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Clinton donors, including Bahrain royal, 'paid for political access'

Clinton reportedly met with people outside of government in exchange for denotations to her charity[Getty]

Date of publication: 24 August, 2016

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An AP report found that more than half of those who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state donated money to the Clinton Foundation first.
US Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton came to face with serious ethical allegations after a recent report suggested that donors to her family's charity paid for access when she was America's top diplomat.

While leading the US State Department, Clinton reportedly met with people outside of government in exchange for donations made to the Clinton Foundation, according to a review of State Department calendars released by the Associated Press on Tuesday.

At least 85 of the 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with the Democratic nominee had made contributions to the Clinton Foundation.

Combined, the 85 donors contributed to as much as $156m to the charity, AP said.

However, meetings between Clinton and donors did not appear to violate legal agreements she and her husband signed before she joined the State Department, AP added.

"But the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton," the AP said.

Among the donors is Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad al-Khalifa, who had donated between $50,000 - $100,000 and met regularly with Clinton and other seniors in the Obama administration.  

"Secretary Clinton's closeness to the Crown Prince of Bahrain, along with the rest of the Obama administration, is problematic but it would be true with or without the Clinton Foundation connection," Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, told Washington Post.

"Our government being too close to Gulf dictators was true before Clinton came to office and it continues to be a problem now," he added.

The US maintained support to Bahrain, which hosts American Navy's Fifth Fleet, despite the kindgom's crackdown on protesters and alarming human rights record.

Tipping the scales in US presidentials

[Click to enlarge]

As Clinton's campaign battled to silence the allegations, Donald Trump stepped up attack on his Democratic rival who had been polling well ahead of him.

"Hillary Clinton is totally unfit to hold public office," Trump said, "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, they sold access," he said. "This is corruption and this is why I have called for a special prosecutor to look into this mess."

The Trump campaign called for an independent probe after conservative group Judicial Watch, which has targeted Clinton for years, released nearly 15,000 emails sent from her private server.

Among the emails are some purporting to show that donors to the Foundation lobbied one of her top aides, Huma Abedin, for access to Clinton.

Asked whether Trump's donation of tens of thousands of dollars to the Clinton Foundation was also an attempt to gain access, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN he "wasn't paying to play."

"He has never told me he was going to the State Department to have a meeting with Hillary Clinton," she said.

Clinton, who on Tuesday attended a Hollywood fundraiser at the home of Justin Timberlake and his wife Jessica Biel, has so far not commented publicly on the report.

But her campaign spokesman dismissed the AP review as based on "utterly flawed data" that "cherry-picked" from her schedule.

Misrepresent

"The data does not account for more than half of her tenure as secretary," Brian Fallon said in a statement.

"Just taking the subset of meetings arbitrarily selected by the AP, it is outrageous to misrepresent Secretary Clinton's basis for meeting with these individuals," he added.

The charity has raised some $2 billion since it was founded in 2001 after Bill Clinton stepped down as president and disburses funds domestically and overseas, handing out some $218 million in 2014.

Bill Clinton announced this week that if his wife is elected, the foundation will accept only US contributions, that he will step down from the board and will no longer raise funds for the charity.

With Clinton now leading 47 percent to Trump's 41.5 percent, according to an average of national polls from Real Clear Politics, it is unclear to what extent the new reports can damage her standing.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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