Too afraid to ask: What is the Clinton Foundation?

    What is the Clinton Foundation?

    Former president Bill Clinton started the Clinton Foundation in 2001 to create a public charity that brings together government, businesses and NGOs. The institutions works on four main issues: They create opportunities for girls and women, combat climate change, and focus on global health and economic development. Perhaps most notably, the Foundation helps cut the cost of HIV/AIDS medication by 90 percent for more than 11 million people worldwide.

    Sounds like a good thing…Why all the outrage?

    The Associated Press reported a few weeks ago that while serving as secretary of state, more than half of Hillary Clinton’s meetings with non-governmental figures were with Clinton Foundation donors. This caused some to wonder if said donors – often rich business leaders and members of foreign governments – were trying to purchase influence via donations. For example, the Clinton-led State Department approved the sale of a sizable uranium mine to Russia while the chairman of the mine’s foundation was making multimillion dollar donations to the Clinton Foundation.

    While that deal– and the fact that the Foundation doesn’t disclose all its donors – may look suspicious, no laws or agreements were actually violated by Clinton or the Foundation in any of their deals. Beyond that, several other regulatory agencies also signed off on the deal, not just the State Department. So while some deals may look shady, one would be hard-pressed to find a smoking gun that proves any actual legal miscues or real evidence of “pay-for-play” by the Clinton Foundation.

    What is the Foundation saying?

    The Foundation has consistently denied any allegations of donors buying political influence (which have been coming since as early as 2009). In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Clinton said, “I know there’s a lot of smoke, and there’s no fire” regarding the scandal. Bill Clinton was even less forgiving, saying, “If there's something wrong with creating jobs and saving lives, I don't know what it is.” The Foundation did state that if Hillary is elected president, it will stop accepting foreign donations, presumably to prevent any chance of a conflict of interest (though Bill Clinton didn’t specify why they would stop when he made the announcement).

    What are Clinton’s critics saying?

    Donald Trump has called for a special prosecutor to investigate the Foundation, accusing Clinton of criminal activity while she was Secretary of State. Some members of the media have also criticized the Foundation; the Wall Street Journal claimed the Foundation benefitted Clinton’s friends. When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was competing against Clinton in the Democratic primary, he said he didn’t like the idea of foreign governments donating to the Secretary of State’s foundation, but didn’t go as far as to actually accuse her of corruption.

    What now?

    Lately, much of the media is focusing on the Trump Organization instead. Check out Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold's investigation to keep up with all the drama.


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