So, I'm just not grasping this whole thing about the Clinton Foundation. People donate to the foundation, Hillary Clinton meets with them. They may or may not want a policy change, and Hillary may or may not have worked to implement the policy change.

This just underpins something that most reasonable people know. If you don't have something tangible to offer to politicians (Money in the case of campaign donations, or in Joe the Plumber's case a mouthpiece to connect with the plebeians, finally the plebeians themselves based on their votes), you don't typically get access to high level political systems. Based on that, how are donations to the Clinton Foundation substantially different from the pay-to-play system that has already existed for the past hundred or so years? The republicans seem hell-bent on using it to damn her, but for instance, they do the same thing with the NRA and campaign contributions. The NRA contributes large sums to get right-wingers elected, right-wingers refuse to hear event the most rudimentary of gun control laws; Quid-pro-quo.

Why is Hillary Clinton meeting with foundation donors and possibly granting political favors any different from any of the other pay-to-play political shenanigans that have been going on for most of time?

  • 2
    You need to note that Hillary was Secretary of State, fourth in the line of succession, not a politician when she received such a big amount of money. That's the real problem and issue.
    – Rathony
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 14:49
  • 2
    @Rathony While we would hope that those closer to our highest office are above corruption (and based on the fact that seemingly everyone does this it may be harder to call it corruption), that doesn't answer the question of why it's substantively different from what is in practice at the middling levels of congress. Additionally, "Secretary of State" and "Politician" are hardly exclusive titles.
    – Sidney
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 15:01
  • @Sidney I understand your point, but name one SOS who received such a large amount of money through a foundation that has his/her name in the history. The most important thing is why she was not able to foresee this would be a big issue when she runs for Presidency. It is a no-brainer and that's why people are pointing this out and doubt her judgment skills. SOS works for the country and paid by the government and a politician works for him/herself or ideology they believe in and they spend their own money and donations. There is a very thick line between them.
    – Rathony
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 15:06
  • @Rathony what is the significance of the title of Secretary of State? Lots of politicians run lots of foundations and meet with lots of people. Unless you are using a different definition of politician than the rest of us are.
    – user1530
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:35
  • @Rathony oh, I see what you are getting at. I'd agree on a technicality, I suppose, but in the end, everyone working in those levels of office are politicians. Also note that elected officials (ie, politicians) are also referred to as being 'public servants'. Whether one is appointed or elected, they are considered public servants and receive a salary from the government they work for.
    – user1530
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:48

4 Answers 4


The NRA contributes large sums to get right-wingers elected, right-wingers refuse to hear event the most rudimentary of gun control laws; Quid-pro-quo.

That's not really the same situation as this. Gun-rights candidates (and gun-control candidates) announce their position before getting contributions and before getting elected. Their positions don't change from before the contribution to after.

Here what we have is Hillary Clinton refusing a meeting (with the Crown Prince of Bahrain) and then allowing the meeting...after he makes commitments to the foundation. I.e. we can actually see a change in her position before and after the contribution. That's a real quo. Something changed.

Note that separately both actions are fine and legal separately. But here we have proof that Huma Abedin (Clinton's direct assistant) knew about the contribution. Clinton had promised not to have anything to do with the foundation while Secretary of State. She clearly broke that promise.

Another issue is how the Crown Prince of Bahrain saw things. Perhaps he felt extorted by the foundation. As people have been pointing out, there was absolutely nothing wrong with granting him a meeting. The problem is that he was kept off the schedule, paid the Clinton Foundation, and was then put on the schedule. The claim is that he was put on the schedule due to a new opening. He could easily feel ill-used here, as he had reasonable cause to expect a meeting to be granted without bribes.

The final issue is that campaign contributions can't be used outside the campaign. If a candidate has extra money at the end, they can either carry it forward to next time or donate it to someone else's campaign. They can't just spend it or put it in their own bank account. The foundation could give money to the Clintons (although they claim it hasn't so far). They could pay themselves salaries and reimburse expenses.

Personally, I have a problem with campaign contributions given to incumbents. I don't think that that should be legal. If someone wants to run for office, they should give up their existing job first. I had that problem when Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain were running. They should not have been able to run for president while in office. Further, once in office, presidents (and other office holders) should not be able to attend fundraisers in my opinion. But the law's not like that in the US currently. Campaign contributions are treated as a special case. Unless you can prove that a candidate something because of the campaign contribution, it's not illegal. And that's ridiculously hard to prove.

  • The NRA perhaps a poor example in general, as every politician knows exactly what happens based on which stance they take based on where they are running for office. There's no 'changed' positions generally because they are so well defined from the get-go. It's not a nuanced position typically open to mind-changing.
    – user1530
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:40
  • And to be clear...I mean it's not open to mind-changing even if bribes were involved...as the candidate's demographics are pretty much set in stone on that particular topic. A change in stance would typically result in a loss of office.
    – user1530
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:49
  • @blip If you notice, I didn't choose that example. That sounds more like an answer to the original poster than a comment on my post.
    – Brythan
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 23:20
  • I noticed. It was an agreement more than anything.
    – user1530
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 23:53

It is nothing unusual to see smear campaigns in US elections. The answers to the question "Is the smearing growing in the USA?" deals in more detail with the history of throwing accusation after accusation at the opposing candidate to see what sticks.

The most efficient counter to a smear campaign is the appeal to hypocrisy: Point out that the same accusations can also be made about the other candidate. But in this election we have the rare situation that the Republican candidate never had a political office before. So any accusations about misconduct in a political office can not be countered with an appeal to hypocrisy, making it an unusually safe attack to make.

  • One possible addition/counter, which I don't know the relevance of, is that these are contributions to a foundation, as opposed to explicitly political contributions, which (I think?) need to be reported to the FEC. Is that actually a thing, or just an irrelevant distinction?
    – Bobson
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 19:45
  • @Bobson To the average voter would looks more like abusing a loophole, which makes it look even more malicious.
    – Philipp
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 20:04
  • I like this answer as it leverage the entire issue of perception...which is everything when it comes to campaigns.
    – user1530
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:43

Campaign contributions are very different than donations to a charity.

  1. Campaign finances are closely monitored and must be spent on the campaign itself. Charities have limited financial oversight and can do almost anything with the money except call it profit.
  2. Foreign parties are prohibited from contributing to a campaign. Charities can take donations from anyone.
  3. There are contribution limits placed on campaign donations to limit how much an individual can spend, intended to prevent undue influence based on large donations. Charities have no such limit.
  4. Campaign Contributions must be declared and are publicly accessible as to who and how much was donated. Donating to a charity is entirely private.
  5. Government Employees are restricted from receiving gifts/donations from foreign entities or government contractors, to prevent things exactly like this.

The key difference is campaign contributions are known, tracked, and everything is publicly available, influence can still be bought but the public will know and can act appropriately. What Hilary is being accused of with the Clinton Foundation is essentially taking bribes, but channeling them through a charity so its easier to keep secret and technically isn't a bribe.

Another semi related issue is that the act of disguising transactions to their illegal nature is itself illegal. Breaking up your profits from selling drugs into multiple small deposits so they aren't reported according to anti money laundering laws is one example. Having people make a contribution to a charity controlled by your husband/daughter in order to gain access to a government office would be another example.

  • This is true and correct. However it doesn't point out all the other ways money can be funneled into influence outside of a direct campaign contribution. The problem is, indeed, what you point out as the "technically not a bribe" bribe. There's the old joke that what some 3rd world countries call 'bribes' those in 1st world countries call 'loopholes'. There's an argument that the former is a more honest system. :)
    – user1530
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:45
  • 1
    The regulations apply to direct contributions to a candidate. They do not apply to donations to a dark-money PAC that supports a candidate.
    – jalynn2
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:58

Why is Hillary Clinton meeting with foundation donors and possibly granting political favors any different from any of the other pay-to-play political shenanigans that have been going on for most of time?

Pay-to-play is sadly an ingrained part of American politics. The problem is much greater than most of the public appreciates. One could make the argument that the Clinton system of pay-for-access is no different from what goes on routinely in Congress, the executive branch, and the courts.

One could also make some distinctions.

  1. Using one's own charity. Donating to a politician's favorite charity is a common way of funneling bribes. The Clintons have taken it to the next level by setting up their own charity where they control the money.
  2. The scope: The amount of money involved here is staggering: over a billion dollars. John Boehner's Catholic School charity and Charlie Range's personal monument charity come no where in scope.
  3. Foreign money. I have never seen foreign money solicited to such an extent before.
  4. The Clinton foundation was routinely routing requests from donors to the State Department.
  5. The government records issue. Clearly Hillary was using a personal computer server to hide the connection between her and the foundation while at the State Department.
  • 1
    should be in jail. Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 14:40
  • With an FBI director with a full, three-piece set, should could have been. Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 19:48

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