Whenever a transgression against transparency is charged to the Clintons, whether real, alleged or invented, America’s political media rise up in sustained outrage. From the offices of the New York Times Washington bureau to the Manhattan studio of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, journalists bitterly protest Hillary Clinton’s erased emails and her family foundation’s fundraising methods. And they will surely snap and snark about her “scandals” from now until Election Day.
Which under present circumstances might be justified, since she happens to be running for president — except for one glaring problem. Very few in the press corps apply the same standards to any Republican politician.
Nobody will ever get to see the thousands of messages erased from the private email account used by former Secretary of State Colin Powell when he held that high office. He got rid of them and got away with it (as most likely did former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who implausibly claimed not to have used email, when the State Department asked for hers).
Or at least such is the attitude of the press and punditry, who seem to believe that the dumping of Powell’s emails is somehow “different” from what Clinton did. And it is, of course – because she turned over more than 30,000 emails, while he turned over zero. But there is no sound of furious buzzing within the Beltway over the Powell emails; instead there is absolute silence.
Do readers and viewers want to know what Powell and Rice’s emails said about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, a topic of political and historic interest? Don’t they have a right to know? Well, Washington journalists who claim to represent the public interest don’t care.
And the double standard protecting Republicans extends well beyond the email “scandal.”
Consider the Clinton Foundation, whose critics complain that its fundraising has been opaque and suspect. The names of all of its donors have been posted on its website for years (except for a tiny 0.3 percent who gave to a related Canadian foundation and went unreported for arcane legal reasons).
To this day, however, George W. Bush’s foundation, which collected $500 million to build and endow his presidential library in Texas, has refused to disclose the name of every donor. The names that have been disclosed are difficult to find, unless you visit the library itself.
Like Bill Clinton, Bush began to raise money for his library from undisclosed donors while still in office, which raised ethical concerns. Bush told reporters that he might well raise money from foreign donors (which he did) and might not disclose any of their names (he disclosed some, years later). He hosted White House dinners and meetings around the country for potential library contributors, also unnamed.
Only after the London Sunday Times caught a lobbyist pal of Bush on videotape in July 2008 — soliciting $200,000 for the library from someone who claimed to represent a Central Asian dictator — did the Bush White House promise not to raise money from abroad while he was still president.
Yet this little scandal provoked no more than a few days of press coverage, a flurry of denials, and one or two tut-tutting editorials. And now that brother Jeb is running for president, nobody thinks to demand all the names of all the Bush library donors, so the press and public can gauge their potential influence on the candidate.
No, that kind of obsessive inspection is reserved for one political family. Their name is not Bush.
Those Clinton Foundation critics have gone so far as to claim that it isn’t a charity at all, despite top ratings by Guidestar and Charity Watch. A Wall Street Journal editorial snarled that any good done by the foundation is merely “incidental to its bigger role as a fund-raising network and a jobs program for Clinton political operatives.” Actually, the foundation has employed thousands of people, few of whom had any political ties, to bring vital services to the poor around the world.
But there is at least one tax-exempt entity that serves no charitable purpose, existing only to employ political aides and family members: the “Campaign for Liberty,” dubiously subsidized by campaign funds left over from Ron Paul’s political accounts.
Its employees, which include most adult members of the Paul family and most of Ron and Rand Paul’s top operatives, move between “charity” and campaign. It reimbursed Ron Paul’s expenses, even after taxpayers had already paid those same travel bills. Its current leadership is entangled in a festering scandal in Iowa, where prosecutors are investigating the alleged bribery of a local GOP official who shifted from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul in 2012.
Which other presidential candidates are involved in such non-profit nastiness? How many used private email accounts and conveniently lost the archives? Voters will probably never find out – because nobody named Clinton is involved.