More than half of the people from outside the US government who met Hillary Clinton as secretary of state had directly or indirectly donated to the family-run Clinton Foundation.
They included Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi micro-credit pioneer and Nobel prize winner in 2009, and U2 rocker Bono, according to state department calendars from the time reviewed and reported by AP.
The news agency said in a detailed report on Tuesday that 85 of the 154 private sector people who met Clinton donated $156 million to the family charity, and 20 of them paid more than $1 million a piece.
Though the meetings, or telephone conversations, did not violate any rules, laws or agreement, the AP said they fuel “perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton”.
The Clinton campaign pushed back. “It is outrageous to misrepresent Secretary Clinton’s basis for meeting with these individuals,” spokesman Brian Fallon said.
He called it “a distorted portrayal of how often she crossed paths with individuals connected to charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation”.
But Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has been hammering Clinton on the access foundation donors enjoyed to her state department, pounced on the AP report.
“Hillary Clinton is totally unfit to hold public office,” he said at a rally in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday night. “It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the state department begins. It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office.”
Trump had earlier called for the appointment for a special prosecutor to investigate links between the Clinton Foundation and the state department during her tenure.
Foundation donors’ access to her state department has been known for a while, based on multiple news reports, and the AP report highlights how frequent that was.
In view of recent, and escalating attacks, former President Bill Clinton said on Monday he and his wife will cease to be associated with the foundation if she is elected president. And, the foundation will stop accepting foreign donations.
But Clinton surrogates also stepped up to defend the foundation, highlighting its work around the world. Paul Begala, a former aide to President Clinton, said in a tweet on Tuesday: “Before @ClintinFdn, 200K people with HIV AIDS in poor countries got lifesaving anti-retroviral meds. Because of @ClintonFdn, 11.5M do now.”
The foundation has run many projects in India as well.