Clinton Foundation Donation Scandal Looking More Like Influence Peddling

The Clinton Foundation donation scandal is growing, and looking worse.

Forbes is reporting that the Clinton Foundation’s first front of perceived impropriety is with speaking engagement fees. During Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State, Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton earned a combined $26.4 million in speaking fees. Bill was the major earner, giving three speeches with a speaking price ranging from $500,000 to $1 million for each. Many of their speeches were given to foreign countries, and foreign and United States corporations.

The issue with the speaking fees is what was done with them. All $26.4 million was handed to the Clinton Foundation. The legality of this concerns tax laws. Is there a legal way to hand over earned fees to a foundation without reporting it for either personal or business tax purposes? Essentially, America’s top courts and the Internal Revenue Service have stood behind the ideal that the one who earned the fee is responsible for the taxes on that fee. There is no assigning the tax burden to a foundation or corporation.

The sticky point is that though the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation have pledged to amend their tax filings to correct any possible errors, the IRS can still assign penalties and prosecute tax filers based on the initial filing, regardless of amendments.

According to the International Business Times, this leads to the second front of perceived impropriety, foreign donations, and possible influence peddling. Some of Hillary Clinton’s duties while Secretary of State was to determine whether it was in the best interests of the United States to consider selling arms and war technology to foreign countries. One criteria that was supposed to be used in this consideration was the history of the prospective country in regards to human rights. Those countries with poor human rights histories would be less considered for weapons sales.

The issue now arises that a few countries with poor human rights histories, such as Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were allowed to purchase weapons. The possible impropriety comes in when you consider that these countries donated thousands upon millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. Then, even with poor human rights histories, Clinton authorized weapons sales to these countries after the countries donated to the Clinton Foundation.

Now, consider that in Clinton’s term as Secretary of State, 20 foreign nations were sold over $165 billion in weapons and war technology while she was in office, and those nations had donated to the Clinton Foundation. In 2008, the Clinton Foundation entered into an ethics agreement promising full transparency from all donations, and Clinton pledged that during her time as Secretary of State, she pledged to do nothing that could be perceived as improper.

Perhaps Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard University, said it best. He examined this situation and concluded that the relationship between the Clinton Foundation, foreign countries looking to buy, and defense contractors looking to sell is “a vivid example of a very big problem — the degree to which conflicts of interest have become endemic.”

[Image courtesy of the Clinton Foundation]