A Stupid and Sleazy Clinton Decision

If Hillary Clinton wants to be president, the Clinton Foundation should stop accepting money from foreign countries.

Hillary Clinton testifies on October 27, 2011. (National Journal)

This is sleazy and stupid. Just as Hillary Clinton is getting ready to run for president again, her family's charitable foundation secretly lifted a ban on accepting money from foreign governments.

The Wall Street Journal discovered the ethical breach during a search of donations of more than $50,000 posted on the foundation's online database. "Recent donors include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, Germany, and a Canadian government agency promoting the Keystone XL Pipline," reported James V. Grimaldi and Rebecca Ballhaus.

This is sleazy because of the clear conflicts of interest. What do these foreign countries expect in exchange for their donations? What pressure would Clinton face as president to return financial favors?

Even if you give her the benefit of the doubt (having covered the Clinton since the 1980s, I'm still willing to do that), you can't deny that this flip-flop creates a perception of foreign favoritism in a political system that most Americans already think is corrupted by money.

The Clinton Foundation stopped raising money from foreign governments in 2009 at the urging of the Obama administration. To their credit, the Obama team was worried about the perception of the secretary of State's husband, Bill Clinton, raising money while she represented U.S. interests overseas. After leaving the State Department, she officially joined the foundation, which changed its name to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

This is stupid because it undermines the narrative of her unofficial campaign—one of the world's most famous women challenging the "glass ceiling" of U.S. politics. Some of these donor countries have no respect for women. Saudi Arabia has such a poor record that Clinton herself praised the "brave" Saudi women who defied their nation's ban on female drivers.

This is sleazy because her foundation takes money from countries that fund terrorism. A Wikileaks cable quoted then-Secretary of State Clinton saying, "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide." The United Arab Emirates also was implicated in the memo.

This is stupid because it plays into a decades-old knock on the Clintons: They'll cut any corner for campaign cash. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton and his top aides used the White House as a tool to court and reward big donors. It was the second-biggest scandal of his presidency.

The Wall Street Journal exposed this legal but unethical shift on the same day a new poll suggested that 50 percent of Americans believe Hillary Clinton represents the future. No other potential candidate ranked higher on the past-versus-future test.

But nothing screams "the past" louder than a Clinton fundraising flap. If Hillary Clinton wants to be a credible candidate for the future, the Clinton Foundation needs to knock it off.