APRIL 16, 2015
The Clinton international shakedown took a new turn today with news that the Clinton Foundation would “limit” foreign government donations to a mere six countries—Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the U.K.—but allow other governments to participate in the glitzy Clinton Global Initiative. Future historians will note the brazenness of the Clintons’ thoroughly modern political machine. For the rest of us, we can turn to the wisdom of Rand Paul, who memorably called the foundation’s acceptance of foreign money “thinly veiled bribes.”
The foreign money scandal—this one, not the 1996 campaign finance scandal—of course has its roots in Mrs. Clinton’s recent tenure as secretary of state. For the record, here are the ethical standards the Clintons agreed to abide by at that time.
In a December 12, 2008 Memorandum of Understanding between the Clinton Foundation and the Obama presidential transition team, the Clintons “agreed to a set of protocols…for managing conflicts of interest, and the appearance of conflicts of interest.”
The document outlined the constellation of “Initiatives”—all seeking funds and donors—in the Clinton universe. During Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, the foundation pledged to “publish annually the names of new contributors.” Bill Clinton agreed to “not solicit funds” for the Clinton Global Initiative, which would be incorporated as a “separate entity from the foundation.”
On January 5, 2009, Clinton lawyer David Kendall wrote to the State Department’s Designated Ethics Official, James Thessin, to “describe the voluntary steps, above and beyond the requirements of law and ethics regulations, that President Clinton intends to take to assist Senator Clinton to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
The letter noted that all of President Clinton’s proposed paid speech and consulting deals would be submitted to the State Department ethics official for “a review for any real or apparent conflicts of interest with the duties of the Secretary of State.”
Judicial Watch’s FOIA litigation to obtain the State Department ethics reviews is ongoing, with documents being produced. So far, we know that the State Department did not object to a single Bill Clinton speech, and that the president gave at least 215 of them while Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state, earning about $48 million.
The Kendall letter also notes that “pursuant to the terms of the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] you will review the contributions of countries that elect to increase materially their commitments to the Foundation, or are new contributing countries, to the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Clinton Climate Initiative, the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, and the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative.”
At present, in the ongoing FOIA production related to Judicial Watch’s litigation, there are no records to indicate the State Department reviewed country contributions to the foundation or its various initiatives.
The same day Mr. Kendall wrote the State Department ethics official, Senator Hillary Clinton sent a letter of her own. “Dear Mr. Thessin,” she wrote, “I am committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct for government officials.”
Mrs. Clinton pledged to “not participate personally or substantially in any particular matter that has a direct and predictable effect on my financial interests,” unless first obtaining a government waiver. Regarding Mr. Clinton, she pledged to “not participate personally or substantially in any particular matter that has a direct and predictable effect upon his compensation” or participate in any matter “in which a client of my spouse is a party or represents a party,” unless first obtaining a waiver.
Finally, Mrs. Clinton pledged to recuse herself from any “matter in which, in my judgment, I determine that a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts would question my impartiality.”