- - Sunday, June 14, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Ideologies and proclivities that end in “ism” bloom and fade in Washington like the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin in spring, but cronyism persists through all seasons and ages. Some practice it to greater effect than others, but the Clintons have perfected the fine art of back-scratching for political advantage and profit. New revelations have surfaced that Hillary was doling out favors far earlier than previously known. It simply confirms what the public already knows about America’s quintessential political family: If there is a seam in legal lexicon as narrow as the word “is,” the Clintons will find it and turn it into a broad boulevard of personal gain.

As The Washington Times’ Kelly Riddell documented on Wednesday, the Clinton’s inside-outside power approach to trading favors was in full swing early on, with Hillary in the Senate and Bill running the William J. Clinton Foundation. For example, as a New York Democrat, Mrs. Clinton in 2004 helped builder Robert J. Congel procure tax-exempt bonds worth $703.6 million to finance a shopping center in Syracuse. A month later, he donated $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

Hillary helped to block legislation in 2005 that would have tightened regulations on Freddie Mac about the same time the struggling government-sponsored mortgage company made a donation to the Clinton Foundation of $50,000 to $100,000. With fellow Democrats, Mrs. Clinton warded off the threat of regulatory oversight and both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae continued their risky loan business. Two years later, the housing bubble popped, costing American taxpayers on the order of $154 billion.

Ms. Riddell’s research adds an early chapter to the lengthening narrative of the Clintons’ unseemly willingness to trade government favors for donations to their nonprofit foundation. Peter Schweizer’s recently published “Clinton Cash” has advanced the story in full with disclosures about Hillary’s dealings with foreign governments while serving as secretary of state that bagged truckloads of cash for the family foundation.

Life is chock-full of coincidences and undoubtedly, serendipity charms some lives with more than their fair share of such occurrences. So could all of these instances in which Clinton authority resulted in Clinton cash be matters of coincidence? Only to the willfully blind.

Bill and Hillary’s supporters say there is no smoking gun that betrays illegal activity, and their detractors suspect their titles of former president and first lady place them beyond the reach of laws that encumber lesser folk. Congress is probing the propriety of Mrs. Clinton’s official actions during the debacle that claimed the lives of four Americans in Benghazi, but the legality of what appears on first blush to be a Clinton favor machine is a matter for President Obama’s Department of Justice. With prosecutorial discretion in the hands of fellow Democrats, the chances of an inquest are smaller than the likelihood the First Golfer will break par on the links.

The Clintons have showed a generation of grifters how to seize upon a seam in the fabric of policymaking and use it to advantage. Political opportunism is now the rule rather than the exception on the Potomac. For their part, Democrats can be expected to stand by Hillary in her quest for the White House come hell or high water, notwithstanding a recent CNN/ORC poll that found 57 percent of Americans believe she is not honest and trustworthy.

It’s unlikely that Mrs. Clinton lies awake wondering if she has overplayed pay to play. Her focus remains on the Oval Office, where she likely measured the drapes before moving out of the White House 15 years ago. Favors given and received could open the door to power once again.

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