Bernie Sanders is going after the Clinton Foundation, saying that it created a problematic conflict of interest for the former Secretary of State. He also questioned Hillary Clinton’s decision to vote for the Iraq war and willingness to help topple Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. The comments come just two days before the next big primary fight for the DNC nomination.
Speaking to CNN‘s Jake Tapper, Bernie Sanders said he thinks the Clinton Foundation is a problem.
“If you ask me about the Clinton Foundation, do I have a problem when a sitting secretary of state and a foundation run by her husband collects many millions of dollars from foreign governments, many governments which are dictatorships… yeah I do.”
Sanders is hardly the first to criticize the foundation. The Wall Street Journal released a report saying that it directly violated IRS rules by arranging a $2 million commitment for a private business with close ties to the Clinton family. Federal law prohibits tax-exempt charitable organizations from acting in anyone’s private interest, only in the public interest.
The Wall Street Journal article prompted the super PAC, American Crossroads, founded by former Bush adviser Karl Rove, to push the IRS to conduct an audit. The agency has yet to respond.
The Clinton Foundation did temporarily stop taking money directly from foreign governments during Hillary’s tenure as Secretary of State, but Bernie Sanders criticism still has merit, because it did take money from people with close ties to foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia. Sanders said that’s one country where “you don’t have a lot of respect there for opposition points of view for gay rights or women’s rights.”
Another critical report from the IBT showed that during Clinton’s time as Secretary of State, U.S. weapons sales more than doubled and 20 nations that indirectly donated to the Clinton Foundation also saw their availability to weapons increase disproportionately. The report says the foundation donor countries increased their weapons purchases by 143 percent compared to non-donors who only received 80 percent more arms. The UAE, Oman, and Qatar are among some of the donor countries that also have sketchy backgrounds with human rights and corruption.
Bernie Sanders believes it was problematic for her when she was Secretary of State, but what would prevent a similar conflict of interest if Hillary is elected president?
The New York Times reports that she says the foundation will function as it does now, and that the answer is transparency. Ethics experts disagree.
Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics expert at New York University School of Law, explained that “if Bill seeks to raise large sums of money from donors who also have an interest in U.S. policy, the public will rightly question whether the grants affected United States foreign policy.”
Joel Fleishman, author and foundation head, says any connection would be unacceptable and the family would have to leave the foundation in the hands of someone with impeccable integrity.
Still, the Clinton Foundation has done amazing work around the world. Its programs have worked towards providing clean water and food security and to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Major initiatives have focused on Africa, and the group has even secured lower prices from pharmaceutical and medical manufacturers to subsidize health care in the developing world.
Bernie Sanders seems to echoing the calls from ethics experts and certain media sources, but it doesn’t seem like the Clinton Foundation will change any time soon.
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