Listening to the national media over the past few weeks, many Americans may now believe that the Clinton Foundation was set up as a "pay to play" scheme for Hillary Clinton to squeeze millions of dollars from wealthy foreigners and rich Americans. According to this theory, popularized by a lavishly funded right-wing organization called Judicial Watch, the former secretary of state would only deal with people and governments that had donated big money to her husband's foundation.
But that story is itself a fraudulent scam, perpetrated by Judicial Watch with misleading information fed to gullible, lazy Washington journalists.
Consider the tale of Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the crown prince of Bahrain, one of America's primary allies in the Persian Gulf. While rummaging through thousands of Clinton's emails, Judicial Watch discovered that the prince had requested a meeting with the secretary of state in 2010, via Clinton Foundation executive Doug Band to Clinton's aide Huma Abedin.
In a hysterical press release, Judicial Watch denounced this request as an outrageous example of unethical and possibly illegal behavior, saying, "By 2010, (the crown prince) had contributed $32 million to CGI," or the Clinton Global Initiative.
That damning narrative, usually condensed into "Bahraini prince gave $32 million to Clinton Foundation," appeared in news outlets across the country.
By leaving out the most important facts, which show there was no unethical conduct, Judicial Watch could confidently assume that gullible (or malicious) journalists would omit that crucial information as well. And of course, they did.
The simple fact is that not one cent of that $32 million ever went into the bank accounts of the Clinton Global Initiative, The Clinton Foundation or any member of the Clinton family. Every cent went instead toward the college education of Bahraini students, which was the purpose of the crown prince's "commitment." But as Judicial Watch itself has acknowledged, his commitment was announced at the very first Clinton Global Initiative meeting in Sept. 2005 — more than three years before President Obama asked Clinton to serve as secretary of state. Unless the crown prince was clairvoyant, he had no way of knowing that his 2005 CGI commitment would induce the nation's top diplomat to meet with him five years later.
So, the money didn't go to the foundation, and it was committed long before Clinton went to work in the State Department. That doesn't fit any sane definition of "pay to play." But it does reveal the deception behind those screaming press releases from Judicial Watch, an outfit whose claims deserve to be treated like anthrax by any journalist with integrity.
Unfortunately, many Washington reporters seem eager to repeat any accusation brandished against the Clintons, even from a dubious source, without rudimentary checking. Upon receipt of that dishonest press release from Judicial Watch, any reporter could have called the Clinton Foundation to learn the truth. Indeed, any reporter could have discovered the same facts by entering a few data points into a search engine like Google.
From the context of the emails quoted by Judicial Watch, it is obvious that Clinton was initially reluctant to meet with the crown prince on a particular day on short notice. Any reporter who believes that the secretary of state would simply refuse to see the head of state of one of America's principal allies in the Persian Gulf, whether he made a CGI commitment or not, is too stupid to write about foreign affairs.
Similar stories have emanated not only from Judicial Watch but also from the Associated Press and other outlets in recent days. And so far, all are similarly flawed, relying on the omission of essential facts and the emphasis of false narratives.
It is important to recall that when Obama asked Clinton to serve in his cabinet, she first resisted. When she agreed, her advisers and Obama's transition team negotiated a set of rules to govern her husband's philanthropic and business activities. With very few and minor exceptions, they adhered to those rules — and have continued to disclose all of the Clinton Foundation's donors long after she left government.
Unlike the Clinton Foundation, however, Judicial Watch doesn't disclose the names of the donors who provided almost $30 million in 2014 to finance its ongoing harassment of the Clintons and their aides, which has continued for decades. Unlike the Clinton Foundation, which has saved millions of lives, Judicial Watch exploits its nonprofit status to advance the partisan objectives of its unnamed donors. And unlike the Clinton Foundation, which enjoys a four-star rating from the watchdog Charity Navigator, the "charitable" nonprofit Judicial Watch only gets two stars because its operations are inscrutable and it spends an excessive percentage of its revenues on salaries and fundraising.
Perhaps it is time for someone in the media to investigate its conduct.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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