Some Clinton partisans, unwilling to claim that Gulf tyrants have charity in their hearts when they make these donations to the Clinton Foundation, have settled on a different tactic: grudgingly acknowledging that the motive of these donations is to obtain access and favors, but insisting that no quid pro quo can be proven. In other words, these regimes were tricked: They thought they would get all sorts of favors through these millions in donations, but Hillary Clinton was simply too honest and upstanding of a public servant to fulfill their expectations.
The reality is that there is ample evidence uncovered by journalists suggesting that regimes donating money to the Clinton Foundation received special access to and even highly favorable treatment from the Clinton State Department. But it’s also true that nobody can dispositively prove the quid pro quo. Put another way, one cannot prove what was going on inside Hillary Clinton’s head at the time that she gave access to or otherwise acted in the interests of these donor regimes: Was she doing it as a favor in return for those donations, or simply because she has a proven affinity for Gulf State and Arab dictators, or because she was merely continuing decades of U.S. policy of propping up pro-U.S. tyrants in the region?
While this “no quid pro quo proof” may be true as far as it goes, it’s extremely ironic that Democrats have embraced it as a defense of Hillary Clinton. After all, this has long been the primary argument of Republicans who oppose campaign finance reform, and indeed, it was the primary argument of the Citizens United majority, once depicted by Democrats as the root of all evil. But now, Democrats have to line up behind a politician who, along with her husband, specializes in uniting political power with vast private wealth, in constantly exploiting the latter to gain the former, and vice versa. So Democrats are forced to jettison all the good-government principles they previously claimed to believe and instead are now advocating the crux of the right-wing case against campaign finance reform: that large donations from vested factions are not inherently corrupting of politics or politicians.