Hillary Clinton's Relationship Status With 2016: It's Complicated


The buzz about Hillary Clinton’s potential 2016 run for president started, as these things do, as soon as President Obama’s reelection was confirmed. Within a week, PolicyMic said that she was the number one pick for a Democratic candidate, writing that “There’s no one that Democrats would like to have running in 2016 more than Hillary.” Soon after, they published a piece called “5 Clear Signs Hillary Clinton Will Run For President in 2016.” While the haste to figure out who will be the next leader of the free world might seem excessive, it takes a lot to ramp up to a presidential run. There’s no better example of that than looking at how some of that ramping up is becoming a little more complicated than Hills would probably like.

An extensive New York Times article published Wednesday details the potential issues that would befall Hillary should she officially announce her candidacy for office, specifically in relation to her work with the financial behemoth that is the recently renamed Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The Times reports that in recent months, lawyers had been brought in to review the foundation’s structure and where exactly it gets its money:

For all of its successes, the Clinton Foundation had become a sprawling concern, supervised by a rotating board of old Clinton hands, vulnerable to distraction and threatened by conflicts of interest. It ran multimillion-dollar deficits for several years, despite vast amounts of money flowing in.

This concern ultimately lead to Chelsea Clinton’s decision to take on a greater role with the foundation, which has been less about her desire to join in on the work her parents are doing and more about attempting to make sure that the legacy of the foundation lasts beyond their lifetimes. (The piece includes the sentence “Mr. Clinton, who had quadruple-bypass surgery in 2004 and no longer eats meat or dairy products, talks frequently about his own mortality.” Oof.)

It’s difficult, sources told the Times, “to insulate the foundation from potential conflicts” that could arise from the closeness between the work that the Clintons do for charity, the money that former President Clinton makes just from speaking at events alone, and the work Hillary is doing to get elected.

Even more complicated: Hillary’s personal staff, which yes, includes Anthony Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin, is in the process of moving into the foundation’s headquarters in New York City. According to the Times:

They will work on organizing Mrs. Clinton’s packed schedule of paid speeches to trade groups and awards ceremonies and assist in the research and writing of Mrs. Clinton’s memoir about her time at the State Department, to be published by Simon & Schuster next summer.

This echoes Anthony Weiner’s basic validation earlier this week that Hillary would be running, and that is wife would be involved. According to BuzzFeed:

When asked whether he knew what Abedin’s role on Hillary Clinton’s possible presidential campaign would be in 2016, Weiner said only, “I do. I’m not telling you.”

Which is the most “yes” non-yes ever.

While Hillary’s moves appear confusing, and perhaps contradictory for someone who wants to become president, she knows that the Clinton brand is steady. And it’s easier for her to control what’s happening with her own family than through the many tenuous super PACs that have cropped up, launched by Hillary super-fans who desperately want her to run.

And none of this is a new or different way to running for office; people in power are constantly surrounded by those that they trust and spend their time moving their allies into impressive roles, regardless of whether or not they’re in government or have switched into the private sector. The idea that there should be some separation between the private fundraising a family like the Clintons does and Hillary’s run for public office is a nice one, but the line between government organizations and private ones has never been less delineated, and the Clintons are hardly the first to walk it. In a story in Politico about Hillary’s growing connection to the foundation that is decidedly more positive than the Times‘, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said of the Clinton Foundation:

“I think having a place such as this for a platform gives her a great launching pad into 2016. It gives her, quite frankly, a great place with which to create or begin to create the message she would use should she decide to run.”
“The people that ultimately are successful [between public service and a campaign] have an apparatus with which they can devote their energy into something they’re going to talk about again. Those that don’t have that, that just sort of float between one or the other without something strong to give them a sense of direction and purpose, those are the people I think tend not to be a success.”

It’s also unlikely that anything concerning the foundation’s finances – barring a huge scandal, which is barely even hinted at in the Times piece and not addressed at all in Politico‘s – could derail Hillary’s chances of winning office, should she decide to run. It’s more interesting to consider why she’d even want to run in the first place. In January, she told NPR that, upon leaving her post as Secretary of State, she didn’t see herself “getting back into politics”:

I want to be involved in philanthropy, advocacy, working on issues like women and girls that I care deeply about. I want to write and speak. I want to work with my husband and my daughter on our mutual foundation interests. So I’m going to have my hands full. I don’t quite know how I’m going to adjust to not having a schedule and a lot of work that is in front of me that is expecting me to respond to minute by minute. But I’m looking forward to that and I have no other plans besides that.

Right now, Hillary’s got the money and freedom to do whatever she wants, plus the power, whether or not the American people know it. But that might be the distinction, the thing that keeps the Weiners and the Spitzers running back to government, even when they’ve done fine financially outside of it. It’s no good to have power if you have to keep it all to yourself and your best friends.

Unease at Clinton Foundation Over Finances and Ambitions [NYT]

Image via Scott Olson/Getty

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