August 23, 2016: USA Today’s editorial board advocates closing the Clinton Foundation if Clinton is elected president.

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USA Today Logo (Credit: USA Today)

An editorial entitled “Mothball the Clinton Foundation” is published several days after the foundation laid out steps the foundation will take to avoid conflicts of interest.

The editorial says, “The plans range from the laughable to the laudable, and they are woefully incomplete. … Ending foreign and corporate contributions is a good step, but allowing them to continue at least through the first week of November looks more like an influence-peddling fire sale (Give while you still can!) than a newfound commitment to clean government. And the complex plan for allowing donations from US citizens and permanent residents, keeping some parts of the Clinton Foundation alive, and maintaining scores of Clinton-family allies on the payroll is less an opportunity for a clean slate than a guarantee of new controversy.”

The editorial concludes: “the only way to eliminate the odor surrounding the foundation is to wind it down and put it in mothballs, starting today, and transfer its important charitable work to another large American charity such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. If Hillary Clinton doesn’t support these steps, she boosts Trump’s farcical presidential campaign and, if she’s elected, opens herself up to the same kind of pay-to-play charges that she was subject to as secretary of state.” (USA Today, 8/23/2016)

August 24, 2016: Half of the private citizens who met with Clinton while she was secretary of state donated to the Clinton Foundation.

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New York Post cover on August 24, 2016. (Credit: New York Post)

The Associated Press publishes an article based on an analysis of Clinton’s schedule while she was secretary of state. The article begins: “More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money – either personally or through companies or groups – to the Clinton Foundation. It’s an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president. At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to the Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.”

The analysis doesn’t include US or foreign government officials. The Associated Press notes that “Clinton met with representatives of at least 16 foreign governments that donated as much as $170 million to the Clinton charity, but they were not included in AP’s calculations because such meetings would presumably have been part of her diplomatic duties.” Furthermore, three years ago, the Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for Clinton’s daily schedules and so far has only received full data for the first two years of Clinton’s four years as secretary of state. Thus, only those two years were analyzed.

The Associated Press comments: “The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. But the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton.”

Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon complains that the article is unfair, saying, “It is outrageous to misrepresent Secretary Clinton’s basis for meeting with these individuals.” He also calls it “a distorted portrayal of how often she crossed paths with individuals connected to charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation.”

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Pictured from left to right Daniel Abraham (Credit: public domain), Muhammad Yunas (Credit: public domain), Stephen Schwarzman (Credit: public domain), Nancy Mahon (Credit: Imeh Akpanudosen / Getty Images)

The article cites several examples of Clinton Foundation donors whom Clinton met with, including:

  • Daniel Abraham, a billionaire behind the Slim-Fast diet and founder of the Center for Middle East Peace.
  • Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with microcredit loans for poor business owners. Despite his positive reputation, at the time Clinton met with him, it was known he was under investigation by the Bangladeshi government for diverting tens of millions of donated dollars, and he was ultimately forced to resign from the board of the Grameen Bank, the microcredit bank he had helped found.
  • Stephen Schwarzman, chair of the Blackstone Group.
  • Nancy Mahon, who runs MAC AIDS, the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics, which is owned by Estee Lauder.

However, the article doesn’t cite any clear examples of unethical behavior. State Department officials say they are not aware of any department actions influenced by the Clinton Foundation. Department spokesperson Mark Toner says there are no prohibitions against department contacts with “political campaigns, nonprofits or foundations – including the Clinton Foundation.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump complains, “Hillary Clinton is totally unfit to hold public office. It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins. It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office.” (The Associated Press, 8/24/2016)