going back.”It is precisely because most people don’t know enough about the young Florida Republican to ask whether there’s a less attractive Real Marco lurking behind that loquacious facade. That’s likely to change, especially when opponents begin highlighting his contortions on immigration reform, delving into his record as speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives and what the Tampa Bay Times described as a “pattern of blending personal and political spending” over the years in using state of Florida credit cards and political committee cash for travel and other expenses.But the Clinton stories are a different order of magnitude, with no fewer than three big exposés breaking last Thursday alone: a New York Times investigation into a previously unreported Clinton family foundation donation by a Russian oligarch looking to get federal approval to expand U.S. operations (requiring Clinton State Department approval); a Reuters report that the foundation would have to refile years of tax returns because of errors and omissions; and a Washington Post story revealing that Bill Clinton earned $26 million in speaking fees from donors to the family’s foundation.Most of the initial reports focused on her husband’s actions, and the Clinton campaign said there isn’t a “shred” of evidence she was involved, but no matter: Republicans sought to draw the clearest line possible to Hillary Clinton, whatever the paucity of public evidence. “There is every appearance that Hillary Clinton was bribed to grease the sale of, what, 20 percent of America’s uranium production to Russia? And then it was covered up by lying about a meeting at her home with the principals, and by erasing emails,” Mitt Romney told radio host Hugh Hewitt on the day the Times story appeared.

The Clinton people pointed out, rightly, that there’s not (yet) any paper trail linking any decision she made at Foggy Bottom to Bill Clinton’s machinations. But Romney wasn’t freelancing; he was capturing the Republican zeitgeist — and amplifying a GOP message (the Clintons are incorrigibly corrupt) — articulated to me by GOP operatives associated with three campaigns I talked with last week.

And several top Democrats told me they were worried, too, about the accumulation of stories — “at some point the weight just pulls everything down,” one told me. Then again, James Carville, who has spent decades fending off the kind of Clinton stories that popped up last week, thinks the recent stories fit into an old pattern of shoot-and-miss. “All of this is spaghetti journalism; throw some spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks,” he insists. “It’s always something that ends up with nothing.”

Hillary Clinton’s enemies, and more than a few of her friends, believe the story will resonate — if only because she has always been at the center of most of the family’s major financial decisions.

 

Betrayal of the Public Trust: The Vince Foster Death Investigation Cover-Up

 

 

 

 

“Bill never gave a damn about money,” says Carl Bernstein, who penned a 2007 Hillary Clinton biography.

“From the start of her marriage … [Hillary] was the one worried about the money — they were not exactly living high on the hog in Arkansas. But there’s an apparent sense of entitlement there, too. They feel they have devoted their lives to public service, and they feel they had a right to [make money]. You saw it in Arkansas, but you also saw it when Chelsea was given $600,000 by NBC to be a reporter when she had absolutely no experience.”

Bernstein says he has never sought to psychoanalyze Clinton, but it’s hard not to read the first few chapters of his book, “A Woman in Charge,” without being struck by the value placed on saving money by her imperious, penny-pinching father, Hugh Rodham, who ran a small business in Chicago. One of the few times Hugh let his wife and daughter go on a shopping spree at a New York department store, he showed up 25 minutes before closing time to limit the damage — so Dorothy and Hillary Rodham took off their shoes to run through the store, collecting items as fast as they could.

During her husband’s years in government service, it was Hillary Clinton who paid most of the bills — initially as a partner in Little Rock’s Rose Law Firm — so many of the least flattering stories about the family’s finances featured her as the central player. Investigation after investigation proved the Clintons did nothing illegal in Whitewater, the complicated and doomed 1980s land deal that caused the first family so many pre-Monica Lewinsky headaches. But it was a sloppy affair, the result of Hillary Rodham’s push to supplement her husband’s meager government salary with a clever investment. The same held true for a questionable (and legal) $1,000 investment in cattle futures that yielded a 100-fold return.

Clinton invited ridicule last year when she said she and her husband were “dead broke” upon leaving the White House despite the fact that she had received an $8 million advance to write her first memoir, “Living History,” a month before her husband’s presidency ended. But that was, perhaps, the “realest Hillary,” expressing her persistent anxieties about money, however misplaced. And in fact, when Bill Clinton left the presidency, in debt to his lawyers after the Lewinsky impeachment and trial and all the sundry other investigations of his White House tenure, the couple found it so hard to get a loan for their new mansion in Chappaqua, New York, they had to prevail on buddy Terry McAuliffe for a bridge loan — prompting another bevy of negative headlines. Then there was the $190,000 in sundry household items the Clintons took from the White House in 2001 — $114,000 of which they later returned or reimbursed the government for.The slow-motion rollout of Peter Schweizer’s upcoming book “Clinton Cash,” from which some of the recent Clinton stories emanated, is excruciating for Clinton’s team, which has girded for its launch since March. It doesn’t prove a direct connection between Bill Clinton’s actions and his wife’s decisions as secretary of state, according to people who have reviewed the book. But it’s like an ever-present heckler — shouting down the campaign’s carefully planned Hillary-cares-about-all-of-us events.One top Clinton fundraiser, echoing sentiments inside the campaign, said he believes the “kill Hillary moment” will pass after Jeb Bush formally announces his candidacy — and the Republican candidates start savaging one another in debates. “We have to grit our teeth and get past this,” he said.

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