The Associated Press suggested it was unethical for then-first lady Hillary Clinton to push for tax breaks for those who donated to nonprofit organizations while the William J. Clinton Foundation was soliciting donations for the Clinton administration's presidential library -- but its own article later undermined those claims, outlining how the proposed measure had been building momentum since 1997, three years prior to the alleged conflict of interest. In fact, as the AP admitted, the proposal in question would provide no "direct" benefit to the foundation.
Hillary Clinton endorsed a plan proposed by the Clinton administration to provide tax breaks to "private foundations and wealthy charity donors" while she was first lady, according to a May 22 report from the AP:
As first lady in the final year of the Clinton administration, Hillary Rodham Clinton endorsed a White House plan to give tax breaks to private foundations and wealthy charity donors at the same time the William J. Clinton Foundation was soliciting donations for her husband's presidential library, recently released Clinton-era documents show.
The AP suggested that the "blurred lines between the tax reductions proposed by the Clinton administration in 2000 and the Clinton Library's fundraising were an early foreshadowing of the potential ethics concerns that have flared around the Clintons' courting of corporate and foreign donors for their family charity before she launched her campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination."
But the AP's own article went on to undermine its allegations of a conflict of interest that "blurred the lines" between the proposed tax reductions and donations to the Clintons' nonprofit. As a spokesperson for Bill Clinton's office explained, the "administration was not trying to incentivize giving to the foundation, but instead was spurred by a 1997 presidential humanities committee that urged tax breaks for charities to aid American cultural institutions," meaning that the proposal was born from a committee three years prior to the timeline the article used to suggest a conflict of interest.
As The New York Times wrote at the time, the nonpartisan committee had made the recommendations because "cuts in public, private and corporate spending on the arts and humanities [were] undermining cultural and educational institutions in the United States." Funding from donations to nonprofits accounted for "90 percent of the nation's cultural financing," and the proposed tax measures would have helped fund cultural institutions that the federal budget would no longer be able to support.
And as the AP's report later explained, quoting former economic adviser to Bill Clinton, Gene Sperling, not only were the nonprofit tax reductions "'developed at the Treasury Department, endorsed by experts and designed to encourage all forms of charitable giving'" but the foundation also "would not have benefited directly by the tax proposals" at all, and any indirect benefits would also have helped "many other U.S. charities."
From the May 20 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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From the May 19 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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Suddenly under scrutiny for her $250 donation to the Clinton Haiti Relief Fund in 2010, Judy Woodruff, the co-anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour, issued a statement late last week defending her modest giving. "I made the gift in response to an urgent joint appeal from former President Clinton and then-President George W. Bush for aid to the victims of the Haiti earthquake," Woodruff explained in an email to the Wall Street Journal. "Seeing the massive loss of human life and the terrible conditions for survivors, I wanted to make a contribution and saw this as a way to do that."
So it's come to this: A member of the media forced to defend her decision to give $250 to a bipartisan earthquake relief fund five years ago, to help an impoverished island nation.
Woodruff faced questions, of course, because amidst the current frenzied atmosphere, anything connected with the Clinton Foundation has officially been deemed tainted by the Beltway press. The media have teamed up with the GOP to cast every possible aspersion on the $2 billion global charity that helps people with AIDS/HIV around the world get cheaper, better medicine, battles economic inequality, childhood obesity, climate change, and fights for health and wellness. (No, the Clinton Foundation doesn't spend 85 percent of its budget on "overhead." Good grief.)
In recent days, the churning foundation storyline made an odd jump. It moved from the unproven allegations that the Clintons used the foundation to cash in government favors, and shifted to focus on the mere act of giving. Sparked by the revelation that ABC News' George Stephanopoulos had previously given generously to the foundation and hadn't disclosed that fact while reporting on foundation activities, the press began to circle donations and viewed them as potentially problematic.
It's clear Stephanopoulos should have disclosed his donations when the foundation became news and the target of endless Republican and media attacks.
But the overheated narrative now stretches beyond the issue of disclosure. Stephanopoulos was not only criticized for failing to reveal his donation, he was widely condemned for making the donation at all. Media watchdogs were swift: It was completely out of bounds for Stephanopoulos to donate to the Clinton Foundation. Why? Because it's run by the Clintons, which means it's obviously stained, right?
Mission accomplished for Republicans.
It's official: Hillary Clinton now faces two looming campaign challengers, Republicans and their allies in the press. But don't take my word for it. The anti-Clinton press campaign is now an open secret in the media, and it marks a whole new chapter in campaign journalism.
Election seasons always usher in debates about press coverage, with the assumption being coverage can affect electoral results. Which candidates are getting the most positive coverage? And which ones are being dogged by journalists?
Journalists traditionally wave off any allegations of unfair treatment for particular candidates and insist the claims are nothing more than sour grapes, or partisan plots to boost the candidate's chances. Instead, scribes claim, they always play campaigns down the middle.
But in a new twist, some members of the Beltway press corps are stepping forward to announce categorically that Hillary Clinton, despite her envious standing, is the obvious target of media derision. And that the press is actively trying to harm her campaign.
"The national media has never been more primed to take down Hillary Clinton," Politico's Dylan Byers observed late last week, as he surveyed the unfolding campaign season. The same press corps, he added, stands poised to "elevate a Republican candidate."
That's a rather astonishing revelation from inside the Beltway media bubble, right? Openly taking down a Democrat, while elevating a Republican? Wow.
The weird part was that campaign journalists didn't seem to object to the description. There was very little pushback regarding Byer's rather shocking claim; it barely caused a ripple. Journalists don't seem ashamed of that fact that Clinton faces a tougher press than her fellow candidates, or think it reflects poorly on the state of political journalism. More and more journalists are simply admitting the truth: The press is out to get Clinton. Period.
How is it the likely Democratic Party nominee for president has become a constant target of press derision and that journalists admit the media's out to get her? Whatever happened to journalism's role of reporting on what happens in a campaign, and not trying to determine the outcome?
And could you imagine the seismic revolt that would unfold if reporters openly targeted Republicans? But don't hold your breath. When was the last time you read an article, or heard a single television discussion, in which Beltway media elites opined about how their media colleagues despise Gov. Scott Walker, are out to get former Gov. Jeb Bush, or want to take down Sen. Marco Rubio?
That kind of talk could kill a journalist's career because it would ignite the right wing's Liberal Media Bias mob. But publicly admitting the press is "prime" to try to disrupt and dismantle the likely Democratic Party's presidential nominee seems to represent perfectly acceptable behavior.
Talk about the Clinton Rules.
Conservative media outlets rushed to scandalize Bill and Hillary Clinton using the newly released "Deflategate" NFL report finding it was "more probable than not" the New England Patriots conspired to tamper with footballs.
Broadcast media and major newspapers are ignoring the State Department's determination that there is no evidence to support allegations made by Republican activist and discredited author Peter Schweizer in his book, Clinton Cash, that Hillary Clinton's actions as secretary of state were influenced by donations to the Clinton Foundation -- despite the fact that many of these media outlets previously highlighted Schweizer's allegations after receiving advanced excerpts of the book and entering into exclusive agreements with the author to report on its storylines.
On May 4, State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke said that the department is "not aware of any evidence that actions taken by Secretary Clinton were influenced by donation to the Clinton Foundation or speech on honoraria of former President Clinton." The statement came ahead of the official release of Clinton Cash, Republican activist and consultant Peter Schweizer's book which alleges unethical ties between Hillary Clinton's actions as secretary of state and foreign government donations to the Clinton Foundation.
Broadcast media and major newspapers have fallen silent following the State Department's assertion that they "are not aware of any evidence to suggest that there was any influence." Neither Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, nor NBC reported on State's assertion in their May 4 evening broadcasts. Major newspapers including The New York Times, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Politico, and Time magazine failed to report on the State Department's response, despite many having received advanced excerpts from the book and having previously entered into "exclusive agreements" with Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer to report on "storylines found in the book."
There are over 20 errors, fabrications, and distortions in Clinton Cash, which is being released May 5. Many of the media outlets with advanced excerpts of the book have since admitted it contains "no smoking gun," but The New York Times and Washington Post have failed to report on the book's errors since entering into exclusive editorial agreements with the Clinton Cash publisher.
Over just five days last week, Fox News devoted more than 10 hours of total coverage to promoting Peter Schweizer's new anti-Clinton book, Clinton Cash. The coverage is worth more than $107 million in publicity value, according to a Media Matters study of the network's coverage between April 20 and April 24.
Schweizer, a conservative activist with a long history of shoddy reporting and research, is set to release Clinton Cash on May 5. The book is being published by HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Fox News is part of 21st Century Fox, which is also owned by Murdoch. Politico reported last week that Fox News, along with the New York Times and The Washington Post, had struck "exclusive agreements with a conservative author for early access to his opposition research on Hillary Clinton."
Fox News has devoted copious time and energy to promoting the book, which it claims could lead "people" to "worry that another Clinton administration could mean influence-peddling on a scale never before imagined."
A Forbes.com contributor says he has resigned after an interview he posted with a women's rights leader was pulled from Forbes' website without his consent. The former contributor told Media Matters he "strongly disagrees" with the editors' reasons for the removal.
Tom Watson, who contributed paid columns each month to the Forbes.com Social Ventures blog, posted a column on Monday, April 27 with the headline, "Sexism And The Media: As Election Heats Up, Are We Nearer To Tipping Point For Equality?"
The center of the piece was an interview with Jamia Wilson, executive director of Women, Action & the Media, which Watson describes as "a nonprofit organization dedicated to 'building a robust, effective, inclusive movement for gender justice in media.'" Watson and Wilson discussed sexist media coverage of Hillary Clinton, the power of "Networked feminism," and "the need to create and improve newsroom standards about how sexual violence is discussed in the media."
"I think that the story, the interview with Jamia Wilson, was important, especially the timing of it given where we are," Watson told Media Matters on April 29. "I do think this is the most important feminist election cycle in U.S. history, win or lose, and I think it's important to step up and comment on that."
Watson said the column was posted at Forbes.com on Monday night, but removed the next morning. (A Google cache version shows the column on the Forbes site that evening.) He said editors informed him via email Tuesday that it had been pulled, but never asked for his consent.
"They took down a post of mine that I felt was worthy of my Social Ventures blog and I couldn't live with that so I resigned," Watson said. "They told me that they had done it [via email]. I was at a faculty meeting at Columbia University, where I teach part-time, and I saw it come in. It kind of wrecked my day."
Watson declined to reveal which editors informed him of the column's removal, but said he was told that "it was outside the parameters of my beat."
He described his beat as "covering social entrepreneurship, non-profits, philanthropy, start-ups and digital activism space."
Asked to comment on Watson's claims, Forbes Senior Manager of Corporate Communications Laura Daunis said via email, "Forbes felt the post was off topic and not aligned with the entrepreneurship channel's mission."
After Forbes.com pulled the column, it was posted on Medium, but with this tagline at the end announcing Watson's concerns and resignation:
Note: I have resigned as a contributor to Forbes.
Yesterday, I posted this interview with Jamia Wilson of Women, Action & the Media, a nonprofit organization dedicated to "building a robust, effective, inclusive movement for gender justice in media." I consider her work, and that of feminist organizers everywhere, to be vitally important to the field of social entrepreneurship and to public life.
The editors found it inappropriate for the section of Forbes I have contributed my Social Ventures column to for the last three years and they removed it this morning. I strongly disagree with their decision and we have parted ways.
Despite this, I appreciate the audience and platform Forbes provided, and am grateful for the opportunity to write about social entrepreneurship, citizens movements, new nonprofit models, and philanthropy. That conversation will continue elsewhere.
Thank you all for supporting my work, it is deeply appreciated.
Peter Schweizer is backtracking on his false allegation that the decision to exempt the telecommunications industry from Iranian sanctions while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state was connected to Bill Clinton's speaking fees from a Swedish telecommunications company, now admitting that there is no "evidence of a quid pro quo in that case."
Schweizer tried to link Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson's payment to former President Bill Clinton for a speech in November 2011 with the exemption of the telecommunications industry from sanctions against Iran, which does business with Ericsson, during an April 24 Fox News special, The Tangled Clinton Web. Host Bret Baier and Schweizer highlighted allegations from Schweizer's upcoming book, Clinton Cash, that attempts to link donations to the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees earned by Bill Clinton to decisions made by the State Department during Hillary Clinton's tenure in the Obama administration.
The author's speculation is baseless, as the Iran sanctions in question actually took the form of executive actions from President Obama, and not State Department initiatives.
Schweizer is now admitting that there's no evidence of a connection between Clinton's speaking fee and the Iran sanctions decision, walking back his false allegation during an appearance on the April 28 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe. Schweizer claimed that he was "not implying" a link between the decision to exclude the telecommunications industry from sanctions against Iran and Clinton's Ericsson speech and conceded, "Is there evidence of a quid pro quo in that case? No."
Indeed, when Yahoo News reviewed the chapter of Clinton Cash featuring this allegation, they noted that there was "no smoking gun" connecting the speech and the sanctions. Yahoo News further noted that a Clinton aide pointed out that telecommunications manufacturers like Ericsson have not been added to the sanctions since Clinton left the State Department, casting doubt on the suggestion of a connection between the 2011 Bill Clinton speech and U.S. sanctions policy.
Serial misinformer Peter Schweizer falsely claimed on Fox News Sunday that Hillary Clinton had unilateral power to veto the Uranium One deal as part of the nine-agency review panel that oversees such proposals. But members of the review panel only have power to make recommendations to the president, not unilaterally veto them.
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough suggested that the State Department under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton removed Algeria from a list of state sponsors of terror because the nation donated money to the Clinton Foundation, a baseless charge given that Algeria has never been on the State Department's list of terror sponsors.
On the April 27 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-host Scarborough used recent media criticism of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation stemming from the right-wing opposition research book Clinton Cash to suggest the likelihood of illegal coordination between donors to her family's charitable foundation and policy decisions she made as secretary of state. Scarborough claimed that when the Algerian government "wanted to be taken off the terror list in the State Department" the government "wr[o]te a check" to the Clinton Foundation:
SCARBOROUGH: I think it was Algeria maybe that had given a donation that went unreported at a time when they wanted to be taken off of the terror list in the State Department. They write the check, they get taken off the terror list. Now can you?-- at the same time, and then it goes unreported by the Clinton Foundation. Is there a quid pro quo there? I don't know, that's really hard to tell.
This is pretty simple stuff. So Algeria is on the terror list, they want off the terror list, the State Department is making a decision to do it, they write a check for what? How much? How many million dollars do they write a check for? I don't know, but Algeria writes a check ... they write a really big check to the Clinton Foundation. The Clinton Foundation takes the check, and then just, out of nowhere the State Department then decides, well, they are going to take Algeria off the list. Now why did Algeria write a big check to the Clinton Foundation at the time they want something from the State Department?
But the allegations of a quid pro quo relationship hinted at in Scarborough's questions are baseless, because Algeria was not listed as a state-sponsor of terror at any point during Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state -- or at any other point. Currently, the list includes only Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria, although Cuba's status is being reviewed. According to NPR, the only nations ever to be removed from this official list are Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and South Yemen.
In fact, Algeria remains a key U.S. ally and partner in the global fight against terrorism in North Africa, according to a State Department report published in 2014, long after Clinton left her post.
Algeria did make a donation to the Clinton Foundation during Clinton's tenure there, in the form of $500,000 to help with relief in Haiti after an earthquake ravaged the nation. According to a February 25 report in The Washington Post, Algeria was "spending heavily to lobby the State Department on human rights issues" around the same time. The Clinton Foundation admitted to improperly failing to disclose this donation.
Just one month after Fox News' Bill O'Reilly brazenly threatened a New York Times reporter, warning her he'd go after her "with everything" he had if he didn't like the article she was writing about him, Times reporter Jo Becker happily cooperated with Fox News for its 60-minute special, The Tangled Clinton Web, which aired April 24.
Based on the pending book Clinton Cash, which is being published by Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins and heavily promoted by Murdoch's Fox News, Murdoch's Wall Street Journal and Murdoch's New York Post, The Tangled Clinton Web represented a mishmash of half-baked Clinton conspiracies that had Hillary and Bill Clinton at the center of a supposed vast web of international bribes and payoffs.
And yet there, featured amidst the waves of misinformation, was a New York Times reporter. Becker's Fox News' appearance was noteworthy, not only because of O'Reilly's stated contempt for the newspaper. But because Times journalists don't make a habit of regularly appearing on openly partisan Fox News, a cable channel that has embraced claims of Obama birtherism and has depicted the president of the United States as a racist, communist sympathizer who apologizes for America. (According to the Times' newsroom guidelines, when appearing on television programs staffers are supposed to avoid forums "that emphasize punditry and reckless opinion-mongering.")
Why the Becker appearance? In part, because she wrote a controversial piece last week that was inspired by Clinton Cash. Part of the Times' unusual "exclusive" arrangement with the book's author, Becker's article tried, and failed, to show how donations to the Clinton Foundation influenced Clinton's State Department when it signed off on the sale of Uranium One, a Canadian company with uranium mining claims in the U.S., to the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom.
By cooperating with the Fox News Clinton special, a program that was drowning in misinformation, Becker and the Times lent the Fox effort a desperately needed sheen of legitimacy. (i.e. 'Even the liberal New York Times....') And that's likely why prior to The Tangled Clinton Web airing, when Fox released to the media a clip of the special, the clip featured Becker's interview--Fox was proudly brandishing its Times alliance.
What would be the only topic that could create such a strange partnership where The New York Times, the world's most famous news organization, was working hand-in-a-hand with a media outlet that during the last presidential campaign abandoned all pretense of independent journalism and produced and aired its own four-minute political attack ad?
The endless pursuit of the Clintons, of course.
Fox News baselessly suggested that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally approved a deal that eventually gave the Russian government ownership of U.S. uranium mines to benefit a Clinton Foundation donor. But Clinton reportedly had no personal involvement in the deal, which was approved by representatives of nine U.S. agencies after a rigorous review process.
On the April 4 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier previewed his upcoming hour-long special on discredited conservative author Peter Schweizer's forthcoming book Clinton Cash, in which he accuses Bill and Hillary Clinton of influence peddling with foreign governments in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees. The segment focused on Schweizer's allegations regarding Clinton's purported role in approving the sale of the uranium mining company Uranium One to the Russian government.
New York Times reporter Jo Becker, whose own reporting on the Uranium One story has been criticized by the Clinton campaign for burying "original reporting that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale," also appeared in the segment. Both the Times and Fox reportedly "made arrangements for exclusive access" to the book.
During the preview, Schweizer detailed the sale of Uranium One to the Russian state corporation Rosatom. He and Schweizer then had the following exchange:
BAIER: Now, does Secretary Clinton factor into this?
SCHWEIZER: For that deal to go through, it needs federal government approval and one of those people that has to approve that deal is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Baier concluded: "So what this amounts to, in the end, is a Russian company essentially controlled by Vladimir Putin, will now be in charge of a substantial portion of American uranium. Russia sends uranium to its client state, Iran. So American uranium could well be sent to the very nation we're negotiating with to try to slow its ability to develop a nuclear weapon. Thus, we see how far-reaching the effect of the Clinton blur, as Schweizer puts it, can be."
But Baier's preview omitted important context to misleadingly suggest that Clinton personally approved the Russian purchase. According to Time, which received this chapter of Schweizer's book in advance, the State Department's role in approving the deal was part of an extensive bureaucratic process, and Schweizer's chapter offers no indication of Hillary Clinton's personal involvement in, or even knowledge of, the deliberations. In fact, Time quotes Jose Hernandez, who as former Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs was involved the deliberations on behalf of the State Department, denying that Clinton was involved in the matter at all.
Moreover, Time pointed out that the "deal's approval was the result of an extensive interagency process that required the assent of at least nine different officials and agencies" through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. According to the report, "State has just one vote on the nine-member committee, which also includes the departments of Defense, Treasury and Energy. Disagreements are traditionally handled at the staff level, and if they are not resolved, they are escalated to deputies at the relevant agencies. If the deputies can't resolve the dispute, the issues can be elevated to the Cabinet Secretary level and, if needed, to the President for a decision. The official chairman of CFIUS is the Treasury Secretary, not the Secretary of State."
Furthermore, the Uranium One deal also had to receive approval from "the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, an independent agency outside of the State Department's purview, as well as Utah's nuclear regulator. The deal also received approval from Canada's foreign investment review agency."
Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon has denied any wrongdoing by Clinton and criticized Becker for burying crucial facts from her report "that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale."
Relying largely on research from the conservative author of Clinton Cash, today's New York Times alleges that donations to the Clinton Foundation coincided with the U.S. government's 2010 approval of the sale of a company known as Uranium One to the Russian government. Without presenting any direct evidence in support of the claim, the Times story -- like the book on which it is based -- wrongly suggests that Hillary Clinton's State Department pushed for the sale's approval to reward donors who had a financial interest in the deal. Ironically, buried within the story is original reporting that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale.
The New York Times is urging the Clinton Foundation to reinstitute a ban that never existed on accepting donations from foreign governments.
The Times editorial board wrote on April 23 that now that Hillary Clinton is running for president, the international nonprofit "needs to reinstate the ban on donations from foreign governments for the rest of her campaign -- the same prohibition that was in place when she was in the Obama administration." Likewise, an April 23 Times news article stated that the Foundation recently "limited donations from foreign governments," but that the new policy "stops short of Mrs. Clinton's agreement with the Obama administration, which prohibited all foreign government donations while she served as the nation's top diplomat."
In fact, the 2008 memorandum of understanding entered into by the Clinton Foundation and then-President-Elect Barack Obama did not ban foreign government donations. Instead, it stated that if Hillary Clinton were confirmed as secretary of state, the Foundation would "continue to perform" its activities "on behalf of existing foreign country contributors and in fulfillment of existing and on-going commitments."
The Clinton Foundation's board agreed earlier this month to return to a similar policy given Clinton's run for president. They will "permit donations from Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the U.K. -- countries that support or have supported Clinton Foundation programs on health, poverty and climate change," according to the Wall Street Journal.