BOSTON: Clinton staffers are brushing off what opponents are calling a “pay-for-play” scandal — the stunning revelation that more than half of the people who met with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state were pouring money into the controversial Clinton Foundation.
“I think there’s a lot of political criticism, and that’s natural in an election year,” Craig Minassian, chief information officer for the Clinton Foundation, said on Herald Radio yesterday. “I think critics are going to be critics of whatever we do.”
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon claimed the Associated Press report on donations relied on “pretty flawed methodology” and said in an interview with MSNBC yesterday that Clinton was being held to a different standard than other politicians with charitable work.
“It is only now because she is running for president that the work of the Clinton Foundation is being tarred,” Fallon said. “If any American voter is troubled by the idea that the Clintons want to continue working to solve the AIDS crisis on the side while Hillary Clinton is president, then don’t vote for her.”
GOP pundits, meanwhile, say the story is yet another strike against Clinton, whose campaign has had to ward off a number of scandals through the election cycle.
“If this isn’t pay-for-play, then I really don’t know what is,” said Marty Connors, a Republican consultant and former strategist for Mitt Romney. “Will it hurt her? Who knows? If you overlook this, you have a selfish interest in the game being played.”
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has attacked the links between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department, saying the scandal shows she is “unfit.”
“It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins,” Trump said at a rally Tuesday night in Austin, Texas. “It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office.”
At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton when she was secretary of State donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to the Associated Press report. The donors contributed as much as $156 million, and at least 40 donated more than $100,000 each. Twenty gave more than $1 million.
“I mean I think any secretary of State meets with thousands and thousands of people in the course of doing their job,” Minassian said. “I can say what we do at the foundation and what the donors expect from us is that our work is impactful and lifesaving, and it is.”
Trump has said the foundation should be shut down immediately. Trump, who donated to the Clinton Foundation, has repeatedly charged that his opponent, while secretary of State, provided access to foundation contributors in exchange for donations to the charity.
Minassian said the AP report did not call into question the good things the foundation has done for people.
“One thing that you’re not hearing is anybody criticizing that work,” Minassian said. “In fact we get very high marks from charity rating agencies and the results speak for themselves. I think political critics are always going to be critical of us. They’re look for reasons in an election year to find anything to criticize the candidates about, but this has nothing at all to do with the work that we’re doing: saving lives around the world.”