FTC Accused of Engaging in ‘Partisan’ Defense of Clintons

Bill and Hillary Clinton
Bill and Hillary Clinton / AP
May 20, 2016

The Federal Trade Commission is being accused of engaging in a partisan defense of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their business interests after the agency refused a congressional request to investigate the family’s foundation.

The agency, which is charged with ensuring consumer protection, rejected a request to investigate the nonprofit Clinton Foundation despite "serious and well-documented" concerns from lawmakers, said Matthew Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney who serves as executive director for the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), an ethics watchdog group.

The FTC penned a letter to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) this week rejecting a request from she and 21 members of Congress that the FTC review the nonprofit status of the Clinton Foundation after reports raised questions about the charity’s transparency and possible deception.

The initial request, filed in the form of a letter to FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez in April, cited reports indicating that the foundation may not have spent all of its money on charitable work despite its mission and also failed to disclose millions of dollars it received from foreign governments during the time that Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.

But Ramirez, a Democrat, dodged the request, indicating that there was not sufficient evidence. "When the Commission can establish that an entity claiming to be a charity is in fact operating to profit itself or its members, i.e., is a ‘sham charity,’ the Commission can bring an enforcement action against the entity for making deceptive representations to donors," Ramirez wrote on Monday.

Whitaker accused the agency of acting as a "partisan defender" of the Clintons in a statement reacting to the decision.

"It’s shameful that a federal agency, which prides itself on exposing deceptive practices and advocating for a level playing field, has turned into a partisan defender of the Clintons and their family business interests," Whitaker stated Friday.

"Last year, I expressed similar concerns when I asked the IRS to investigate the Clinton Foundation for making improper payments of nearly $350,000 to erase campaign debt from Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign," he continued. "As a nonprofit organization, Clinton Foundation income cannot be used to benefit a private individual."

Whitaker also noted that emails released from Clinton’s private server during her tenure as secretary of state have indicated that she gave preferential treatment to foundation donors. A Fox News report earlier this year indicated that the FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails had expanded to look at whether any intersection of Clinton Foundation and State Department business violated public corruption laws.

"If they can’t take concerns about an organization already under FBI investigation seriously, then maybe the FTC should be renamed the Foundation for The Clintons." Whitaker said.

In a statement reacting to the FTC’s letter, Blackburn said Thursday that the agency’s response was "inconsistent with their mission and precedent."

"It appears they took the easy route of sending back a form letter rather than truly investigating an issue that is of compelling public interest. The allegations swirling around the Foundation are very serious and should be thoroughly vetted. This is an issue of fairness and accountability that needs to be addressed," Blackburn said.