There are rules when it comes to the Clintons. And the first rule, which goes back to Whitewater is this: if you can blow enough smoke, you can claim there is a fire. Even if there isn’t a fire, you can claim there is a fire. In fact, that’s the reason why you blow enough smoke.
Keep that in mind as you read what The Washington Post wrote this morning:
Bill Clinton was paid at least $26 million in speaking fees by companies and organizations that are also major donors to the foundation he created after leaving the White House, according to a Washington Post analysis of public records and foundation data. The amount, about one-quarter of Clinton’s overall speaking income between 2001 and 2013, demonstrates how closely intertwined Bill and Hillary Clinton’s charitable work has become with their growing personal wealth.
It then continues:
The Clintons’ relationships with major funders present an unusual political challenge for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Now that she has formally entered the presidential race, the family may face political pressure and some legal requirements to provide further details of their personal finances and those of the foundation, giving voters a clearer view of the global network of patrons that have supported the Clintons and their work over the past 15 years.
So basically, we have two things: Bill Clinton got paid a lot of money (a SHITLOAD of money) to speak, and now some of those people might expect favors from Hillary. Or, as the Post puts it:
The multiple avenues through which the Clintons and their causes have accepted financial support have provided a variety of ways for wealthy interests in the United States and abroad to build friendly relations with a potential future president.
Newsflash — this happens all the time. When the Koch brothers support Ted Cruz with unlimited soft money, it is because they hope to “build friendly relations with a potential future president”. Hell, that’s what almost all major donors do. To single out the Clintons for having wealthy friends who might want favors later, especially in the political context brought to us by the destruction of campaign finance regulations, is a particularly laughable application of the Clinton Rules which, like the Voting Rights Act and McCain-Feingold, have been rendered irrelevant by Citizens United and its unholy progeny.
The New York Times gives specifics, i.e., a Canadian firm sold its uranium assets to a Russian business (“Uranium One”), and that group of Russians gave SHITLOADS of money to Bill Clinton’s Clinton Foundation, including $500,000 for a speaking engagement, while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. The State Department was one of the agencies that had to approve the uranium deal before it could go through. Then, the Times tips its hand:
Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown. But the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors.
So, in other words, there isn’t any evidence of wrongdoing. Just smoke.
Fox News is already hyping the story, but they’re doing it in a way that absolves them of having to explain it. Expect to hear a lot of Fox commentary like: “It’s all very complicated, but that’s what you would want to do if you wanted to bury a money trail”. As a news consumer, you have to distinguish between smoke and fire, because Fox is hoping you won’t or can’t.
But what is sad is that two respectable publications — the Washington Post and The New York Times are getting caught up in this. It is the job of oppo-researchers and ratfkers to exhaust the country’s patience through the techniques of scandalization. It is the job of the other candidates to try and take advantage of that. It is not the job of journalism — and I mean anything more credible than Fox — to play along with speculation.
UPDATE: Yes, yes, yes….
As NYTimes publishes hit piece on Clinton, I have coffee. See how two unrelated things can happen simultaneously? https://t.co/B63m5FY3ba
— John Cole (@Johngcole) April 23, 2015