The latest tales of State Department ethics violations, foreign money, and special access would be surprising if they were about anyone but Hillary Clinton.
Throughout her political career Clinton has always blended cash and policy. She’s not merely corporatist by disposition, like, say Tim Geithner or Lindsey Graham. She’s not simply sloppy on ethics, like Bob McDonnell or John Kitzhaber.
Hillary is blatantly transactional in her fundraising and policymaking. And she wants to be president.
Here’s the background on the latest Clinton story:
During her tenure as Secretary of State, Clinton openly had an unsavory relationship with foreign money. Her family’s Clinton Foundation, now named the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, raised hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign governments while she led our diplomatic efforts and steered our foreign policy.
The Obama White House allowed this, on condition that these donations were recurring donations — more or less annual gifts that began while she was a Senator.
But even those weak constraints were too much for the Clintons, Rosalind Helderman and Tom Hamburger reported in the Washington Post on Wednesday night. Specifically, the Clinton Foundation took $500,000 from Algeria’s government in 2010, without notifying ethics officers at the State Department.
The Algerian government could have given $500,000 to Haiti relief efforts through more direct channels. Funneling through the Clinton Foundation looks like an effort to gain access. And it looks like it worked. The Post reported:
“[T]here was an increase in 2010 in State Department meetings held with lobbyists representing the country — with 12 visits to department officials that year, including some visits with top political appointees. In the years before and after, only a handful of State Department visits were recorded by Algeria lobbyists.”
Innocent explanations are possible here. But when Hillary Clinton is involved, less innocent explanations are more likely true. Her history is full of donations coinciding with access or favorable policies.
There was her relationship with Corning Inc. in Upstate New York. “The Clinton-Corning partnership is very rewarding for both of us,” Corning CFO James Flaws said when she was in the Senate. Flaws was correct. Through her Senate career, Hillary brought in $240,000 in donations from Corning employees, including Flaws and the company’s Washington lobbyists. Corning’s political action committee gave $33,000 to Hillary and her leadership PAC.
Hillary in return showered Corning with earmarks, mandates, and regulations that forced or paid businesses to use Corning products, such as specialty tailpipe filters and catalysts. The New York Times covered this dynamic in a 2006 article headlined “Company Finds Clinton Useful, and Vice Versa.”
The Times reporters wrote: “In April 2003, a month after Corning's political action committee gave $10,000 to her re-election campaign, Mrs. Clinton announced legislation that would provide hundreds of millions in federal aid to reduce diesel pollution, using, among other things, technology pioneered by Corning.”
Most conspicuously, Corning executives switched from backing her Republican opponent Rick Lazio in October 2000 to flooding her campaign with donations. A few weeks later, her husband’s administration issued an emissions rule that a local reporter called “a big Christmas present [dropped] in the lap of Corning Inc.”
Clinton’s contribution-policy overlap applied in the drug industry, too. In 2006, Barr Laboratories CEO Bruce Downey made his first contribution to Clinton’s reelection. Within a month, Hillary announced she would block a George W. Bush Food and Drug Administration nominee until the agency made Barr’s “Plan B” morning-after contraceptive available over the counter. In those same days, she introduced legislation to subsidize Plan B.
In 2008, Barr Executive Vice President Frederick J. Killion donated $1,000 to her campaign one day after Clinton introduced another bill to prop up Plan B.
In all corners of the economy, Clinton has these symbiotic relationships. The Washington Post reported in 2014 that Clinton has "functioned as a powerful ally for Boeing’s business interests at home and abroad," while Boeing "invested resources in causes beneficial to Clinton’s public and political image."
Hillary and her husband have been collecting six-figure checks for speeches to corporations and foreign governments. With most politicians, you could take their word that the money paid for the speech and nothing else. But with Hillary Clinton, whenever anyone pays up, you have to wonder what policy they're seeking in return.
Johnny Chung, a Taiwan-born businessman donated $366,000 to Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election, and in return got to visit the White House more than 40 times. He described aptly how things work with the Clintons: "The White House is like a subway: You have to put in coins to open the gates."Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com. His column appears Sunday and Wednesday on washingtonexaminer.com.