Making Sense of the Clinton Foundation

In an election year of unprecedented, epic scandals, one scandal stands out as being difficult to grasp: The Clinton Foundation. While the dealings around this scandal are shady and seemingly the actions of someone with a material interest in the donations, it is hard to put a finger on exactly what those material benefits are for the Clintons. None of the Clintons receive, nor seem to have received a salary in the past, for their work on the board of the foundation; the funding of office space and travel seems to be too modest for an incentive. The funds seem to have little direct impact for the Clintons. In contrast to the Trump Foundation’s expenditures on Trump’s private lawsuits and lavish items which were likely personal purchases, the Clinton Foundation’s expenditures are on salaries, including for direct aid workers.

Great interest is generated in the foundation because, while Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton appeared to grant favors in return for sizeable donations to the Clinton Foundation. The chairman of the Russian company that received control over 1/5 of the United States’ uranium production donated $2.35 million over the course of four transactions to the Clinton Foundation; Hillary Clinton signed off on the transaction afterward. Far from a one-off incident, Hillary Clinton’s private meetings while in office – in an official capacity – were granted to Clinton Foundation donors, significant donors. The buzz term thrown around about this part of the scandal has been “pay to play.”

In Haiti in, 2008 and 2009, there was a push to raise the minimum wage from 24 cents an hour to 62 cents an hour much to the dismay of major American apparel manufacturers who have extensive operations in Haiti. The Clinton Foundation itself, though it was the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund which has been criticized for squandering rebuilding funds on luxury hotels, has a stated goal of also investing in manufacturing, which includes the apparel sector in Haiti. Counted among the foundation’s major donors are The Gap and Walmart, who are a major distributor of Haitian apparels and a former Clinton employee. Hillary Clinton, herself, lobbied the Haitian government to not raise the wage, in conjunction with Hanes, Levi, and other major apparel manufacturers. The end result: the minimum wage was raised to 62 cents an hour for most Haitians, but only 37 cents for apparel workers.

To be fair, Condoleeza Rice had also pushed against the increase in the minimum wage in the prior year. However, this just shows the solidarity of corruption across party lines; it doesn’t excuse Clinton.

Ample evidence shows connections between donating to the Clinton Foundation and political favors granted; however, what is missing is the benefit to the Clintons. Breitbart and other reactionary outlets have suggested that it is a slush fund but had a very sketchy string of evidence to put the claim together. The focus was on how money was spent as obscure percentages, including an easily dismissed red herring that they only donated a small percent to charity whereas the foundation claims to deliver most aid directly.

My theory on the Clinton Foundation is that it is a complex bribe laundering scheme – still a slush fund -reminiscent of the Wall Street derivatives scheme that crashed the economy. The Clintons are very bright individuals, with ties to Wall Street – just not very ethical people. Complex trading of favors is the benefit of the Clinton Foundation provides the Clintons which was missing in the pay for play implication. The level of complexity makes it very difficult to tie down any specific action as a criminal act; it may be possible, but the goal of this article is not to try the Clintons in a court of law, but rather in a court of public opinion where beyond reasonable doubt is not a requirement, but rather a preponderance of evidence like civil cases. Individually, as it would have to be tried in court, there may be reasonable doubt that specific transactions were innocent, but the evidence doesn’t provide a reasonable doubt for the Clinton Foundation as a whole.

The primary thing that laundering requires is a reputable front. The Clinton Foundation is a charity, presumably the most reputable of fronts, and with nonpartisan efforts as well – an ideal front. The foundations’ work in lowering the price of anti-retroviral drugs to treat HIV and prevent AIDS is well touted, as well as a certain success. However, this is not the bulk of the Clinton Foundation’s work – and technically the work is now handled by a subsidiary organization.

Overall, the Clinton Foundation is very, very ineffective as a charity from what we can divine. An example is given through the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, where the Foundation moved in, held a community meeting in Houston, TX, telling participants “don’t worry about the costs.” However, this prompting wasn’t due to the fact that they will simply provide however much funding is necessary to make it happen, nor was it because they would later analyze the costs and see what was the best investment of this money; rather, it was because it was irrelevant because they simply paid one employee to use that information to set up 45 goals in 9 categories for local community organizations to make happen. These organizations seem not to have been consulted, but rather the Clinton Foundation simply dictated goals to them, which they likely ignored.

The Foundation is infamous for huge salaries for a large amount of select employees, whom also happen to be longtime Clinton allies and friends. Sidney Blumenthal, an ally from the 90’s, was attempted to be hired by Clinton at the State Department, but the Obama Administration prevented this from happening. He suddenly was receiving a $120,000 salary at the Clinton Foundation while advising Hillary, which the Obama Administration didn’t want, rather than doing any work for the Foundation. In the case of Blumenthal, there is a direct instance of fraud, since the charity spent considerable compensation on non-charitable purposes, as well as sidestepping the law.

Others who have been long-time friends and allies of the Clintons rake in as well. The current CEO is Donna Shalala, 74, and longtime Clinton friend who served as Health and Human Services director during Bill’s presidency and who had worked with Hillary on other charitable boards. Her compensation is unknown, but she previously was the highest paid female nonprofit executive with a salary of $869,520 a year. A predecessor, Eric Braverman, a Chelsea Clinton friend from her stint at McKinsey & Company, was paid $498,847 with other compensation of $33,514 in 2014. His predecessor, Bruce Lindsey, Bill’s lawyer from Arkansas, was paid $361,407 with $34,053 in other compensation for being Chairman of the Board.

Perhaps the most telling information comes from the circumstances of Braverman’s exit from the Foundation. Politico reports Braverman had added board members outside of the tight-knit cadre of Clinton friends and allies, restructured the finance department, and then started measuring the effectiveness of the Foundation’s programs using data analysis. These reforms were expressly done in the name of making the Foundation more transparent, show less conflict of interest and ensure effectiveness – driven by Chelsea’s insistence that they address a 2011 audit which suggested some of the changes implemented by Braverman. The response he received from Clinton loyalists was: “you don’t know how this place works.”

Indeed, it seems that he hadn’t understood the purpose of the Clinton Foundation at all. Being run by Clinton loyalists and uncertain effectiveness of their programs are apparently core values of the Foundation. Such values match closely with a scheme to launder bribes, as well as with other possible unethical activities; they do not match with a legitimate philanthropic endeavor.

How would this system work? The Clintons have many individuals who owe them for their careers and whom they owe for political favors, such as surrogate work. How better to repay them than to provide them, or to prepay them for future assistance, than to provide high paying, laid back jobs for them? Worrying about the effectiveness of the Foundation’s programs would make the jobs less lucrative since there would be actual expectations beyond public appearance, actual hard work to perform. You don’t want people out of the cadre involved at any high level since they aren’t loyal and may leak information or blow the whistle – and that is a less efficient way of distributing bribes after all.

There may be highly paid young individuals who the Clintons may want to create loyalty for Hillary’s current presidential bid and then a possible Hillary administration. However, the vast majority, if not all, of these younger workers are likely doing the work of putting up the good front, doing actual charitable work, for relatively low wages. Taking their 2014 staff budget of $80 million and dividing it by the “over 2,000 employees” they state they have, that averages out to less than $40,000 a year average salary; of course these workers will make less than that because those at the top, and there are many, take home several times that amount.

This is where pay to play comes in. In exchange for sizeable donations, Hillary made policy decisions in favor of the donors and may make future favors as President. That money does do some charitable work to maintain the public front but is most importantly used to fund these kickbacks to individuals who can help the Clinton political dynasty to keep going into the future. The bribes paid by individuals and governments to the Foundation are laundered into other bribes the Clintons pay to loyalists through the front of a charity – one whose effectiveness they don’t want measured.

As opposed to Trump’s blatant foundation fraud, where he siphoned the funds for obvious personal debts and gain, the Clintons’ actions are generally well thought out and brilliant, though arguably just as unethical and illegal. Bill and Hillary are both complicit in this fraud, as they have been complicit in much fraud throughout the decades – do you recall Whitewater? However, there is reason to believe that Chelsea Clinton, having hired Braverman, may not have been complicit in her parents’ criminal behavior.

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