Pixel Tracker

Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 6:35 am | Fair 50º


Dick Polman: Let’s Chew on the New Clinton Foundation Nothingburger

The mainstream media have a tough time “balancing” the coverage of a presidential campaign in which one candidate is temperamentally suited for the Oval Office and the other candidate belongs in a middle-school locker room, snapping wet towels.

But in the service of “balance,” the media are trying their best nonetheless. This week, for instance, the Associated Press has targeted the Clinton Foundation — isn’t everyone? — looking for the ever-elusive smoking gun, the incontrovertible evidence that Hillary Clinton turned the State Department into a “pay for play” playground for the fat cats who pumped money into her family’s charitable organization.

The AP found zilch.

People who think the mainstream media are “in the tank” for Clinton should check out the AP’s social media drumbeat. When the story was posted on Tuesday afternoon, it was accompanied by two promotional items that were designed to rivet our eyeballs:

“AP analysis: More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.”

And this:

“At least 85 of 154 people who met or had phone conversations with HC while she was SOS donated or pledged commitments to her family charity.”

Wow, more than half! 85 of 154 people! That looks really bad — until you stop and think and say to yourself, “Wait a sec. Hillary Clinton was secretary of state for four years ... and in all that time she met or had phone chats with only 154 people? Is that really true?”

Of course not. You rack up the hits on social media only if you keep things simple. Nuance is the enemy.

By all accounts, Clinton during her tenure met worldwide with roughly 1,700 people. The AP simply decided to eliminate, from its tally, everyone who worked in any capacity for any government, foreign or domestic.

That’s how the AP got it down to 154. In other words, during Clinton’s four-year tenure, 85 of the 1,700 people she dealt with — a mere 5 percent — had donated or pledged to the Clinton Foundation.

Which in itself should not be surprising, because the foundation does good works around the world (fighting poverty and AIDS, stuff like that), and any State Department leader is destined as a matter of course to encounter philanthropists and other heavy hitters who have an abiding interest in those good works.

You might ask, “OK, but what about those 5 percent? That’s still 85 people. That’s enough to show a pattern of pay-to-play, the trading of cash for favors.”

Which brings us to the case of Muhammad Yunus. This was the AP’s showcase attempt to prove pay-to-play.

Yunus is an anti-poverty activist and economist based in Bangladesh. He gave money to the Clinton Foundation — not personally, but through a nonprofit bank that he chaired. During Clinton’s time at State, he was clashing with the Bangladeshi government over his tenure on the bank board.

He asked for her help in three meetings, and, as the story reported, “she ordered aides to find ways to assist him.” He later resigned from the board, and Clinton emailed one of her aides, “Sad indeed.”

Somehow, this revelation has failed to take my breath away.

I suppose you could argue that she wanted to help Yunus because his bank had donated to the foundation. But it’s way too facile to say that he bought access.

Thing is, you could just as easily argue that she wanted to help him because (1) he’s the winner of a Nobel Peace Prize, (2) he has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, (3) he has been awarded a Congressional Gold Medal, (4) he has been listed as one of Foreign Policy magazine’s “top 100 global thinkers,” ranking one notch from the very top, and (5) he has served on the board of the United Nations Foundation.

Granted, Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, made things worse for themselves by running a charitable group while Hillary was in office, the kind of arrangement that typically (as the AP put it) “fuels perceptions” of derring-do. But there is no “growing proof of pay-to-play,” despite all the mainstream media’s exertions to “balance” campaign coverage.

Someone should also remind Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus that GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has given $110,000 to the Clinton Foundation (and has received no favors in return), and presumably he has done so because, in the words of current campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, the Clinton group “does a lot of good work.”

Now there’s a revelation. Even a Trump spinner will occasionally let slip the truth.

Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia, a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania and is syndicated by Cagle Cartoons. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter: @DickPolman1. Click here for more columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.