Hillary and the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution

Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution is known as the Emoluments Clause, and it bans payola to U.S. government officials from foreign governments.  It reads:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Sean Davis of The Federalist has explored how payments from foreign governments to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation probably violate that clause.  His argument hinges on the evidence that the foundation has operated less as a charity than as a slush fund for the use of the Clintons:

Between 2009 and 2012, the Clinton Foundation raised over $500 million dollars according to a review of IRS documents by The Federalist (2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008). A measly 15 percent of that, or $75 million, went towards programmatic grants. More than $25 million went to fund travel expenses. Nearly $110 million went toward employee salaries and benefits. And a whopping $290 million during that period — nearly 60 percent of all money raised — was classified merely as “other expenses.” Official IRS forms do not list cigar or dry-cleaning expenses as a specific line item. The Clinton Foundation may well be saving lives, but it seems odd that the costs of so many life-saving activities would be classified by the organization itself as just random, miscellaneous expenses.

Keep in mind that the foundation has just announced that it will be re-filing these reports, now that Reuters has investigated them and found discrepancies.  A number of staffers of the Hillary campaign have been reported to have held jobs at the foundation prior to the campaign formally commencing, although I have seen no hard data on that.  And it has been reported that much of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s travel has been covered by the foundation.

An aggressive prosecutor could probably make a case that Hillary benefited from an “emolument” from a foreign government, though it is far from clear what penalty would exist for this constitutional infraction.  And the Clintons are notorious for pushing the limits of the law to the point of implausibility.

The point of this is not that a legal avenue for prosecution exists, but rather that the founders anticipated people like the Clintons, and wanted to avoid the peril they represent.  I suspect that Bill Clinton avoided accepting money directly from foreign governments, though he probably was not so scrupulous about money from entities under the control of governments. Under the laws of community property, any money paid to him would be also paid to Hillary, and could well fall under the Emoluments Clause.

Hat tip: Lauri Regan