Bill Clinton digs in as money questions bedevil Hillary's presidential run

Bill Clinton digs in as money questions bedevil Hillary's presidential run

WASHINGTON - If Hillary Clinton has a Bill Clinton problem, Bill Clinton does not seem to see it.

The former president's insistence on Monday that he would continue to give paid speeches for six-figure sums and remain his family's foundation chief ambassador and fund-raiser seem likely to ensure that questions surrounding the foundation and, in turn, Bill and Hillary Clinton's finances will plague the latter's presidential campaign for the foreseeable future.

"I don't think I did anything that was against the interests of the United States," a defiant Bill Clinton said in an interview with NBC News (ID:nL1N0XV0G8). "I'm not responsible for anybody else's perception."

But upon hearing Clinton's remarks, one prominent philanthropy expert said allegations that foreign donors to the foundation sought to curry favour with the US State Department during Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary were damaging her campaign for the November 2016 presidential election.

Doug White, who runs the fundraising management programme at Columbia University in New York, said Bill Clinton should distance himself from the foundation right away.

"I don't believe he should stay on the board of directors because of a real conflict of interest," White said. Until he does, Hillary Clinton "is in a very precarious position." Both Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation have insisted that there is no evidence of any attempt by foreign donors to buy access or influence.

"There is no doubt in my mind that we have never done anything knowingly inappropriate in terms of taking money to influence any kind of American government policy," Clinton told NBC.

But the former first lady has faced criticism of the income her family draws from people, including foreigners, with business before the US government.

Clinton's defence of the foundation, which seeks to fund international development and combat global issues, and his plans to pursue lucrative speech engagements, gave Republicans new ammunition to use against his wife.

"Hearing the Clintons, who are multi-millionaires, complain about paying their bills and being 'dead broke' only reinforces to everyday Americans how out of touch they've really become,"said Allison Moore, press secretary for the Republican National Committee.

Moore's comment was a swipe at Hillary Clinton's effort during her three-week-old presidential bid to demonstrate a common touch, emphasizing themes centred on "everyday Americans" and the nation's struggling middle-class.

Media reports of her husband flying about in private jets and hobnobbing with the global elite are dramatically at odds with that message.

HIGH-PROFILE SPOUSE POSES UNIQUE CHALLENGE

A new poll Monday showed that US voters are taking an increasingly dim view of Hillary Clinton. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released found the number of voters surveyed who view Clinton unfavorably jumped to 42 per cent from 36 per cent in March.

The former president's role in Clinton's campaign for the Democratic nomination has posed a thorny question since the outset. No candidate has ever had such a high-profile spouse, or one so committed to cementing his own personal legacy. "There's never been anything like the Clinton Global Initiative," Bill Clinton told NBC, contending that it has helped 43 million people in 180 countries.

He said he would consider stepping back from the foundation at some point if it was in his wife's interest but did not suggest a change was imminent.

Democratic strategist Bill Burton, a former spokesman for President Barack Obama, said that such a move would not mollify the Clintons' critics and could jeopardize the work of the foundation.

"There are benefits to staying," Burton said. "If they walk away, they gain nothing.

The right isn't going to stop talking about it." Leslie Lenkowsky, an expert on philanthropy at Indiana University, said it could be difficult for the foundation to be as effective without Bill Clinton at its centre.

"His skills at convening people, at raising money, and such have played a big role in the very considerable fund-raising success of the organisation," he said.

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