Raising billions won't erase Clinton's scandals or vapid centrism
© Getty Images

The New York Times states that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination O'Rourke’s strategy: Show Americans the real Beto Conservatives pound BuzzFeed, media over Cohen report MORE is projected raise $2.5 billion during her bid for the presidency. As a result, many Democrats feel that Clinton will automatically win their party's nomination for president and win battleground states needed to secure the White House. However, these billions could easily be wasted on a candidate who has too many political arrows directed at her from both sides of the aisle. Nobody in the Democratic Party owns a list of ethical scandals that include Whitewater, Benghazi, Emailgate and now the Clinton Foundation's foreign donors list. While former Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-Md.) and former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) don't have Clinton's name recognition, neither has to worry about an Associated Press lawsuit demanding access to over 31,830 emails.


Wealthy Democratic donors could be backing a candidate who's willing to immediately jettison any cause for the goal of upholding a disingenuous form of centrism. Billions of dollars in donations won't prevent The Economist from publishing a cover with the question, "What does Hillary stand for?" and noting that "For someone who has been on the national stage for a quarter-century, her beliefs are strangely hard to pin down." Unlike Clinton, other Democrats have no qualms about voicing their viewpoints. While Clinton "uttered not a word" about President Obama's potential Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination O'Rourke’s strategy: Show Americans the real Beto 2020 Democrats barnstorm the country for MLK weekend MORE (D-Mass.) has had no problem saying it would cause "serious damage here in the U.S."

Ultimately, would you bet $2.5 billion on a candidate who faces perpetual scandals, refuses to take bold stances on controversial topics, and feels the need to own her own computer server? Money can't erase a human being's penchant for controversy or infuse a person with the conviction to put principles over political expediency. While O'Malley, Webb, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and potentially Warren won't be able to raise anything close to $2.5 billion, they possess important competitive advantages over the former secretary of State.

None of Clinton's potential Democratic challengers for the White House need to use campaign dollars to erase past or future scandals. Also, none of them are shy about taking a stand on economic or social issues. Warren told Wall Street firms to "bring it on" after some investment banks threatened to withhold campaign donations. O'Malley rightfully stated that the presidency isn't a crown to be passed between two families. Webb wrote a 2002 Washington Post op-ed against the invasion of Iraq and is constantly voicing definitive viewpoints on war and foreign policy. Regarding Webb, few people are as forthright as the decorated Vietnam War veteran, and few people have been as vocal in rightfully criticizing America's recent interventions in places like Libya and Iraq.

In contrast, it took Clinton three weeks to make a statement about Ferguson, Mo., one week to address her email controversy, and she still hasn't taken a definitive stance on Obama's potential Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. She "avoids saying anything about Keystone XL," despite its impact on an issue like global warming. During her race for the White House in 2008, Clinton used racially questionable campaign rhetoric against Obama and even Bill Clinton was forced to say, "I am not a racist." Hillary Clinton was against same-sex marriage, against the decriminalization of marijuana (far more conservative than being against legalization), voted for wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and three of her top five donors since 1999 are investment banks. In her attempt to be all things to as many voters as possible, Clinton's favorite book is the Bible and both the Yankees and Cubs have been labeled her favorite teams at different times.

Finally, even the money that is said to have cemented Clinton's victory in 2016 is linked to controversy. In a Washington Post article headlined "Foreign Donations to Foundation Raise Major Ethical Questions for Hillary Clinton," Jennifer Rubin makes two important points. First, she highlights information from a Wall Street Journal article detailing Clinton's relationship with a country that doesn't even allow female citizens to drive a car:

A previous donor, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has given between $10 million and $25 million since the foundation was created in 1999. Part of that came in 2014, although the database doesn't specify how much.

Rubin then explains the gravity of accepting such donations:

She is beholden in a meaningful sense to its donors. No presidential candidate can justify a conflict of interest of this magnitude; it is not merely the appearance of conflict but actual conflict of interest. ...

There is no conceivable way, I would suggest, that the foundation can keep the foreign monies if she wants to run for president. ... Imagine if Jeb Bush's education foundation took millions from Saudi Arabia.

Therefore, not only does Clinton face the prospect of a future email (from the AP lawsuit) leading to controversy, but also the issue of a foundation beholden to countries renowned for human rights violations. In addition to Saudi Arabia, the foundation accepted $2 million from a Chinese billionaire and The Washington Post writes that one Clinton donor has been directly linked to Hamas.

Investing billions into a candidate with global name recognition might seem wise, but only before taking into account the scandals and ethical dilemmas tied to decades in the spotlight. Martin O'Malley or Jim Webb can win battleground states in 2016 just as easily as Clinton — without the drama of perpetual scandals and without the crippling fear of being forthright in their positions. If Democrats are going to invest $2.5 billion into any human being, this person should be someone like Webb, Elizabeth Warren or O'Malley, not a person who owned a private home server for "convenience."

Goodman is an author and a journalist.