Hidden in Plain Sight - Part 2
JB: That makes sense. My last question before we move on is one that's been niggling me for a while: Guccifer hacked into Clinton's email more than three years ago. Why is this story taking so long to find its legs?
PT: That's a very good question. Interestingly, just five days after Guccifer's 2013 hack, Gawker published an article that basically predicted the media firestorm that happened a year and a half later. It asked, "Why was Clinton apparently receiving emails at a non-governmental email account?" And it pointed out that this "could be a major security breach for Clinton." But nobody else in the media seemed to notice these things at the time! Unfortunately, I think the media dropped the ball because the quality of investigative journalism has gone way down in recent years. Far too often, the media waits for a story to drop into their laps instead of going out and finding it. In a better world, private citizens like me wouldn't be putting together information like I have in this timeline because the mainstream media would be doing long investigative stories that laid out all the facts in an easily understandable way. But that hardly ever happens anymore.
JB: You aren't kidding. And we're all worse off for that lack of in depth media scrutiny. I'm ready now. Let's turn to the Clinton Foundation. Why did you decide to do a separate wiki on the foundation?
PT: At first, it was all one big timeline. But that was (and still is!) too big. People can digest things better if they're broken into chunks. The Clinton Foundation is related and yet mostly separate, so I broke that off. Furthermore, I feel I have a lot of material about the foundation yet to cover, and more is bound to come out. This is really two scandals in one.
JB: That sounds ominous. What would you like to tell our readers about the Clinton Foundation? What did you find out?
PT: First off, I want to make clear that there's no doubt that the Clinton Foundation has done a lot of great charitable work. But charities can't just do charitable work most of the time; they're legally required to do that 100% of the time. The foundation has raised over two billion dollars. If only a small percentage of that is mismanaged and/or used for political purposes, that's many millions of dollars. Harper's Magazine had an in-depth investigative article last year that called the foundation a "slush fund" for the Clintons. So there's that worry. But that's just part of the problem.
JB: Don't stop now! What else is going on over there?
PT: The way the Clinton Foundation works, virtually everything it does is problematic. Simply put, nothing like it has ever existed in politics before. I thought a 2015 Washington Post investigative article put it well: "At its heart, The Clinton Foundation is an ingenious machine that can turn something intangible - the Clintons' global goodwill - into something tangible: money. For the Clintons' charitable causes. For their aides and allies. And, indirectly, for the Clintons themselves." What that means is that even if the foundation does something that is 100% charitable, there still could be a disturbing quid pro quo element to it.
JB: Can you give us a concrete example? This is still a bit abstract.
PT: The timeline quotes a non-profit official who says, "The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation. This shows why having public officials, or even spouses of public officials, connected with these non-profits is problematic." And a former long-time State Department official said that donors were clearly "looking to build up deposits in the 'favor bank' and to be well thought of" by the Clintons.
A lot of rich people and corporations donate a certain amount to charity every year, regardless. If they give to a typical charity like Oxfam or the United Way, they're not going to get any extra political benefit from it. But if they give to the Clinton Foundation, that might win them future favors with the Clintons. So it's no wonder the foundation has gone from nothing to one of the biggest in just one decade. Consider for instance that nearly 200 major donors to the foundation also had important business that was influenced by State Department decisions at a time when Hillary Clinton was running the department. How can we know if those donations had an influence or not? As Vox has put it, "Ultimately, it is impossible to tell where one end of the two-headed Clinton political and philanthropic operation ends and where the other begins."
JB: Isn't it suggestive that between 2010 and 2012, the "foundation incorrectly list[ed] no donations whatsoever from foreign governments in its yearly tax returns"? If there was no problem, why cover it up?
PT: Yes. Those just happen to be the three full years Hillary was secretary of state. I don't think many people realize how often the foundation has been caught violating their own transparency rules and standards. Personally, I was shocked. It's very hard to prove a quid pro quo unless you find a recording of someone handing a bag of money to someone while saying, "I'll give you this money if you do the following favor for me." It's usually more subtle than that. We can see many instances where there's a suspicious connection between money given to the foundation and then the donors expecting favorable political considerations in return.