Corruption at the House of Clinton is not just about mere appearance. Corruption is vital to its existence, just as it was to Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall. That is why corruption trails the Clintons wherever they go. It is part of the deal. And, like Tammany Hall before them, the Clintons leave behind damaged institutions that are vital to good governance.
The latest scandal that swirls around Hillary Clinton’s private email server is instructive. It provides a clear picture of what is now the institutionalization of corruption through an organization that purports to have been created to perform charitable works. And to be sure, the Clinton Foundation does do commendable work. But that charitable work also provides cover for the heart of what the Clinton Foundation is all about.
The Clinton Foundation
The Clinton Foundation serves as a conduit for collecting payments from people, firms and countries seeking favors from the U.S. government. The arrangement is stunningly simple. Here is essentially how it works. The favor seeker makes a donation to the Foundation; Bill Clinton gets paid several hundred thousand dollars to make a 30-minute speech, and the donor now has access to some of the top policy-making officials in the government.
And of course, the Clintons are richer for the effort. However, it would be a mistake to see this strictly in terms of Clintonian profiteering. To be sure, Clintonian venality is an important part of the story. But the bigger story is the institutionalization and normalization of corruption that the Clinton Foundation represents. For all intents and purposes the Clintons blended together the charitable work of the Foundation, the work of the State Department, and the Clintons’ private finances. This arrangement has allowed the Clintons to charge for access and in the process set up a sort of parallel government staffed by Clinton loyalists, ready to take jobs in the next Clinton Administration.
That is why people like Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain could get a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton through his Foundation contacts, but could not get a meeting using normal State Department channels.
Or consider this AP report for example.
“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.”
This is symptomatic of grand corruption, not the parking ticket fixing variety. In its wake it leaves behind a State Department with damaged credibility. U.S. citizens as well as foreign governments and multi-national institutions are justifiably left wondering whether American policy was made to protect and defend U.S. interests and U.S. ideals, or whether policy was bought by a Clinton Foundation donor. Which also means that foreign nationals have less reason to trust charities doing work in their home countries when the charities may turn out to be fronts for self-dealing by politicians.
The damage does not stop there, not by a long shot. The FBI and Justice Departments have taken a clear blow to their credibility as a result of FBI Director James Comey and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch giving Hillary Clinton a pass on her email set-up. Polling shows that 56% of the public thinks that Clinton should have been criminally charged, while only 35% indicated satisfaction with Comey’s exoneration of her.
Hillary Clinton, who has consistently lied about every aspect of this affair, argues that there was no explicit quid-pro-quo involved when, as Secretary of State, she innocently met all these people who gave boatloads of money to the Clinton Foundation who just so happened to have business before the government. But the long history of favors supplied to very unsavory donors, including some of the most repressive governments on earth is actually fairly well documented. One of the more detailed accountings is in the book “Clinton Cash”, written by Peter Schweizer.
Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer has been under relentless attack by Clinton surrogates since he published the book in May of 2015. Likewise the attacks on Judicial Watch as a “right wing extremist” operation have already begun. (Judicial Watch is the legal watchdog group whose lawsuits have successfully forced the State Department to begin releasing the Clinton documents to the public”.) James Carville has made his obligatory appearance to announce that “somebody is going to hell” for the attacks on the Clinton Foundation, because of all the goods works that it does.
But consider this: in the last few days the Clinton Foundation has announced that if Hillary Clinton is elected President, the Clinton Foundation will no longer accept donations from foreigners. Well, if it is not proper for the Foundation to accept gifts from foreigners when Hillary Clinton is President, then why was it proper when she was Secretary of State? For that matter, why was it proper while she was a sitting U.S. Senator? It wasn’t then and it isn’t now.
Damage Done to American Institutions
With its financial clout, political power and large network of players, the Clinton Foundation is arguably the most important part of the Democratic Party today. It effectively dominates the party as the leaked DNC emails show. And the Clintons are feared by elected Democrats who are well aware of its ability to punish those who cross them.
Up until now, Democratic officials, including elected ones, have not had bad word to say about the whole operation. Instead they immediately rush to the Clintons’ defense, and try to silence critics even as the story constantly changes. And let’s not forget that this is the crowd forever complaining about the “appearance” of impropriety. Apparently they are not bothered by actual impropriety.
Hillary Clinton, with the aid of her loyalists and the backing of the Democratic Party has succeeded in placing herself above the law in a way that Richard Nixon tried but failed to achieve. In the process her success in doing so has corrupted some of the most fundamental institutions of American governance. She has stained the State Department, the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Democratic Party and its leadership.
Defining Deviance Down
Even more importantly the Clintons have, in Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s memorable phrase, “defined deviancy down” once more. They have lowered the bar of what constitutes acceptable behavior to the point where the institutionalization of corruption on a grand scale is at least tolerable in the public mind.
Anyone who doubts this should just ask a single question: Who will most likely be taking the oath of office on January 20, 2017?