The New York Times editorial board is calling on Hillary Clinton to reinstate the Clinton Foundation's ban on foreign contributors.
The Times writes that Clinton must "separate philanthropy from political clout," and "reassure the public that the foundation will not become a vehicle for insiders’ favoritism."
Foreign nationals are banned by law from contributing to American politicians’ campaign coffers. This ban does not apply to private foundations, but the idea behind it — that influence should not be bought — is relevant to a political campaign, where appearances can count for much.
The foundation, which has drawn bipartisan praise in the past, emphasizes that it is solely a philanthropy, not a political machine, declaring, "The bottom line: These contributions are helping improve the lives of millions of people across the world, for which we are grateful."
No critic has alleged a specific conflict of interest. The foundation, in fact, went beyond normal philanthropic bounds for transparency six years ago in instituting voluntary disclosure of donors within broad dollar ranges on its website. But this very information can feed criticism.
Donations from foreign governments and nationals, for example, were found to make up more than half of the category of $5-million-plus contributions, according to The Washington Post. A third of donations in the $1-million-plus bracket came from foreign governments and other overseas entities.
Substantial overlap was found between foundation contributors and familiar Clinton campaign donors and money bundlers. Considering the Clintons’ popularity and influence in their party, this is no surprise. But it does make it important that Mrs. Clinton, in defending the family’s efforts on behalf of the world’s needy, reassure the public that the foundation will not become a vehicle for insiders’ favoritism, should she run for and win the White House.
Restoring the restrictions on foreign donors would be a good way to make this point as Mrs. Clinton’s widely expected campaign moves forward.