Will Steady Drip of Foundation Stories Soak Clinton?

Will Steady Drip of Foundation Stories Soak Clinton?
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In the mid-1990s, there was a popular phrase in Washington, D.C., regarding the seemingly endless parade of scandals, controversies, and ethical issues emanating from the Clinton White House: “Drip, drip, drip.”

Well, it seems like the 1990s all over again. The initial shock about the Clinton Foundation’s complex web of entanglements, donations from foreign countries, and various conflicts of interest has worn off. Yet, each day seems to bring a new revelation.

If there were ever any doubt that the Clinton Foundation was going to be an albatross hanging around Hillary’s neck throughout this entire campaign, this week was instructive.

Take the burgeoning FIFA scandal. Several high-ranking officials in soccer’s international governing body were frog-marched out of their five-star Swiss hotel early Thursday morning and charged with a massive corruption scheme that includes allegations of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. 

Within hours, Jackie Kucinich of the Daily Beast produced a report connecting Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation to FIFA:

Involvement with the embattled body extends beyond the foundation to Bill Clinton himself. The former president was an honorary chairman of the bid committee put together to promote the United States as a possible host nation for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

When the U.S. lost the 2022 bid to Qatar, Clinton was rumored to be so upset he shattered a mirror.

But apparently Qatar tried to make it up to him.

The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, partnering with the State of Qatar, “committed to utilizing its research and development for sustainable infrastructure at the 2022 FIFA World Cup to improve food security in Qatar, the Middle East, and other arid and water-stressed regions throughout the world,” according to the Clinton Foundation website.

The cost of the two-year project is not listed on the Clinton Foundation website, but the Qatar 2022 committee gave the foundation between $250,000 and $500,000 in 2014 and the State of Qatar gave between $1 million and $5 million in previous, unspecified years.

Did Qatar really “try to make it up” to Clinton by donating to his foundation? That may be a loaded phrase, but it illustrates the point: There is no smoking gun, only lots of smoke. More and more and more smoke. 

Another example: Earlier this week Hillary Clinton ventured to New Hampshire where she lambasted Republicans for their efforts to kill the Export-Import Bank, which they see as the epitome of corporate welfare and crony capitalism. In her effort to cast herself as a champion of small business, Clinton argued that the Ex-Im Bank “supports” up to 164,000 jobs and called it “a vital lifeline for American small businesses.”

It took all of about five minutes for a news organization, this time the conservative Washington Free Beacon, to connect the dots back to the Clinton Foundation:

“Despite Clinton’s claim that Ex-Im is designed to help small businesses, the largest beneficiary of Ex-Im subsidies is airline giant Boeing, which has donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. Another top beneficiary, General Electric, has given between $500,000 and $1 million.”

When HRC went to California earlier this month to court donors in Silicon Valley, The Washington Post was quick to produce a report showing Clinton made $3.2 million in speech fees from the tech sector.

And an investigation earlier this week by liberal journalist David Sirota suggested a connection between increased arms sales to countries that were donors to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

It never seems to end. Drip, drip, drip. The web of global and corporate connections to the Clinton Foundation is so vast, there’s virtually no issue on which Hillary Clinton can comment without her being immediately tied, via foundation donations or her or her husband’s paid speaking engagements, to some entity with skin in the game.

Nor can we possibly know what scandal might break at home or abroad tomorrow, or next week or next year, that Hillary, Bill and the foundation can’t or won’t be drawn into by virtue of their connections.

The first Clinton era also popularized another phrase: the permanent campaign. Now we have the permanent appearance of conflict of interest.

The question is whether voters care. A new Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday showed Hillary Clinton running a substantial deficit as to whether she is honest and trustworthy. Only 39 percent of voters said yes, while 53 percent said no. Among the crucial voting bloc of Independents, the gap expands to 31 percent yes and 61 percent no.

Every possible Republican candidate, with the exception of Donald Trump, scored a net positive on honesty and trustworthiness.

Yet the same poll showed Clinton leading all of her potential Republican rivals in head-to-head general election match-ups.

So at this point there is some evidence to support Democrats’ contention that the relentless stream of unseemly stories about the Clinton Foundation is merely “a distraction” that is unimportant to voters.

But we still have a year and half until the 2016 election, and who knows how many more drips will have dropped by then. Democrats have to hope it’s not enough to leave Hillary Clinton soaking wet on Election Day.

Tom Bevan is the Co-Founder & Publisher of RealClearPolitics and the co-author of Election 2012: A Time for Choosing. Email: tom@realclearpolitics.com, Twitter: @TomBevanRCP

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