Clinton Foundation officials now face a potentially devastating barrage of investigations by Congress, federal regulatory agencies, state attorneys general and perhaps a probe by a special prosecutor, according to federal law enforcement and philanthropy regulation experts.
The months ahead could determine what kind of future, if any, the Clinton Foundation can have as Congress and the new administration of President-elect Donald Trump take what is certain to be a tough look the ethical and legal issues that have swirled for years around the troubled charity.
Former President Bill and Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, have been accused repeatedly of turning the foundation into a tool for personal enrichment by using it to market official government favors, access and influence to wealthy individuals, corporations and foreign governments.
Little is expected to happen until the Trump administration takes over Jan. 20, 2017.
A long-running FBI investigation that now encompasses five field offices continues to probe massive amounts of materials made public via WikiLeaks, and the thousands of private emails sent to and from Clinton during her tenure as the chief U.S. diplomat via a home-brew server located in her New York home.
A former senior law enforcement official told The Daily Caller News Foundation Tuesday that all 10 FBI agents in the Little Rock field office who are assigned to public corruption cases are working full-time on the foundation. The Clinton Foundation was founded in 1997 in the Arkansas capital for the sole purpose of building and operating the Clinton Presidential Library. New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, D.C., are the other FBI offices in the probe.
Former U.S. Attorney Joseph DiGenova, who pursued many corruption cases, told TheDCNF, “there is a mountain of credible evidence that the foundation was being improperly run, had not filed appropriate filings with the IRS and state agencies. It’s clearly involved in a bribery conspiracy scandal with the Department of State.”
DiGenova believes a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate the foundation, adding, “I don’t think there’s any doubt it should be shut down.”
Matthew Whitaker, another former U.S. Attorney, thinks Clinton’s actions at the State Department on behalf of Clinton Foundation donors require close attention. Whitaker is executive director of the non-profit government watchdog, The Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust.
“I think we need to be concerned that between 2009 to 2013, it appears the Clinton Foundation donors were given special access to the State Department. Somebody needs to look at every transaction and see if it was used for an improper purpose and potentially illegal unethical purposes,” Whitaker told TheDCNF. “They obviously need to get their house in order, to be more transparent about where the money is coming from, where the money’s going, and not try to play shenanigans with their reporting to agencies.”
Rep. Marsha Blackburn expects multiple congressional hearings on the foundation. “I think you’re going to see judiciary and government reform committees do their work on it,” she told TheDCNF. Blackburn, who launched a series of congressional inquiries into the foundation, said state attorneys general should also be involved. State attorneys general typically have jurisdiction in any state where the Clinton Foundation solicited funds.
Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who is vice chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said the Clinton Foundation should reform itself or go out of business.
“The foundation should be given an opportunity to either to come into compliance with the law or shut their doors,” she said.
Charles Ortel, a Wall Street analyst and vocal critic of the foundation, believes the IRS and state officials must “go inside” the charity for an exhaustive audit.
“I suggest that the correct thing here to do is to study it from the inside, get all the books and records,” Ortel told TheDCNF. “They must look at how flagrant the abuses were, figure out which donors are responsible for violations, understand why they may have made contributions to the Clinton Foundation. And we have to go after all of the donors.”
Ortel sees no reason the foundation cannot continue to fulfill the purpose for which it was tax-exempted. The problems stem from how the Clintons dramatically — and in Ortel’s view — illegally expanded its activities and programs far beyond its exempt purpose without first getting explicit IRS permission.
“Whatever happened because of their many flagrant legal violations that they perpetrated over decades, the original mission ought to carry on as before,” Ortel said. “It’s time to make an example of a presidential charity gone badly wrong. You have to hold them accountable and send a clear message that this does not happen again.”
Leslie Lenkowsky, a nationally recognized expert on charities and philanthropic groups, told TheDCNF that if the Clinton Foundation cannot compete successfully on a level playing field with other charities, it will go out of business.
“With the end of the Clinton political dynasty, at least for the time being, the Clinton Foundation is going to have to obtain support the old fashioned way, they’re going to have to earn it,” Lenkowsky said. “It was very difficult to really find evidence of accomplishments. It should be closed down if it can’t demonstrate that it’s doing good stuff.”
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