No other couple in American politics can offer what the Clintons have to sell.
By William McGurn
Many Clinton scandals ago, when Hillary Clinton was trying to explain how she’d parlayed a $1,000 stake in cattle futures into $100,000 in 10 months (by talking to other people and reading The Wall Street Journal) folks were skeptical. How, they asked, could a novice make so much money in so short a time in such a risky market?
Turns out Mrs. Clinton is a better learner than she’s given credit for, and the Clinton emails released by Judicial Watch on Monday prove it. The emails were pried out of the system by Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, and they suggest why the Clinton Foundation could be so attractive to the rich and mighty. When a donor had a problem that required the secretary of state’s attention, there was Doug Band—a Clinton Foundation exec—emailing Hillary’s top staffers at the State Department to ask a favor.
Take a June 23, 2009, email from Doug Band to Huma Abedin. In his email Mr. Band noted that the Crown Prince of Bahrain (a “good friend of ours”) was asking to see Mrs. Clinton. There are, of course, many ways to be a “good friend,” but one sure way would be to contribute between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, as the kingdom of Bahrain had done. Not to mention that the prince had also spent $32 million on a scholarship launched through the Clinton Global Initiative.
Ms. Abedin responded that the prince had sought a meeting through “normal” channels but had been shot down. Less than 48 hours after Mr. Band had asked her, Ms. Abedin reported that “we have reached out through official channels.” The meeting was on.
It isn’t the only favor Mr. Band requested. A month earlier, he had emailed Ms. Abedin to ask her help in getting an English soccer player a visa to the U.S. The player was supposed to come to Las Vegas for a team celebration, but he needed a special interview with the visa section at the American Embassy in London due to a “criminal charge” against him.
Because of this, the office of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) had refused to intervene. Mr. Band’s email made clear the request was on behalf of Casey Wasserman, a sports and entertainment exec who had contributed between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation via the Wasserman Foundation.
These are only two of the many email exchanges in which Ms. Abedin was asked to intervene on behalf of some Clinton Foundation donor. These latest emails fit the same pattern as another batch released earlier this month, which showed Mr. Band asking Ms. Abedin and longtime Clinton aide Cheryl Mills for a meeting with a U.S. ambassador on behalf of a foreign businessman, as well as seeking a job for someone he described as “important to take care of.”
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton sums it up this way: “It looks like the State Department was outsourcing its work to the Clinton Foundation.”
The model worked well for the Clintons, and some believe the Clinton Foundation will be copied by other pols, who will set up spouses or friends with foundations in hopes of attracting the big dollars that they can use to advance their brands, reward their friends and operate as a de facto permanent political campaign—all under the garb of charity.
No doubt some will try. But no one will be as successful as the Clintons have been.
The reason is simple. The Clintons are a business partnership with something that no other political couple has to sell. True, all ex-presidents hit the speaking circuit and have charities and foundations. Even so, the Clintons are unique in having an ex-president with a spouse in play, not only as secretary of state but as a possible president herself. If you are a foreign government or a wealthy businessmen, a donation to the Clinton Foundation might look like an excellent investment at just about any price.
Quid pro quo is notoriously hard to prove in such cases, and we will never know what (if anything) Mrs. Clinton or State delivered in return. We’re asked to believe that it was somehow an accident that so many of the millions former President Bill Clinton raked in from speaking fees would come from companies, countries or people who had business before a State Department run by his wife. The truth is, this was inevitable under the Clinton Foundation business model. And it beggars belief to think all these dollars were being given out without an expectation of something in return.
In the meantime we are back to a presidential campaign in which Donald Trump’s critics attack his business record by pointing out that the New York City real-estate mogul doesn’t even own many of the buildings that bear his name. What he’s selling is the Trump brand.
Then again, when it comes to dubious branding for profit, these latest emails make Mr. Trump look like a piker compared with Mrs. Clinton.