Wednesday, June 15, 2016

On Hillary and Her Families Money

I had a conversation with an old friend, who differs with me politically but it's makes for an interesting conversation. He's equally bothered by both leading candidates. "Ones a clown and the other is an unethical crook". So we agree on the clown part and I asked about his rationale for the other. There were a few other points but one was about huge speaking fees and donations from foreign officials while she was in office. I knew a little about these accusations but not a lot, so I spent a fair amount of time today reading about the Clinton Foundation and Hillary's income. I'm not too bothered by it.

There are a few stories about the Foundation being a "slush fund" for them Charity watchdog: Clinton Foundation a ‘slush fund’, but that's easily disproved, Where Does Clinton Foundation Money Go?

They've definitely raise a lot of money over their careers both for their elections and the foundation. This WP article from last November sums that up nicely: 41 years. $3 billion. Inside the Clinton donor network.

This one from a few months prior talks about how the Foundation came about: The inside story of how the Clintons built a $2 billion global empire

This Fortune article put things in some perspective for me, For Hillary Rodham Clinton, Politics Is a Money-Making 'Family Business' - Fortune.

So until recently they didn't make much. He was in public service, $35K for AK governor in 1991 and she was a lawyer on a board or two making under $200K. Nice, but not the super rich. And they didn't make much while he was in the White House (and they racked up legal bills). But then she went into the Senate (an avg professional salary) and he wrote a book. Then he started the foundation and I've heard him talk about the impetus, that he could use his fame to connect the capable (wealthy but also with special skills) with the needy. By most accounts, that's a fairly new idea and it's been impactful. And in spite of the accusations, they seem to spending the money effectively, not on themselves. She's released all her tax returns and information for decades, that's pretty open.

And the thing that this article pointed out for me, sure, they got money from speaking fees and books, and while it seems exorbitant, they are extraordinary people, but they also didn't invest the money in specific companies or even industries. Their wealth is mostly in index funds and insurance policies. Hillary Clinton Net Worth 2016. They seem to have just two homes, one in Chapaqua worth under $2m and one in DC worth about $7m. While that's certainly very nice, it's what I'd expect of ex-presidents and far less than what I'd expect of someone using their reputation to live the high life (compare it to say Trump or even Romney).

To be sure, there are a few cases of donations to the Foundation that suspiciously match up to some policy stuff while she was Sec of State. Great, investigate them fully and see what comes up. But so far, it doesn't feel to me like a pattern of people using their public service roles to enrich their personal lives.

I'm less bothered by her speaking fees than I am by her big-money funded campaign, but given our current election system, that doesn't rise to the level of "unethical crook". Bernie might think so, and i think his stance is clearly more ethical on the matter (and Lessig's too). I am a little bothered by the idea of her taking in large speaking fees after being Sec of State knowing then that she was going to run for president (or at least consider doing so). But I don't think it changed her positions on things, everyone in 2008 already thought she was the candidate of big money.

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