Hillary win could mean shutdown of Clinton Foundation


August 14, 2016

WASHINGTON — There are cracks in the foundation.

Clinton allies and family members are concerned about the fate of the Clinton Foundation if Hillary Clinton wins the election. – Getty Images

August 14, 2016

WASHINGTON — There are cracks in the foundation.

Clinton allies and family members are concerned about the fate of the Clinton Foundation if Hillary Clinton wins the election. – Getty Images

The Clinton Foundation has caused political headaches for its namesakes — and it’s unclear what they’ll do with their charitable organization if they return to the White House.

Some say the multibillion-dollar foundation should be disbanded to avoid possible conflicts of interest. Others say the foundation does too much good work around the globe and should continue under new leadership.

Hillary Clinton’s team is facing renewed questions about conflicts of interest after new emails released last week revealed that Clinton Foundation staffers asked top State Department officials to provide foundation donors access to other senior government employees.

Clinton supporters say what’s done is done and predict the latest revelations will do little to hurt Clinton’s lead in the polls over Donald Trump. But they’re wary about problems that could crop up after November.

“Do you shutter a whole agency that’s done so much good or do you find a way to extricate your family and all your allies from it and essentially hand it over to good stewards? That’s the decision that the Clintons will have to face,” said Rodell Mollineau, a senior Democratic strategist who backs Clinton.

Some top Clinton allies think shuttering is the only option, warning that handing the organization over to daughter Chelsea Clinton, who has been deeply involved in its activities, or even a close ally not named Clinton could prove problematic.

“I definitely think if she wins the presidency they have to disband it. I know it’ll be hard for President (Bill) Clinton because he cares very deeply about what the foundation has done,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a close Clinton ally, told the Daily News. “It’d be impossible to keep the foundation open without at least the appearance of a problem.”

Rendell, who served as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee during Clinton’s presidency and stays in regular contact with the former President, said the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative would, at the very least, “have to go into a period of inactivity” during her time in office to avoid the types of headaches she’s faced for the duration of her campaign.

Shutting down a multibillion-dollar multi-national nonprofit that has been the focus of President Clinton’s post-presidential work is easier said than done — even if the Big Dog would allow it. And many Democrats fiercely defend its sprawling efforts, from working on global health issues to climate change to third-world economic development to helping women to clean water to disaster relief — even while they say the Clintons will have to bend over backwards to make sure there’s no possibility of a conflict of interest or even the appearance of impropriety in the future.

“They have to turn the keys over. They have to pick somebody who’s an unimpeachable global citizen to be the chair,” said Democratic strategist Van Jones. “If they don’t do that and just try to give it to Chelsea, every single thing they’ll do there’ll be a swarm of 22-year-old right-wing bloggers with cameras. It’ll be a living, breathing, ongoing Whitewater for the entire Clinton presidency.”

The situation is uniquely Clintonian — former Presidents have had charitable foundations before, but never as their immediate families returned to office. And unlike business holdings, a massive nonprofit can’t simply be put in a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest.

But all those headaches and questions don’t outweigh the global efforts for good that the charity does in the minds of many Clinton allies.

“This organization is just too big and helps too many people to just give up on it for political expediency,” Mollineau said.

Other suggestions from a number of Democrats: Remove the Clinton name from the foundation, ban any talk between the administration and the charity (easier said than done given the longterm ties), strip the foundation of anyone with close Clinton ties, and hand it over to someone with an unimpeachable record. But they all admit it’s a tough balancing act, and predict no matter what the Clintons do, Republicans will be after them from the moment she is sworn in.

The Clintons’ struggles to wall off their foundation are emblematic of a deeper problem for the family — their decades-old, sprawling network of friends, allies, former staff and hangers-on, who are involved in a variety of businesses. The Clintons, for better and worse, are known for their fierce loyalty, even when some of their supporters may not deserve it, and over the years have been repeatedly attacked for “pay-to-play” politics, as Trump has renewed those arguments last week.

“Part of their challenge is they have such a big network of people whose careers were started inside the Clinton network. What you have to do when you have this many people who are part of your network is over-communicate and over-signal to them that anything that might look like it’s sketchy is completely unacceptable, and they fail to do that,” said Jones. “They have to learn.”

The former President has acknowledged the current charity setup will need to be revised.

“There’ll clearly be some changes in what the Clinton Foundation does and how we do it, and we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said at a Clinton Global Initiative event in Atlanta in June.

But he has yet to publicly discuss what types of revisions will be made.

Asked about the charitable group’s future, the Clinton campaign referred The News to the foundation. Clinton Foundation spokesman Craig Minassian declined to discuss what shape those changes might take, only referring to the former President’s June comments.

Hillary Clinton promised during her 2009 secretary of state confirmation hearing that she would do “everything in my power to make sure that the good work of the foundation continues without there being any untoward effects on me and my service and be very conscious of any questions that are raised.”

But regular communication between charity and government officials muddled that good work, fairly or not, raising questions about what big international donors thought they were getting in exchange for their support.

“With the Clintons, even the possibility that someone might think by giving money here can get them access over there is cause for concern and alarm. That doesn’t mean somebody can buy favors, but you have to be even above the appearance … of being corruptible,” Jones said.

The foundation is facing renewed scrutiny after emails released by the conservative group Judicial Watch showed communication between senior Clinton Global Initiative and State Department staff. And Republicans and their nominee Trump have been blasting the charity for its secrecy and possible influence peddling — allowing yet another controversy like Benghazi and her use of private email servers to dog her campaign.

Clinton Global Initiative head Doug Band at one point emailed Clinton’s top State Department advisers, Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, asking them to put billionaire Clinton Foundation donor Gilbert Chagoury in touch with the department’s top “substance person” on Lebanon. After Abedin gave Band the ambassador to Lebanon’s name and promised to reach out, Band replied that it was “very important” to call Chagoury immediately.

The U.S. ambassador to Lebanon told reporters last week that Chagoury never contacted him.

Former US president will have to decide to either disband the foundation or pass the torch to someone with an unimpeachable record. – Getty Images

In a separate exchange, after Band lobbied to help an unnamed person get a State Department job, Abedin replied she and other staff “have him on our radar. Personnel has been sending him options.”

Clinton’s campaign claims that the person Band was recommending for a job was a low-level advance staffer, not a big donor, though staff refused to say who that person is.

According to CNN, the FBI recommended the Department of Justice investigate ties between Clinton Foundation and State Department staff, a recommendation the DOJ declined to pursue.

And those are just the latest in a series of questions about the Clintons’ donors and what access they may have sought.

“I would have had a complete wall so that no one from the foundation could have talked to anyone from State, period, about anything,” Rendell said.

If Clinton wins, she has a chance to take another approach this time around. The question is what she and her family decide to do.

Courtesy: New York Daily News