Politics & Policy

The Clintons: What’s Past Is Prologue

Show them the money. (Getty Images)
They’ve been involved with questionable donors since the 1990s.

As I read the recent reports about the Clinton Foundation’s acceptance of contributions from foreign governments, I couldn’t help but think about the past. More specifically, I thought of my time as chief investigator for U.S. House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight in the 1990s.

I led the investigation into the millions of dollars in contributions that came into the 1996 Clinton-Gore reelection campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from illegal foreign sources, and whether that money influenced policy and access during the Clinton administration. To quote Yogi Berra, it’s like déjà vu all over again.

The latest foreign-money episode involving the Clinton Foundation ties together many different storylines that I’ve become accustomed to with the Clinton modus operandi, and it tells us a great deal about the challenges Secretary Clinton will face if she becomes a candidate for president.

One prime indicator that a 2016 Clinton campaign could look like a sequel to Old School is how the Clintons continue to be so overly defensive with public relations and damage control. Look at how longtime Clinton moneyman and current Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe tried to defend Secretary Clinton for accepting foreign money to her foundation:

If the biggest attack on Hillary’s going to be that she raised too much money for her charity, okay, I’ll take that. . . . No one’s alleging anything beyond that she raised money and people gave her money and foreign governments gave her money.

McAuliffe served as co-chairman of the Bill Clinton reelection campaign in 1996 and was responsible for coordinating the brazen rental of the Lincoln Bedroom to wealthy donors and shaking down big labor unions. He was Clinton’s main fundraiser when the campaign and the DNC took in millions in illegal foreign money.

McAuliffe is the last person who should be out front on a shady-fundraising story. Listening to McAuliffe try to reassure the public about what’s appropriate when it comes to fundraising is truly discomforting, given his record. And that brings us to another Clinton flaw: The Clintons can survive only if the American people forget history. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling. Sometimes we remember only the good. But with the Clintons, we should know better.

I was surprised to find online a U.S. Justice Department press release from January 2001 that announced a prosecution by the old Campaign Finance Task Force. The guilty plea being publicized on that particular day was by longtime Clinton friend and donor James Riady:

Riady is one of 26 people and two corporations charged by the Campaign Financing [sic] Task Force, which was established four years ago by Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate allegations of campaign financing abuses in the 1996 election cycle.

Reading that press release was like taking a walk down memory lane. The campaign-finance allegations that surfaced after the Clinton reelection effort were so egregious that his own attorney general felt compelled to appoint a special unit to investigate Democratic improprieties.

The media are making serious allegations, and rightfully so. They are legitimate. There will be a clear conflict of interest involving the countries that gave the Clinton Foundation money if Hillary Clinton becomes a candidate, and even more so if she’s elected president. To deny that obvious truth would be an act of Clintonian brazenness. Why accept the money from overseas in the first place? Of course they knew this story was coming, and the Clintons decided to do it anyway. What does this tell us? It tells us that they show a stunning arrogance, and that perhaps it’s in all of our best interests to keep some of these pre-existing foreign relationships away from the White House.

I hope the American people remember that the Clintons sold access to foreign governments and interests while in the White House during the 1990s. Their foundation’s scandal raises the question: Why wouldn’t they do it again? Our country deserves better.

—​ David N. Bossie has been president of Citizens United and the Citizens United Foundation since 2001.

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