A slew of outside organizations is targeting likely presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton through lawsuits, public records requests and a barrage of public attacks as she readies her expected presidential campaign.
The barbs are being lodged nearly every day. The latest salvos came Wednesday from the Republican National Committee and the conservative group Freedom Watch.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus demanded that the White House address violations to a “flawed agreement” that was supposed to prevent conflicts of interest involving foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation while Clinton served as secretary of state.
Larry Klayman, a former federal prosecutor and founder of Freedom Watch, filed a racketeering lawsuit that accuses the Clintons of operating a corrupt criminal enterprise for “a decade and more.”
Clinton, 67, is the presumed front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, though she continues to be dogged by ethical questions about her family foundation’s decision to accept foreign donations, as well as her use of a private email account to conduct government business though a personal server while she was a Cabinet secretary.
Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have long faced attacks from the media, outside groups and Republicans, especially when they were in the White House.
“She has a demonstrated record of flouting law, obstructing investigations and misusing public office for personal gain,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which has sued the Clintons as well as the Bush administration.
But the accusations are coming faster and more frequently than ever before.
Allan Lichtman, a political historian who teaches at American University, said the attacks have skyrocketed because of the increase in opposition groups and the polarization of politicians. Lichtman. however, says the average voter wants to hear about policy issues such as the economy and terrorism and is not likely to care much about her email or donations.
As she took office in 2009, Clinton vowed in a letter to the State Department’s ethics officer that she “would not participate in any matter that has a direct and predictable effect on my financial interests” without obtaining a waiver from the department, not participate without prior authorization in any matter in which the Clinton Foundation was a party, and not participate in any matter that “has a direct and predictable effect” upon her husband’s compensation for speaking, writing or consulting.
The State Department declined to comment Wednesday about new lawsuits, including the one by Judicial Watch. White House spokesman Jennifer Friedman referred some questions to the State Department, but she defended the agreement made with Clinton Foundation, “which went above and beyond standard ethics requirements.”
In his letter, Priebus said the agreement between the administration and the foundation was designed to allay concerns that donors could influence U.S. foreign policy “failed to alleviate conflicts of interest, and at times was blatantly ignored.”
The Clinton Foundation – now called the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation – has received millions of dollars in donations from foreign governments, businesses, individuals and non-governmental organizations around the globe, including some while Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary of state, according to an analysis of 10 years of contributions by McClatchy.
After Obama tapped Clinton to be the nation’s top diplomat, the foundation agreed not to accept donations from foreign governments that had not previously contributed to the organization without a review by the State Department and consented to disclose a list of its donors each year. Recent news reports indicate the agreement did not always work.
In his lawsuit in Florida, Klayman charges that the Clintons traded political favors and governmental acts for donations - “in effect bribes” - to the Clinton Foundation and through hefty speaking fees for Bill Clinton. Using the former secretary of state’s private email server, Klayman’s suit alleges, the Clintons “negotiated, arranged and implemented the sale of influence and access to U.S. government officials and decision makers.”
“What Hillary Clinton, her husband, and their foundation have done is nothing new,” he said. “It is simply part of a criminal enterprise which dates back at least 10 years, all designed to enrich themselves personally at the expense of the American people and our nation. It’s time, however, that they finally be held legally accountable.”
On Tuesday, the conservative group Citizens United filed another lawsuit for Clinton’s photos, videos and hotel bills during her travels after the State Department took no action on separate but similar requests for records relating to 10 foreign trips she took. Last week, it sued for correspondence.
The conservative group sued the State Department after it failed to respond to a request for manifests of travelers on some of Clinton’s official trips. A judge set deadlines for the agency to begin releasing information, which could come as soon as next week.
Judicial Watch has successfully sued to force the State Department to release records concerning the fatal attack in Benghazi, Libya, and has several pending lawsuits seeking records and emails during Clinton’s time as secretary of state. The organization is also seeking documents about her chief of staff, Huma Abedin, and another aide, Cheryl Mills.
On Capitol Hill, the chairman of the House committee investigating the fatal attack in Benghazi asked Clinton to turn over her personal email server to a “neutral, detached and independent” third party for “immediate inspection and review.” She and her staff have turned over 30,490 emails to the State Department for review but destroyed another 31,830 emails she says were personal.
Lesley Clark, Greg Gordon and Kevin G. Hall of the Washington Bureau contributed.