How Can Hillary Clinton Defend Her Foundation When It Hasn't Bought Any Snazzy Art?

The eyes seem to follow your wallet around the room

Let's raise a glass of charity wine to Hillary Clinton for finally -- when asked about the Clinton Foundation -- actually defending the foundation's work instead of just telling viewers to go read about it on her website.

Dragging out a favorite rightwing talking point, Chris Wallace asked if the Clinton Foundation served as a "pay to play" gateway for donors, a claim that has been debunked again and again, but lives on as surely as a horror movie franchise villain. Clinton could have gone further than she did, but she did OK. First off, she didn't so much avoid Wallace's question about "pay to play" as dismiss the premise outright: "Well, everything I did as Secretary of State was in furtherance of our country's interests and our values. The State Department has said that, I think that it's been proven." So there, she could have added. Then, on to what she really thinks about the Clinton Foundation's work:

I am thrilled to talk about the Clinton Foundation because it is a world renowned charity and I am so proud of the work that it does. You know, I could talk for the rest of the debate -- I know I don't have the time to do that, but just briefly: the Clinton Foundation made it possible for eleven million people around the world with HIV-AIDS to afford treatment, and that's about half of all the people the world who are getting treatment. In partnership with the American Health Association, we have made environments and schools healthier --

At this point, Wallace had to interrupt to say this was, somehow, an "open discussion," because she had actually spoken three and a half sentences, and who has time for that sort of monopolizing the conversation? Trump jumped in to explain that the Clinton Foundation was no charity, no not at all: "It’s a criminal enterprise!" And what makes it a criminal enterprise? Trump couldn't even remember the wingnut talking points about what supposed corruption the Clintons had engaged in, but he did remember that the foundation had taken money from Bad Countries, so that's probably "criminal":

Saudi Arabia giving twenty five million dollars, Qatar. All these countries you talk about women and women's rights? So these are people that push gays off business, off buildings. These are people that kill women and treat women horribly and yet you take their money.

So I'd like to ask you right now why don't you give back the money that you’ve taken from certain countries that treat certain groups of people so horribly? Why don't you get back the money?

Incidentally, it's ISIS that throws gay people off buildings, though Saudi Arabia is also no avatar of human rights, to be sure. So now Clinton has to give back all their tainted money, instead of, to paraphrase Trump during the primaries, taking their money and then saying "screw you, we're buying AIDS drugs"?

Trump also referenced the foundation's supposed crimes in Haiti, which might have done some harm to Clinton had he not simply blurted "Haiti" and expected everyone to know everything Breitbart and Fox News have claimed about the Clintons and Haiti. We haven't followed the wingnut fever swamp's new-found concern for Haiti (as long as they can hit Clinton with it), but we did find this 'splainer in The Guardian. We're not going to blockquote the whole thing, but it boils down to this: When Bill Clinton was the co-chair of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), a public-private agency that managed relief projects, the agency approved the building of a garment factory built as a cooperative venture by the US and Haitian governments and a Korean clothing company, which now employs 8,900 Haitians.

The supposed scandal? The GAO found that the factory project had "mixed results," and overly optimistic goals for construction and hiring. Labor organizers complained that management mistreated workers, but an investigation by a labor group "found it had adequate oversight and had dealt with concerns, though the factory remains within the range of the often grueling garment industry." And no, the Clinton Foundation did not get rich off the project, although some donors did work on it.

That sounds ... less than scandalous? And not nearly as criminal as, say, any given seminar from Trump University? Clinton noted the foundation's high ratings from multiple charity auditors, and noted that 90% of the foundation's spending goes to programs, another True Fact.

Now, we should probably mention some Flat Out Bullshit, as found in "fact checks" by Breitbart and the Daily Caller, which both claim the Clinton Foundation only donates a tiny percentage of its budget in grants to other charities. This is a beautiful example of lying with statistics: The Clinton Foundation runs its own programs, giving direct medical and other aid to people in need, so the percentage of grants it gives to other charities is irrelevant. Not that it kept Donald Trump Jr. from using one of those stories for the sake of a cheap shot.

Not too surprising when you consider that Donald Trump also likes to count retired people, students, stay-at-home moms, and the permanently disabled as part of the "unemployed." Statistics are fun!

Clinton also went on the counterattack, noting that the Trump Foundation actually has misused funds -- she mentioned the notorious six-foot painting of Donald paid for with charity funds, but could also have mentioned his use of Trump Foundation money for an illegal campaign donation or several questionable donations that helped him get campaign speaking gigs. Heck, she didn't even mention that the New York attorney general has forbidden the Trump Foundation from soliciting funds, since it hasn't complied with laws regulating charities.

Then Trump outright lied in answer to Wallace's question about the use of Trump Foundation funds to settle lawsuits; completely blustering past the fact that he didn't pay out of his own pocket to settle the suits, Trump claimed that since Trump Foundation funds went to good causes made them legit. Not if the payments were getting him out of legal trouble, they weren't. Trump may have run afoul -- many times -- of IRS regulations against "self dealing," by using Foundation funds to benefit himself or his business. That doesn't quite make it a "criminal enterprise," since the penalties for such lawbreaking are civil, not criminal.

So, in short: Clinton Foundation clean, Trump Foundation fake. But let's keep teaching the controversy, OK?

[Politico debate transcript / LAT / Guardian / WaPo / Politifact]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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