At her confirmation hearing to become secretary of state in January 2009, Hillary Clinton faced bipartisan conerns about foreign donors to the Clinton Foundation and the potential sway they could have over her in office.
At one tongue-in-cheek moment, Clinton said her career in public service is “hardly free of conflict” and she had “no illusions about the fact that no matter what we do there will be those who will raise conflicts.”
“But I can absolutely guarantee you that I will keep a very close look on how this is being implemented,” she said. “I will certainly do everything in my power to make sure that the good work of the foundation continues without there being any untoward effects on me and my service and be very conscious of any questions that are raised.”
Clinton and the Obama administration signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to reveal Clinton Foundation contributors each year.
“The foundation and the president-elect decided to go beyond what the law and the ethics rules call for to address even the appearance of conflict, and that is why they signed a memorandum of understanding, which outlines the voluntary steps that the foundation is taking to address potential concerns that might come up down the road,” she said. “The memorandum of understanding is, as you know, public and the president-elect and the foundation and I have all worked to be very transparent.”
Clinton added later: “I do believe that the agreement provides the kind of transparency under the memorandum of understanding, foreign government pledges will be submitted to the State Department for review. I don't know who will be giving money.”
As it stands, the Clinton Foundation failed to disclose at least 1,100 of its donors, violating that memorandum of understanding with the Obama administration.
Clinton faces accusations of pay-for-play on several fronts, including a report of millions of Russian dollars going to the foundation while Clinton's State Department approved a deal that eventually put uranium in the control of a Russian-backed company. This led the New York Times editorial board to write her presidential campaign is already “overshadowed by questions about the interplay of politics and wealthy foreign donors who support the Clinton Foundation.”
In response to a question about further openness vis-a-vis donors to the Clinton Foundation's “Clinton Global Initiative” from Sen. David Vitter (R., La.), Clinton said that “transparency and disclosure” on all these matters were extremely important.
“This is an agreement that has been worked out between all of the parties and the fact is that the concerns that were raised in the discussions between the foundation and the president-elect's team were thoroughly discussed and they believe, and I agree, that the transparency and disclosure that is needed, which, as you said yourself, it goes beyond any kind of legal or ethical consideration,” she said.
Clinton went on to say that the foundation had created “confidence” with donors that an “extremely low percentage” of their money “goes to any overhead.”
“It has a very transparent way that it uses the money,” she said. “We're very persuasive to the transition team that we had to work out something to keep the foundation in business while I did what I needed to do to be as transparent as possible.”