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The Clinton Foundation's foreign donors are exactly why Hillary's un-campaign is so risky

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  1. James Grimaldi and Rebecca Ballhaus report for the Wall Street Journal that the Clinton Foundation is once again accepting donations from foreign governments.
  2. Donors include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, Germany, and Canada (to promote the Keystone XL pipeline).
  3. At the request of the Obama administration, the Clinton Foundation had stopped accepting foreign government funding when Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State.
  4. The Clinton Foundation's opaque finances attracted criticism during Clinton's primary campaign against Barack Obama.

The perils of a non-candidacy

Since neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton holds any political office nor are either of them running for any political office it is not possible for them to be doing anything illegal or unethical. But this is exactly what makes Clinton's lack of meaningful opposition in the Democratic primary so dangerous to the Democratic Party and, ultimately, to her.

If Clinton wants to be president — and it certainly seems like she wants to be president — then she needs to start evaluating decisions through the lens of "does this help me win." Having a husband who runs a non-profit foundation that's soaking up foreign cash does not help her win. The fact that the foundation previously stopped seeking such donations on the grounds that it would be improper given her role as Secretary of State only makes things worse. Yes, she's not in office right now but she clearly wants to be.

Any donors the Clinton Foundation would distance itself from if she runs for office, it should distance itself from right away.

The problems with this move are so obvious that it naturally raises questions about the quality of the advice that Clinton is getting. Has she surrounded herself with people who aren't comfortable telling her she's making a mistake? Is she ignoring people who are raising obvious red flags? Is her husband and whoever he relies on for counsel just off the reservation? Whatever the answer, it doesn't look good. Her 2008 campaign famously suffered from discipline and cohesion problems and this is not a great start to 2016.

Jeb Bush is in it to win it

The contrast with Jeb Bush is, at this point, striking. Bush is the front-runner on the GOP side, but Scott Walker and other strong contenders are also in the race. Consequently, Bush is buckling down and field-testing messages. He gave a major speech in Detroit and is poised to do another one today. In his prepared remarks he, naturally, takes some thinly veiled shots at Clinton's record at State. She ought to be developing her positive message about this time, not handing critics ammunition in the form of direct financial ties to foreign governments.

Over-the-top attacks on Clinton can certainly backfire — see Pinterest yanking a mean-spirited Rand Paul stunt from its platform over the weekend — but unorthodox finances are about as in-bounds as political hits get.

Clinton really can afford to be somewhat slower on the draw with her rollout, given her preeminence in Democratic Party circles and her easy access to all of the party's top talent. Moving at a deliberate pace is smart. But directionally she should be doing the same thing as Bush — starting to present ideas to the public to see what's working and what needs to change. Instead, her current schedule is full of paid speeches. That's the kind of thing she'll have plenty of time for after she's done campaigning for office. The risk is that retirement from public life could come sooner rather than later if she doesn't get serious fast.