Hillary Clinton is all set to announce Sunday her candidacy for the American presidency in 2016, finally putting to rest speculation that the former U.S. secretary of state, senator and first lady would again make a run for the White House. Pursuing the presidency isn’t all fun and games, however. It brings with it an extremely high level of public scrutiny and criticism. Clinton has seen her fair share of scandals in her 32 years in the political spotlight. Here are five of them.
1. Whitewater. Clinton’s earliest political scandal played out over two decades, from 1978 to 1998. It began when Bill and Hillary Clinton partnered with James and Susan McDougal to buy a 230-acre parcel of land in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains for the development of vacation homes through the Whitewater Development Corp. A 1992 report by the New York Times on the demise of the venture launched investigations into the Clintons’ connections with James McDougal’s Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan business, which was being investigated by the Resolution Trust Corp. for its own failure.
Among other allegations, it was claimed that Bill Clinton used his position as Arkansas governor to pressure David Hale to lend $300,000 to Susan McDougal. Hillary Clinton’s work with the Rose Law Firm, which represented Madison Guaranty, implicated her in the scandal. A federal investigation eventually led to both Clintons being subpoenaed, making Hillary Clinton the only sitting U.S. first lady to ever appear before a grand jury. Both Clintons were cleared of wrongdoing. For an in-depth look at the Whitewater scandal, see the Washington Post’s archive.
2. Benghazi. Clinton’s tenure as U.S. secretary of state under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013 was marred by the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Conservative pundits seized on the attack as evidence that the Obama administration in general and Clinton’s State Department in particular were incompetent and unable to protect the country’s interests abroad. Susan Rice, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and now the national security adviser, initially insisted the attack was spontaneous and grew out of local demonstrations, but once it became evident that the attack was the result of a coordinated terrorist action, pundits alleged a cover-up was in play.
Clinton ultimately took responsibility for the security failures in Benghazi, but the cover-up allegations remain unproven.
3. Her private email account. Clinton’s latest scandal also involves her time as secretary of state. The New York Times broke the story last month that Clinton employed a private email account for official business during her tenure at the State Department. According to the Times, this use could violate federal requirements centered on the status of those emails as public records. With Clinton a prime 2016 presidential candidate, a media firestorm erupted. Clinton hasn’t been charged with breaking any laws, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t do anything wrong, critics say.
As a federal employee, Clinton had the right to delete any emails she deemed personal and therefore inappropriate as public records. After receiving a State Department request for her emails last October, Clinton deleted 30,000 of them and handed over another 30,000 as public records. She then wiped her personal server, meaning nobody could access the 30,000 emails she personally decided to keep off the public record, the New York Times reported.
4. The Clinton Foundation’s questionable finances. The Clinton Foundation, founded by Bill Clinton shortly after he left the White House in January 2001, has become a massive multimillion-dollar organization known for high-profile partnerships, events and initiatives. Much of the foundation’s funding comes from longtime backers of the Clinton family — and, in some instances, foreign governments on which Hillary Clinton had to take policy stances as secretary of state. One example: Despite lambasting Colombia for its human-rights record in 2008, her foreign-policy stance on the country became noticably more favorable in 2011 after a large contribution to the Clinton Foundation by the Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp., an oil and gas company active in Colombia and based in Toronto.
Recently, the Clinton Foundation accepted a donation from a Moroccan government-owned company, despite the Clinton-run State Department’s 2011 criticism of that government, Politico reported.
Where all that money winds up is also a subject of criticism. For one thing, there have been allegations of waste. Ira Magaziner, who runs multiple efforts at the foundation, spent thousands of dollars to send a team around the world for months to build up a climate-change proposal, but it fell flat, as the New York Times reported.
The Clinton Foundation has already become a target of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican presidential candidate.
5. “I remember landing under sniper fire” in Bosnia. As the American first lady, Clinton visited U.S. troops deployed to Bosnia in 1996, shortly after the Bosnian War. She would later recall a rushed helicopter landing under sniper fire, but news footage of her arrival there flatly disproved her recollection. She was actually greeted on the airstrip by dozens of people, including an 8-year-old girl who gave her a poem and thanked her for President Bill Clinton’s decision to send a peacekeeping force to the region. She responded by saying she was overtired and “misspoke” about her experience in the Balkans.