Bill Clinton+Hillary Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak to guests at the Clinton Global Initiative.(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

National Journal

There are not two Clinton controversies. There is one big, hairy deal.

By Ron Fournier
March 8, 2015

“Follow the money.” That apocryphal phrase, attributed to Watergate whistle-blower “Deep Throat,” explains why the biggest threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential dreams is not her emails. It’s her family foundation. That’s where the money is: corporate money, foreign money, gobs of money sloshing around a vanity charity that could be renamed “Clinton Conflicts of Interest Foundation.”

What about the emails? Hillary Clinton’s secret communications cache is a bombshell deserving of full disclosure because of her assault on government transparency and electronic security. But its greatest relevancy is what the emails might reveal about any nexus between Clinton’s work at State and donations to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation from U.S. corporations and foreign nations.

Under fire, Bill Clinton said his namesake charity has “done a lot more good than harm”—hardly a ringing endorsement. One of his longest-serving advisers, a person who had worked directly for the foundation, told me the “longtime whispers of pay-to-play are going to become shouts.”

This person, a Clinton loyalist and credible source, has no evidence of wrongdoing but said the media’s suspicions are warranted. “The emails are a related but secondary scandal,” the source said. “Follow the foundation money.”

Is the foundation clean? Is it corrupt? Or is the truth in the muddy middle, where we so often find the Clintons? Due to the fact that Hillary Clinton chose to skirt federal regulations and house her State Department emails on an off-the-books server, even the most loyal Democrat can’t honestly answer those questions without an independent vetting of her electronic correspondence.

Without those emails, we may never be able to follow the money. Could that be why she hasn’t coughed up the server?

Disclosure: I’ve known and respected the Clintons since the 1980s, when I covered state politics for the Arkansas Democrat (now the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) and the Associated Press. Over the years, they’ve been kind to my family, and my career obviously benefited from their rise. Of all the public servants I’ve covered since moving to Washington in 1993, none approach the Clintons in terms of both strengths and weaknesses. While I’ve never called them corrupt (the Whitewater land deal was legitimate), I can tell you almost 30 years of stories about their entitlement, outsized victimization, and an aggravating belief in the ends justifying the means.

Which is why I wasn’t surprised when veteran Clinton chronicler Todd S. Purdum of Politco compared Hillary Clinton to Richard Nixon.

Not even Clinton’s harshest critics could claim that Servergate (or Chappaquadata, or whatever it may come to be called) constitutes a high crime or misdemeanor. But it does connote a reflexive wariness about her enemies—a wariness that sometimes seems to border on paranoia—that has long dogged Clinton, and that struck at least a few old Nixon hands as familiar …

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