Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Are Democrats really this desperate?


The series of stories this week casting light onto shadowy aspects of Bill and Hillary Clinton's finances are newsworthy, but not entirely surprising.

The same goes for the Clintons' instinctive reaction to them: deny, deflect and demean, as the journalist who probably knows them best, Ron Fournier, put it this week.

But what we don't know -- and what will be extremely telling -- is what these revelations will mean for Democrats and their supporters.

In case you aren't up to speed, the New York Times this week broke the story of the Clintons' dealings with a Russian company that came to control one-fifth of the uranium deposits in the United States. Lest you think the "reset" with Russia couldn't have been any worse:

"Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by ... Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One's chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

"And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

"At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company's assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show."

That looks bad enough on its face, and yet a couple of other stories from this week provide some important context to illustrate just how bad those details are:

  • Not only did the Clintons fail to disclose that contribution. When one of the Times' reporters asked the Clintons about a meeting they held at their private home with company officials, the initial response was a denial that the meeting had taken place. Only after the reporter said one of the participants had confirmed the meeting took place -- and had a picture of himself with Bill Clinton at the home -- did a spokesman acknowledge it. See the video below, starting at the 30-second mark:

  • And the $2.35 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation are not the only such transactions that weren't disclosed: Reuters reports the Clintons' charities "are refiling at least five annual tax returns after a Reuters review found errors in how they reported donations from governments." These were not minor discrepancies in terms of either timing or magnitude:

    "For three years in a row beginning in 2010, the Clinton Foundation reported to the IRS that it received zero in funds from foreign and U.S. governments, a dramatic fall-off from the tens of millions of dollars in foreign government contributions reported in preceding years.

    "Those entries were errors, according to the foundation: several foreign governments continued to give tens of millions of dollars toward the foundation's work on climate change and economic development through this three-year period. Those governments were identified on the foundation's annually updated donor list, along with broad indications of how much each had cumulatively given since they began donating."

    Just your run-of-the-mill, tens-of-millions-of-dollars error about gifts that were controversial enough in nature Hillary Clinton had made special disclosure arrangements with the president.

  • As for that $500,000 speaking fee for Bill Clinton: It was much higher than what he used to get before his wife became secretary of state, and it wasn't a one-off deal. ABC News reports :

    "(His speaking fees) often doubled or tripled what he had been charging earlier in his post White House years, bringing in millions of dollars from groups that included several with interests pending before the State Department, an ABC News review of financial disclosure records shows.

    "Where he once had drawn $150,000 for a typical address in the years following his presidency, Clinton saw a succession of staggering paydays for speeches in 2010 and 2011, including $500,000 paid by a Russian investment bank and $750,000 to address a telecom conference in China."

Of course, all of this leads one to wonder if anything of relevance to these stories was included in the thousands of emails deleted from the private server that handled all of Hillary's email correspondence while she was secretary of state.

***

Many Americans were never going to vote for Hillary Clinton to be president. But many others have been determined to get her into the White House. The question is whether these revelations will change their minds -- and, if not, what could possibly persuade them not to support her.

Are there not some Democrats out there who see their all-in gamble on Hillary, to this point anyway, as too risky? Would they not listen if one of the other potential candidates on their side -- Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, perhaps Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren -- made an issue of the Clintons' financial conflicts of interest? Would any of those candidates dare to make an issue of the conflicts, and risk further damaging the person who's still likely to be their party's nominee?

Yes, the coming weeks and months will be very telling about how much of a mess folks on the left will be willing to make, or tolerate, as they try to break that glass ceiling.


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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.