Hey, media: Clinton Foundation is getting swift-boated, and you’re helping

The Clinton Health Access Initiative ensures that HIV-positive mothers can still have healthy children. (Photo from Clinton Foundation website)

The Clinton Health Access Initiative ensures that HIV-positive mothers can still have healthy children. (Photo from Clinton Foundation website)

The latest GOP attacks against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are centered on the global charity, the Clinton Foundation. Even as these attacks show new signs of desperation, Republicans are getting an assist from the media.

That’s right. We’re talking about a charitable foundation that has helped 11.5 million people around the world with HIV drugs and that gets an “A” rating from Charity Watch and a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. Charity Watch also reported that only 12 percent of the foundation’s donations go to overhead rather than services — a darned good ratio, and better than many other charities.

Here’s how a CNN story explained the focus of the Clinton Foundation:

Bill Clinton set up the public charity after he wrapped up his presidency in 2001 with the idea of bringing government, businesses, and social groups together to tackle big problems. It was kind of a new idea at the time. … Clinton wrote in a post on Medium that the foundation is about “creating opportunities and solving problems faster, better, at lower cost so that more people are empowered to build better futures for themselves, their families, and their communities.” …

The foundation is made up of 11 nonprofit groups that work on four major issues: global health and wellness, climate change, economic development, and improving opportunities for girls and women.

Hmm. Sounds suspicious. What else does it do?

Health is a big focus. In more than 70 countries, according to the foundation, it helps 11.5 million people, including 800,000 children, with HIV/AIDS get their medication at 90% lower cost — more than half the adults and three-quarters of the children getting treatment in the world today.

But it does all kinds of other work as well. For instance, it helps East African farmers get better seeds and fertilizers. It supported Nepal’s reconstruction after the 2015 earthquakes. And it has connected more than 500,000 Latin Americans to job training and entrepreneurship opportunities.

A story from the Associated Press that shows how cherry-picked data can give an inaccurate conclusion breathlessly reports that more than half of the people Clinton met with during her tenure at the State Department gave money to the Clinton Foundation. The story incorrectly implies a “pay-for-play” situation.

Of course, that’s only true if you discount the vast majority of the people Clinton actually met with as secretary of state — other foreign diplomats and U.S. government officials. Instead of half, the number who met with Clinton and donated to the Clinton Foundation is really only three percent. And it’s not like she benefited personally: No member of the Clinton family — Hillary, Bill, or Chelsea — was ever paid a dime for their work on the Clinton Foundation. The benefits went to millions and millions of people around the world who have been helped by the foundation. From the CNN story:

“It’s unfortunate that it’s become this punching bag, this political punching bag,” [Charity Watch’s Daniel] Borochoff said. “There’s a lot of things that are said that are false. If Hillary Clinton wasn’t running for president, the Clinton Foundation would be seen as one of the great humanitarian charities of our generation.”

Here’s the Clinton campaign’s response to the AP story, which has reached the brouhaha level in campaign coverage:

“It is outrageous to misrepresent Secretary Clinton’s basis for meeting with these individuals,” spokesman Brian Fallon said. He called it “a distorted portrayal of how often she crossed paths with individuals connected to charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation.”

Cue Republican and media outrage. Republicans and the media never met a Clinton “scandal” that wasn’t worth milking, even if there’s no there there, as Gertrude Stein once said. So Republican nominee Donald Trump is screaming for the foundation to be shut down. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama is calling for a special prosecutor, even though there’s nothing to prosecute.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who should certainly know better after his experience as a prosecutor but loves to attack Clinton after he was too chicken to run against her for the Senate in 2000, is calling for racketeering indictments for the Clinton Foundation. I guess Giuliani didn’t make a big enough fool out of himself when he flogged the “Clinton is sick — just check the Internet” conspiracy theory.

Clinton defenders aren’t mincing words about these latest attacks. The never-one-to-hold back James Carville said that “somebody is going to hell” over the political attacks on the Clinton Foundation. According to a Politico story on his appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Carville discounted the idea that the foundation shouldn’t have accepted donations during Clinton’s tenure at the State Department:

“The bad would be you’d be out hundreds of millions of dollars that are doing good. What the Clinton Foundation does, it takes money from rich people and gives it to poor people. Most people think that’s a pretty good idea,” Carville said.

Carville also told CNN that “people will die” if the Clinton Foundation is shut down. Remember the number from the beginning — 11.5 million people have been helped through the Clinton Foundation.

We expect these attacks from political opponents, but the media should do a more thorough job explaining exactly what the foundation is and what it does, as the CNN story does.

But if you want to go along with the AP “scandal” story, go right ahead. Oh, and be sure to mention the Associated Press and how “professional” its research is next time you visit your dentist and he has to treat you for gum disease, because you believed its hyped story on how there’s no evidence that flossing — one of the most inexpensive of all dental products — helps oral health.

UPDATE: There’s another scandal about a charitable foundation, but this time it’s real, and it’s not about the Clintons. It’s about Donald Trump.

In an actual pay-to-play scheme, in 2013, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, solicited a donation from Trump for her re-election campaign. At the time, she was considering whether to join the multi-state lawsuit against Trump University. The Trump Foundation sent her a $25,000 donation, and she declined to prosecute Trump U.

Of course, it’s illegal for a charitable foundation to donate to a political campaign. Now the IRS has fined the foundation $2,500. Charges also could be pending against Bondi.

Here’s a statement from the Clinton campaign:

Donald Trump has been falsely attacking the charity run by President Clinton when it is Trump’s own Foundation that has been caught in an actual pay-to-play scandal.

While the Clinton Foundation has received the highest ratings from independent charitable watchdogs, Donald Trump’s use of foundation money to donate to the Florida Attorney General actually broke the law. Worst of all, it appears the payment may have been intended to stave off an investigation into the sham Trump University that has ripped off unsuspecting students.

Donald Trump has no standing whatsoever to question the Clinton Foundation, which works to make AIDS and malaria drugs more accessible, when it’s been proven he uses his own foundation to launder illegal campaign donations.

Where’s the coverage of that story, political journalists?


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