Hillary Clinton
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

According to Donald Trump, the mainstream media is part of the conspiracy that is aligned against him because they are working to rig the election in Clinton’s favor. Of course all of us witnessed the attempts a couple of months ago to turn the Clinton Foundation into the new Benghazi. The media claimed to raise questions about nefarious connections between Hillary Clinton’s work at the State Department and contributions to the foundation. What they failed to do was highlight that the answers to those questions pretty much exonerated her.

Once that story fizzled out, a lot of the focus turned to Donald Trump’s business dealings, foundation, taxes and – eventually – sexual assault. A lot of those questions remain unanswered. But the damning facts/data are overwhelming.

So perhaps you thought that the media had moved on from their search to find information that validates their assumption of corruption on the part of the Clintons. Not so fast. This article from Mike McIntire in the NYT runs with an ominous headline: “Haiti and Africa Projects Shed Light on Clinton’s Public-Private Web.” The story focuses on Cheryl Mills, who served as Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff during her tenure as Secretary of State.

Apparently Ms. Mills worked with South Korean garmet-maker Woong-ki Kim to open a factory in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. After leaving the State Department, Ms. Mills founded BlackIvy Group to invest in infrastructure projects in Africa. Mr. Kim eventually became an investor in some of those efforts – as well as a donor to the Clinton Foundation. Eight paragraphs into the story McIntire writes this:

Federal officials are barred from using their positions to negotiate future employment or exchange services for something of value, and no evidence has emerged to suggest that occurred with BlackIvy…

Ms. Mills, 51, declined to be interviewed for this article, but Mr. London, a BlackIvy spokesman, said she had consulted with the State Department ethics office before accepting Mr. Kim’s investment “to ensure it was consistent with any rules that applied to her because of her service.”

Once again we find that Clinton’s staff followed protocols and did nothing nefarious – much less illegal. Which brings us back to the NYT headline focused on the “Clinton’s public-private web” – as if that is the culprit in this story. I actually find that amusing. At the time Ms. Mills was working with Mr. Kim on building that factory in Haiti, the State Department had launched the Office of Global Partnerships. Here is how it is described on their web site:

The Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships is the entry point for collaboration between the U.S. Department of State, the public and private sectors, and civil society. Launched in 2009, S/GP aims to strengthen and deepen U.S. diplomacy and development around the world through partnerships that leverage the creativity, innovation, and core business resources of partners for greater impact…

S/GP is working with partners across sectors, industries, and borders to promote economic growth and opportunity; to invest in the well-being of people from all walks of life; and to make democracy serve every citizen more effectively and justly.

In the article, McIntire himself references that the work of BlackIvy was connected to the State Department’s Partnership for Growth.

Partnership for Growth (PFG) is a partnership between the United States and a select group of countries to accelerate and sustain broad-based economic growth by putting into practice the principles of President Obama’s September 2010 Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development. It involves rigorous joint analysis of constraints to growth, the development of joint action plans to address these constraints, and high-level mutual accountability for implementation. One of PFG’s signature objectives is to engage governments, the private sector and civil society with a broad range of tools to unlock new sources of investment, including domestic resources and foreign direct investment. By improving coordination, leveraging private investment, and focusing political commitment throughout both governments, the Partnership for Growth enables partners to achieve better development results.

Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Clinton State Department’s public/private partnership with ESPN on Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports. President Obama has worked through the State Department every year to host a Global Entrepreneurship Summit that brings together entrepreneurs, lawmakers and investors from around the world and this summer issued an Executive Order stating:

It is in the national interest for the Federal Government to support innovation, global entrepreneurship, and the American private sector. Linking entrepreneurs with capital, new networks, and markets and providing skills and training will allow them to grow their businesses and positively impact their communities. It is also necessary that we help enable our global partners to invest in the tools and infrastructure that make this possible, including high-speed broadband; business incubators and accelerators; regional economic development programs and extension services; international people-to-people exchange programs; and the technical, export, and business assistance and mentoring that entrepreneurs need worldwide in order to drive economic growth and job creation.

I could go on, but perhaps you get the idea. The so called “public-private web” that was cast as something nefarious on the part of the Clintons has been one of the basic tenets of the State Department’s work during the Obama administration. It has been hiding in plain site all over the internet with a litany of press releases and web sites.

It is possible to imagine an honest conversation about whether this is an appropriate role for our government to be playing. But to cast this as something that the Clinton’s have been engaged in behind closed doors or to attempt to smear the work of Ms. Mills with these allegations is to ignore the bigger picture completely.

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