Days after the Clinton Foundation said it would stop accepting donations from corporations and foreign entities if Hillary Clinton becomes president, her campaign manager defended the organization’s fundraising after criticism from Republicans and even some Democrats.
“Over 10 million people around the world get important AIDS medication, life-saving AIDS and HIV medication, because of the foundation,” Robby Mook said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The foundation put into effect “unprecedented” protections that were “a big burden” when Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, and would “go even further in terms of disclosure and limits” if she becomes president, Mook said.
“This is important, life-saving work, and there were some foreign governments like Australia and Norway, that were — that had existing donations to the foundation, and the foundation wanted them to be able to follow through on their commitment,” he said.
Even if those steps will eventually prove necessary to avoid actual or apparent conflicts of interest, he suggested the foundation isn’t going further unless Clinton became president.
Republicans have described the foundation as a venue for “pay to play” in which wealthy donors and foreign governments got access to the former top U.S. diplomat through her family’s philanthropic work. News reports have recently revealed repeated contact between staff members at the foundation and the U.S. State Department.
Some parts of the charity network, including the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which represented 66 percent of spending by Clinton-allied charities in 2014, are also still exempt from the rules, the Boston Globe reported on Saturday, although the group’s board will “soon” meet to examine them.
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, told the New York Daily News that it would “be impossible to keep the foundation open without at least the appearance of a problem” if Clinton succeeds in gaining the White House in November.
Mook also addressed a federal judge’s ruling on Aug. 19 that a conservative government transparency group can seek written answers from Clinton about her use of a private e-mail server, saying the candidate would “get to work right away on getting those questions answered.” He wouldn’t guarantee she would respond before the election.
The questions are due Oct. 14, and Clinton will have 30 days to respond. In that scenario, she could avoid answering before election day on Nov. 8, although the group, Judicial Watch, has suggested it will try to get Clinton questions earlier.
In a separate appearance on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” Mook also said that “real questions are being raised” over whether Trump “is just a puppet for the Kremlin in this race.”
“There’s a web of financial ties to the Russians that he refuses to disclose,” he said. “We now need Donald Trump to explain to us the extent to which the hand of the Kremlin is at the core of his own campaign.”
Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, resigned on Aug. 18 amid increased scrutiny of his work for a pro-Moscow Ukrainian political party. The campaign has said that Trump doesn’t have financial links to Russia.
(c) 2016, Bloomberg · Ben Brody