Here we go again. Confronted with the inevitable, the Clintons are being forced, inch by inch, to acknowledge that perhaps taking millions of dollars from foreign governments and mega-corporations wasn’t such a good idea while Hillary Clinton was also deep into her pursuit of the presidency.
That has put Clinton in a spot becoming all too familiar for her — on the defensive, attempting to explain away behavior that highlights her vulnerabilities and plays right into her opponent’s strategy to paint her as the symbol of an entrenched establishment that has lost its way.
There is only one way to mitigate the damage at this point. As painful as it would be, the Clintons must shut down what until recently was known as the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The half-measures being proposed don’t go far enough and leave the issue as one that will plague her until the last days of this election and perhaps beyond.
Earlier, Bill Clinton said the foundation would stop taking foreign donations if Hillary became president. Most recently, the Clintons have said they are working to find partners for the many foundation activities and programs funded by foreign and corporate donors. Meanwhile, Foundation President Donna Shalala — yes, the same one who was part of Bill Clinton’s Cabinet — has said any changes must be made carefully, “with a scalpel.”
That’s the wrong answer. It’s time for a meat cleaver. Shalala is free to go off and create the Donna Shalala Foundation and take all of the programs and 2,000 employees with her. Leave the donor list, please, and don’t contact what may be the next president or the first husband asking for use of the Lincoln bedroom.
The time for the Clintons to make a clean break with the foundation was when Hillary Clinton became secretary of state. The worst-kept secret in Washington was that the office was to be a steppingstone to her heart’s desire — another shot at the presidency. If they were so concerned that the foundation’s good works continue, they could have made plans then for a transition, or at the very least, created an independent board. They did neither.
From its inception in 1997 as a modest vehicle for raising money to build a presidential library, the foundation has become a moneyed player in global philanthropy, reporting assets of $439 million in 2014. Although no one has uncovered evidence of “pay to play,” the appearance of conflict in such a situation was unavoidable. Already the calls for an independent investigator have started and could continue into a Hillary Clinton presidency.
How would any global organization bearing the Clinton name avoid conflict of interest during a Clinton presidency?
No. Just no. If the Clintons are not concerned about the appearance of a conflict of interest, American voters should be. Even if Hillary and Bill disconnect themselves from the foundation, having their daughter at the helm would be an irresistible lure for donors hoping to gain favor.
There are not many instances in which the Star Tribune Editorial Board will side with Donald Trump, but this is one. The closure chorus is growing louder by the day. We add our voice to it.