Americans are a tolerant lot, most of the time, but suspicion of foreigners trying to intervene in things that are none of their business is a constant in the nation’s history. On leaving the presidency after two terms, George Washington warned in his farewell address of the wisdom of staying clear of foreign entanglements.
Hillary Clinton is learning this now, as questions persist and grow more insistent about how the Clinton Foundation raised money from foreign sources, and what was the quo for the quid. The family charity says it will file amended tax returns for several recent years after an external review found “errors” in the returns. But fixing everything might not be as simple as filing amended returns.
Following allegations by Peter Schweizer in his new book, “Clinton Cash,” Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives and sometimes presidential candidate, observes that some of the contributions the family foundation took from foreign sources while Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state were “clearly illegal.” He urges a thorough investigation.
An investigation by Congress is a good place to start, but it would be only a half measure. Neither the former president nor the former secretary of state is entitled to the benefit of the doubt. There’s too much history here. A conflict of interest — of governments and “entities” seeking favorable decisions from the State Department while making donations to the Clinton Foundation — seems obvious to all but to the most ardent of the friends of Bill and Hillary.
Paperwork scandals have followed the Clintons since they first emerged from Arkansas. There were accusations that Clinton operatives went through raw files the FBI collected on Clinton opponents, questions were raised about the significant delays in obtaining security clearances for appointments to jobs in the Clinton White House, and further mystery about the disappearance and then the reappearance of Mrs. Clinton’s billing records from her years as a partner at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock.
Her record later at Foggy Bottom is, to put the kindest face on it, similarly sloppy. “My point is they took money from foreign governments while she was secretary of state,” Mr. Gingrich told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News. “That is clearly illegal. This is not about politics. It’s illegal. And it’s dangerous to America to have foreign governments get in the habit of bribing people who happen to be the husband of the secretary of state or the next president of the United States.”
The Clintons have always sailed close to the line between legal and illegal. Mr. Clinton set out his standard plain and clear with his famous remark that “it depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” Mr. Gingrich’s observations now are not merely partisan commentary. Charity Navigator, an independent group that rates nonprofit organizations for their “worthiness,” has put the Clinton Foundation on its “watch list,” The New York Post reports, because its “atypical business model doesn’t meet our criteria.”
All this is not an indictment, to be sure, but it’s more than merely troubling. Allegations leveled by Mr. Schweizer in his new book, and echoed by Mr. Gingrich and other Republicans, are not likely to derail Mrs. Clinton’s campaign for the White House. But such allegations add to the drip, drip, drip that would have drowned most politicians, and a long time ago. Everybody’s luck runs out eventually.