Clinton is dogged by ties to charity’s donors
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Taping an appearance on comedian Jimmy Kimmell’s late night show in Los Angeles on Monday night, Hillary Clinton tried to laugh off the hubbub over her latest email woes.
“Jimmy, my emails are so boring,” she deadpanned. “And I’m embarrassed about that. They’re so boring. So we’ve already released, I don’t know, 30,000 plus. So what’s a few more?” she said.
However, the news that the state department will have to release close to 15,000 additional Clinton emails, most likely on the eve of the November election, is a serious matter for the Democratic candidate. It comes as she faces heightened scrutiny not just of her emails but of her relationship with the charitable Clinton Foundation during her tenure as secretary of state.
New emails released by the conservative group Judicial Watch reveal that Clinton Foundation donors attempted to secure access to Mrs Clinton with Huma Abedin, her deputy chief of staff, serving as go-between.
Last week the Clintons tried to pre-empt any further criticism of the foundation by announcing that the organisation would only accept donations from US citizens, permanent residents, and US-based independent foundations.
Yet even people sympathetic to the Clintons said the new emails raised questions about what sort of access the donors had enjoyed while the candidate was secretary of state, and what sort of benefits even American donors to the Clinton Foundation might receive were Mrs Clinton to be elected president.
One Democratic operative, who is a supporter of Mrs Clinton and did not want to be named, said the emails shone a light on the sometimes awkward relationship between politicians and their major financial backers who want access to the official they helped elect so they can push for issues important to them.
“Often times there is one person designated to serve as the buffer with the outside forces,” the operative said. “And by all accounts that was [Huma Abedin’s] job.”
He continued: “I hate to parrot the lines of Republicans, but if it was OK for her to accept money from foreign donors as secretary of state, why wouldn’t it be OK for her to do so as president of the United States?”
Other political observers raised the question of why the Clinton Foundation had now decided to stop accepting donations from foreign individuals and entities, while continuing to accept large donations from US individuals and organisations that might be looking for the same type of political influence.
Rich American citizens want ambassadorships and other appointments and pardons and legislations. Why are their contributions not tainted? asked Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political analyst. “And the answer is: they are.”
In the more than a dozen emails between Ms Abedin and Clinton Foundation staffers and donors released by Judicial Watch, there was no direct evidence that Mrs Clinton agreed to make concessions or give preferential treatment to foundation donors. In all of her emails, Ms Abedin repeatedly emphasised that all requests for meetings with donors should go through official state department channels.
But at the very least there is evidence that Clinton Foundation donors and executives exerted pressure to orchestrate meetings with Mrs Clinton.
Joyce Aboussie, a Democratic donor who gave upwards of $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, wrote repeated emails to Ms Abedin asking her to set up a meeting with coal company Peabody Energy, which had hired Ms Aboussie as a consultant and former Democratic congressman Dick Gephardt as a lobbyist.
“Huma, I need your help now to intervene please. We need this meeting with Secretary Clinton, who has been there now for nearly six months. This is, by the way, my first request. I really appreciate your help on this. It should go without saying that the Peabody folks came to Dick [Gephardt] and I because of our relationship with the Clintons,” Ms Aboussie wrote on June 8, 2009.
After Ms Aboussie wrote a follow-up email one week later, Ms Abedin responded: “We are working on it and I hope we can make something work . . . we have to work through the beauracracy [sic] here.”
Ms Abedin was also contacted by Doug Band, a top executive at the Clinton Foundation, who told her that Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain was asking to see Mrs Clinton.
Crown Prince Salman had previously requested such a meeting using official channels, through which a meeting was eventually arranged. Ms Abedin told Mr Band that a request had been made “thru [sic] normal channels”, and later added: “We have reached out thru [sic] official channels.”
Bahrain has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the foundation and millions of dollars to the Clinton Global Initiative.
Mr Band also emailed Ms Abedin about meeting a contact of Casey Wasserman, a Democratic donor who has given more than $5m to the Clinton Foundation.
Meanwhile, call logs obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request show that Cheryl Mills, Mrs Clinton’s chief of staff at the state department, received at least 148 messages from the Clinton Foundation’s chief operating officer between 2010 and 2012. The review of the call logs was first published by Fox News.
In recent days, Donald Trump has pounced on the latest Clinton Foundation emails to claim that the foundation’s donors received pay-to-play benefits from the state department, and calling for the foundation to be disbanded.
Jim Manley, a former top Democratic congressional aide, said it seemed unlikely that the latest emails marked the end of the controversy.
“I’m pretty confident there is going to be more to come . . . We’re going to continue to hear about this from now until November," he said.
This article has been revised since original publication to clarify how Crown Prince Salman used official channels to request a meeting with Hillary Clinton.
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