Is the Clinton Foundation the Greater Scandal Surrounding Hillary?
Political economist Michael Hudson says the media have failed to look beyond the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s private email server and into potential conflicts of interest involving her charitable foundation during her tenure as secretary of state.
“Nobody has, I think, in American history, merged their public service as secretary of state or president with their private gains to the extent that Hillary has,” economist Michael Hudson told The Real News Network July 8.
“There is no clear evidence” that Clinton exploited these conflicts of interest for dubious or unlawful gains, Hudson hastened to add. “There is only the appearance of what looks to me to be an inherent conflict of interest with the foundation.”
“She’s somehow been able to legitimize a conflict of interest, and what used to be called corruption in office. Or at least the appearance of what could be corruption in office.”
Read a full transcript of Hudson’s remarks below.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
PAUL JAY, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.
On Thursday morning, the mediafest and politicalfest around Hillary Clinton’s email scandal continued, as the head of the FBI, James Comey, spoke at a congressional House oversight committee. Here’s a little clip of what was said there. But let me just foreshadow–maybe the emails aren’t the real issue that should be in front of these hearings. Now, here’s the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, questioning James Comey and a bit of his answer.
JASON CHAFFETZ: It seems to a lot of us that the average Joe, the average American, that if they had done what you laid out in your statement, that they’d be in handcuffs. And I think there is a legitimate concern that there is a double standard. Your name isn’t Clinton, you’re not part of the powerful elite, that Lady Justice will act differently.
JAMES COMEY: I believe this investigation was conducted consistent with the highest traditions of the FBI. Our folks did it in an apolitical and professional way. There are two things that matter in a criminal investigation of a subject. And so when I look at the facts we gathered here–as I said, I see evidence of great carelessness. But I do not see evidence that is sufficient to establish that Secretary Clinton, or those with whom she was corresponding, both talked about classified information on email, and knew when they did it they were doing something that was against the law. So give that assessment of the facts and my understanding of the law, my conclusion was, and remains, no reasonable prosecutor would bring this case. No reasonable prosecutor would bring the second case in 100 years focused on gross negligence.
JAY: Now joining us from New York is Michael Hudson. Michael’s a Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. His latest book is Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy. Thanks for joining us, Michael.
MICHAEL HUDSON: Good to be back here, Paul.
JAY: First, let’s talk a little bit about what we just heard. The chairman of the House Oversight Committee says, is there a double standard here? Somebody else might be in handcuffs, and Hillary Clinton’s not being charged. I guess a lot of people are asking that question. The FBI director says this doesn’t rise to the level of criminality; it’s carelessness. I don’t know the law well enough. I’m certainly not a lawyer. But it seems to me that the deliberate, willful decision to use a private server–and some people have said one of the reasons could be to avoid Freedom of Information Act requests–and I don’t know if that rises to the level of criminality. But it’s sure wrong.
HUDSON: Well, it’s obvious that Hillary wanted to keep some information from the public finding out. The information that she wanted to keep from the public probably didn’t concern national security so much as concern her own private dealings, because nobody has, I think, in American history, has merged their public service as secretary of state or president with their private gains to the extent that Hillary really has. And by that I mean the Clinton Foundation, overall.
Here’s the problem, you can imagine. She’s going to Saudi Arabia, she’s going to Europe, she’s going to the Near Eastern countries. Saudi Arabia has asked her–and this is all very public–we want more arms. We want to buy arms in America. We know that Saudi Arabia is one of the major contributors to the Clinton Foundation. On the other hand, Hillary’s in a position to go to Raytheon, to Boeing, and say look, do I have a customer for you. Saudi Arabia would love to buy your arms. Maybe we can arrange something. I’m going to do my best. By the way, you know, my foundation is–you know, I’m a public-spirited person and I’m trying to help the world. Would you like to make a contribution to my foundation?
Well, lo and behold, the military-industrial complex is one of the big contributors to the Clinton Foundation, as is Saudi Arabia, and many of the parties who are directly affected by her decisions. Now, my guess is what she didn’t want people to find out, whether on Freedom of Information Act or others, are the lobbying she’s doing for her own foundation, which in a way means her wealth, her husband’s wealth, Bill Clinton’s wealth, and the power that both of them have by getting a quarter billion dollars of grants into the foundation during her secretary of state.
JAY: As far as we know, there’s no direct evidence that she did precisely what you’re saying. And that–.
HUDSON: [No direct] at all.
JAY: And that actually say–“Give money to the foundation; I will facilitate such-and-such a contract.” There’s no evidence of that, correct?
HUDSON: That’s right. And partly there’s no evidence because her private emails are not subject to [inaud.]. They’re not subject to finding out this. We don’t have any evidence one way or the other. So certainly there is no evidence. There is only the appearance of what looks to me to be an inherent conflict of interest with the foundation.
JAY: And there’s no direct evidence that any abnormal amount of money has gone to Bill Clinton, in terms of fees and expenses. One can assume he’s well-compensated. But it does have charitable status, it has to file a 990. They are under charitable law regulations, and so far I don’t know of any reporting that says that they have violated the–.
HUDSON: You’re right. The advantage of being under charitable law is it’s in a foundation that–you can look at it in effect as your savings account. And you can treat it–you can do with a foundation whatever you want.
Now, if you or I had a quarter billion dollars, what we’d want to do is influence policy. Influence the world. Well, that’s what they want to do. They want to use the foundation to support policies that they want. And here we’re not dealing with unexplained enrichment. This isn’t money that comes into them that goes into an offshore account in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands. It’s hidden in plain sight. It’s all the foundation. It’s tax-exempt. It’s legitimate. So she’s somehow been able to legitimize a conflict of interest, and what that used to be called corruption in office. Or at least the appearance of what could be corruption in office.
And the fact is, that is what there has been a blacked-out screen painted over it, and we don’t have any idea what she’s been saying to these affected parties that not only has she been dealing with, the secretary of state, but it turned out to be major contributors to her and Bill’s foundation.
JAY: Now, the reason the emails rose to such prominence, because it was the potential of criminal charges. That seems to have ended now. The Clinton foundation certainly has been reported upon in various places in the mainstream press. It never rose to the same level of attention as the emails. But why do you think that is? Because you think there’s enough fodder there that that could have been quite a media fest. Feast, I should say.
HUDSON: Well, there’s no direct link between the foundation that says it’s existing to promote various social purposes, and Hillary’s actions as secretary of state. But there’s such overlap there. I can’t think of any public official at cabinet level or above, in memory who’s ever had an overlapping between a foundation that they had and had control, personally, and their public job. So there’s never been so great a blurring of categories.
JAY: So why isn’t this a bigger issue in the media? Corporate media?
HUDSON: I don’t–I think the media are supporting Hillary. And that’s a good question. Why are they supporting her so much with all of this? Why aren’t they raising this seemingly obvious thing? I think the media want two things that Hillary wants. They want the trade agreements to essentially turn over policy to, trade policy to corporations, and regulatory policy to–.
JAY: You’re talking about TTIP and [TTP].
HUDSON: [They’re neocons.] They’re the agreement of politics. If the media agree with her politics and says, okay, we want to back her because she’s backing the kind of world we want, a neocon world, a neoliberal world, then they’re going to say, this is wonderful. We can now distract attention onto did she leak a national secret. Well, the secrets that are really important aren’t the national classification secrets. They’re the personal, personal, the big-picture secrets. And it’s the big picture we don’t have a clue of as a result of all of these erasures.
JAY: Okay, thanks very much for joining us, Michael.
HUDSON: Good to be here.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.Wait, before you go…
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