THE CLINTON FOUNDATION’S HISTORY OF CONTROVERSY
The FBI’s latest probe into the foundation may seem like a political witch hunt, but there are reasons to wonder what’s going on with the organization.
With few exceptions, most presidents fade from public life once they step down.
Bill Clinton, however, has shunned leisure time since his administration ended in January of 2001. Instead, he has whiled away the hours toiling for an eponymous foundation he established with his wife Hillary Clinton. At least initially, the foundation seemed well-suited for cleaning up his legacy, after the ugliness of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the subsequent impeachment and Senate trial tarnished it.
At first blush, this might appear to be a purely partisan witch hunt launched by the Clintons’ conservative political enemies. Based on my scholarship regarding relationships between the government and non-profits as well as philanthropists, I believe it’s fair to say that large foundations tend to be scandal-free.
That is not the case for the Clinton Foundation, however, which has repeatedly stirred controversy over its unusual fundraising practices.
The Clintons launched their primary public charity in 1997. It has since grown from an organization to raise funds for the Clinton Presidential Library into one of the nation’s most visible foundations. It runs ambitious programs in such areas as HIV/AIDS, climate change, healthy children, economic development, and Haiti earthquake relief, along with a variety of other initiatives.
If reports that the FBI re-opened its investigation are accurate, it would be the first time the foundation has been investigated since 2016—and the first time since Donald Trump, whose campaign demonized his opponent Hillary Clinton with “lock her up” chants at his rallies, took office.
While it is highly inappropriate for a sitting president to call on his own Department of Justice to investigate his political opponents, Trump has nevertheless openly pushed for investigations of the Clintons while in office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on the outs with his boss because of his recusal in the Russia investigation has, according to the Washington Post, begun to look “into matters that Trump has publicly complained are not being pursued.”
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