Hillary Clinton Makes It Hard to Follow the Money

Her family's foundation collects millions from foreign donors. As secretary of state, she benefited from pricey intelligence reports, but it's unknown who footed the bill. To whom is she beholden?

One way to evaluate presidential candidates is to follow the money. To whom is a politician beholden? To what extent are her personal financial interests at odds with the public interest? Which moneyed groups is he unlikely to flout?

Republicans and Democrats have their respective (if sometimes overlapping) fundraising bases. Very rich individuals sometimes support a given candidate. And then there's Hillary Clinton, whose relationship to money is even more complicated.

Her family's foundation is one complicating factor. "The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration," the Washington Post reported last month.

That conflict of interest was inappropriate for a cabinet secretary. It ought to be intolerable in a president. Foreign governments would obviously attempt to curry favor or avoid wrath by contributing to an organization that is helping to shape her husband's legacy, providing a livelihood for her daughter, and would perhaps constitute her base of power and influence in the years after she left the White House.

Yet the Clinton family seems to think it would be okay for Bill and Chelsea to keep running the foundation during the campaign (when foreign governments will surely wonder if generous donations might pay off later) and even if Hillary is a sitting president! The New York Times characterized Bill's thinking as follows:

He has said that if his wife wins the White House, he will maintain the family’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y., and continue to lead the philanthropy. “I hope I’ll get permission to keep this foundation going,” Mr. Clinton recently told Queen Latifah on her talk show.

The foundation, which has received millions of dollars in donations from foreign governments, has come under criticism for potential conflicts of interest while Mrs. Clinton served as secretary of state, concerns that would most likely persist should she win the White House. A spokesman for the Clinton Foundation, Craig Minassian, said “Should Secretary Clinton decide to run for office, we will continue to ensure the foundation’s policies and practices regarding support from international partners are appropriate, just as we did when she served as secretary of state.”

The promise that the foundation will conduct itself just as it did while taking millions from multiple foreign governments and dodging ethics rules is hardly reassuring.

The other unanswered questions about Hillary Clinton's finances pertain to services from which she benefited while at the State Department. "Starting weeks before Islamic militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, longtime Clinton family confidante Sidney Blumenthal supplied intelligence to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gathered by a secret network that included a former CIA clandestine service officer," Pro Publica and Gawker reported last week.

The details suggest an expensive intelligence-gathering operation. Multiple reports were written on countries including Libya, Egypt, Germany, and Turkey, some relying on highly placed sources in those countries. A security consultant put them together:

...though they were sent under Blumenthal’s name, the reports appear to have been gathered and prepared by Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of the CIA’s clandestine service in Europe who left the agency in 2005. Since then, he has established a consulting firm called Tyler Drumheller, LLC. He has also been affiliated with a firm called DMC Worldwide, which he co-founded with Washington, D.C., attorney Danny Murray and former general counsel to the U.S. Capitol Police John Caulfield. DMC Worldwide’s now-defunct website describes it at as offering “innovative security and intelligence solutions to global risks in a changing world.”

And just a single intelligence-gathering mission apparently cost tens of thousands of dollars:

May 14, 2011 email exchange between Blumenthal and Shearer shows that they were negotiating with Drumheller to contract with someone referred to as “Grange” and “the general” to place send four operatives on a week-long mission to Tunis, Tunisia, and “to the border and back.” Tunisia borders Libya and Algeria. “Sid, you are doing great work on this,” Drumheller wrote to Blumenthal. “It is going to be around $60,000, coverting r/t business class airfare to Tunis, travel in country to the border and back, and other expenses for 7–10 days for 4 guys.”

After Blumenthal forwarded that note to Shearer, he wrote back questioning the cost of the operation. “Sid, do you think the general has to send four guys. He told us three guys yesterday, a translator and two other guys. I understand the difficulty of the mission and realize that K will be repaid but I am going to need an itemized budget for these guys.”

Who was paying for all this intelligence and analysis that wound up on Secretary Clinton's desk? Was this an expensive favor from someone? Did she bankroll it from her personal fortune? Was it hidden somewhere in the State Department's budget? The public deserves a true explanation, whatever it is, before they consider entrusting the presidency to her. So far, she is content to let voters wonder.