For Hillary Clinton, more money means more problems.
Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner in 2016, is under a barrage of criticism for her finances including her six-figure speaking fees and her foundation’s fundraising practices. The headlines have some experts on both sides of the aisle convinced Clinton’s cash could be an issue in her prospective White House bid.
Multiple Republicans working on the 2016 race told Business Insider they believe Clinton’s finances are a major weakness for her on the campaign trail.
“I think that it absolutely would be a potent attack against Hillary Clinton, if only for the fact that she’s just not able to relate to the guy who’s actually waiting paycheck to paycheck,” one GOP operative said.
In the most explosive development yet, The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation broke an agreement it made with the White House by taking a $US500,000 contribution from the Algerian government while Clinton was secretary of state. The agreement was designed to prevent foreign governments from indirectly currying favour with Clinton with the State Department.
A Democratic operative told Business Insider the story creates “a line of attack that should keep Hillaryland up at night.”
“Accepting foreign donations is a huge conflict of interest and their decision to reverse the ban is mind boggling,” said the Democrat.
Indeed, almost immediately after the story about the donations broke, the GOP pounced. In a statement, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus ripped into Clinton’s fundraising “obsession” and said it should disqualify her from the presidency.
“The latest revelations about the Clinton Foundation’s shady deals are disqualifying,” Priebus said. “No one in their right mind, Democrat or Republican, can think the foundation receiving foreign government donations while Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state, and in violation of its ethics agreement with the Obama Administration, is acceptable. This is symptomatic of the Clintons’ obsession with raising cash at all costs.”
The Algerian contribution is only a small drop in the $US2 billion bucket reportedly raised by Clinton’s foundation over the years. A significant amount of that money is from foreign entities, including Saudi Arabia, which has widespread human rights abuses, and Qatar, which has a history of supporting an Al Qaeda affiliate.
Clinton’s foundation isn’t the only aspect of her finances that’s generated negative headlines. Despite widespread criticism of her paid speeches — which can command as much as $US300,000 an event — Clinton has continued giving them. The organisations she speaks to have ranged from esoteric groups like the New York regional chapter of the American Camp Association, but also include public universities like the University of Las Vegas. UNLV students unsuccessfully petitioned her to return the money to their school, which is in an important swing state.
Clinton’s most recent paid appearance, at a Silicon Valley gathering of professional women, generated a damning Yahoo News headline: “Hillary Clinton paid $US300,000 to explain what ails the middle class.”
A spokesperson for Clinton did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
And it’s not just Republicans who have been raising questions about Clinton’s behaviour. A Democratic strategist who spoke to Business Insider said Clinton’s decision to keep taking high dollar speaking fees and foreign donations was “baffling” in light of the problems it could cause for her brand.
“You can kind of massage policy things, but these are just avoidable mistakes, And in many ways it feeds a narrative that’s far more damaging than if she wasn’t pure on trade, or healthcare, or some other issue. So, it’s baffling,” the strategist said.
Robert Gibbs, a former spokesman for President Barack Obama, also described Clinton’s finances as a potential obstacle for her presidential ambitions in an appearance on on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Gibbs said the foreign donations to Clinton’s foundation have an appearance that is “awkward at best” and alluded to the steady drumbeat of bad press relating to her finances.
“I think they’re going to have to do something in the very short term to deal with this in a way that puts it off the table,” Gibbs added. “I think there are a lot of people that have watched the sort of slow roll of the Hillary Clinton campaign, really dating back to last year with a book tour that some wondered what she was doing. … There has been a slow roll of concerning headlines for a long time.”
Indeed, Clinton’s potential rivals have already started making her money an issue. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was one of many potential 2016 candidates who mocked the Clinton foundation’s foreign contributions at the conservative confab CPAC this week.
“We could have had Hillary here, but we couldn’t find a foreign nation to foot the bill,” he quipped to laughter on Thursday.
The Republican operative who spoke to Business Insider said the revelation about the Algerian donation wouldn’t just be a problem for Clinton in the next few days. The operative predicted the issue could be used as ammunition against her throughout the coming campaign.
“I think what you’re seeing is maybe one of the first big hits on her that seems to be resonating,” the Republican said. “It’s certainly raising ethical questions. And you can take it to the bank that the headlines that are being produced from these stories are going to be in television ads over the next few years.”
In addition to Clinton’s finances providing fodder for attacks from her opponents, the Democratic strategist suggested they could also prevent Clinton from hitting her rivals on their wealth or coziness to corporate interests.
“At best, if we were running against Mitt Romney and she was the nominee, then it would be a wash. But we’re not going to be that lucky this time,” the Democrat said. “And from an operative’s standpoint, it makes me nuts because it takes so much off the table that you might be able to use to go after [Jeb] Bush or one of the other Republicans.”
Given the issues her speaking fees and the foreign donations to her foundation could pose for Clinton’s presidential ambitions, nearly all the sources who spoke to Business Insider expressed shock she hasn’t stopped taking the money as she prepares to launch.
“It’s a form of arrogance that they think that they can continue doing it and not be held accountable for it and not get called out for it,” the GOP operative said of Clinton and her family. “It’s not like they didn’t know that she was going to be running or that this was a possibility.”
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.