As new details emerge regarding the Clinton Foundation’s current scandal, it’s causing massive problems for down ballot Democrats…
While most Americans have likely heard of the Clinton Foundation, the Clintons’ charitable organization that was created in 1997, few know what the Foundation does or where its $2 billion raised has gone. But in 2016, those matters have taken a backseat to the devastating political impact the Foundation has had on not only Clinton but Democrats across the country. A recent spate of Clinton emails, produced by FOIA lawsuits filed with the State Department, has raised the specter of a “pay-to-play” relationship among Clinton Foundation donors seeking access to State Department resources. The emails raise more questions than answers, and the political fallout could be devastating.
Clinton’s refusal to hold a press conference in 2016 has allowed these questions to fester, and speculation to swirl regarding their answers. Many of the nation’s newspapers, from The New York Times to the Columbus Dispatch to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune to the Tampa Bay Times, have used their editorial space to beseech the Clintons to either take a permanent leave from the Foundation or shut it down entirely. In effect, Clinton has allowed the Foundation to become a distraction so significant that even the perception of unethical behavior is prompting calls for major reforms.
Unfortunately for Clinton, the fallout appears to be affecting her electoral prospects. A new ABC News/Washington Post survey found that Clinton is viewed unfavorably by 59 percent of registered voters, a “new high” for the former First Lady. Polls are also tightening in Clinton’s head-to-head match up with GOP nominee Donald Trump. Clinton’s post-DNC convention bounce, which saw her leading Trump by a margin of 10 percentage points nationally, have been replaced by polls showing Clinton up 6 points in just a few weeks’ time.
But potentially the worst result of the Clinton Foundation scandal for Democrats is the slew of questions now plaguing down-ballot candidates for House and Senate. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL), the morning after his primary victory this week, was asked if he thinks Clinton has been “honest and straightforward” in her handling of the Clinton Foundation and email controversies. Murphy replied in the affirmative, all but guaranteeing that assertion reappears in a 30-second TV ad in October. The same questions have been posed to Gov. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ted Strickland (D-OH), Deborah Ross (D-NC), and Russ Feingold (D-WI), and is likely coming to a Democratic candidate near you.
Candidates tying their fates to the top of the ticket is nothing new, but the choice to closely associate themselves with Clinton’s ongoing scandals could prove catastrophic, given the “drip, drip, drip” nature of this issue. More concerning for Democrats should be the size and scope of this controversy. Voters quickly drew conclusions regarding Clinton’s email scandal because it fed into preconceived notions about the Clintons and secrecy. In the case of the Clinton Foundation, Clinton’s high unfavorability and refusal to address the issue herself makes it all the more likely that voters are willing to believe she traded donations for access, whether it actually happened or not.
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