In a five year span, the William J Clinton Foundation gave five grants totaling $851,250 to the University of Virginia's Miller Center. One year in particular, 2007, the Clinton gift was specifically marked: "Oral history project of Clinton presidency."
Well, today the New York Times has a front page feature on the newly released oral history project about the Clinton presidency. The one the Clintons helped pay for. But nowhere in the 2,600 word piece do Times writers Amy Chozick (who is on the Clinton beat) and Peter Baker (longtime White House reporter) disclose the obvious conflict of interest.
On the Miller Center project, the authors only write, "Her triumphs and setbacks are laid bare in the oral histories of Mr. Clinton’s presidency, released last month by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. The center has conducted oral histories of every presidency going back to Jimmy Carter’s, interviewing key players and then sealing them for years to come. But more than any other, this set of interviews bears on the future as much as the past."
Other presidential foundations have given money to the Miller Center, according to a representative of the Miller Center.
Here's a history of the William J Clinton Foundation's donations to the Miller Center and Miller Center Foundation, courtesy of Foundation Search:
The focus of the Times article is Hillary Clinton and, in the context of her likely 2016 presidential run, what might be learned about the possibly presidential candidate from her time as first lady. It paints a nuanced but mostly complimentary and flattering picture. "Hillary Clinton’s History as First Lady: Powerful, but Not Always Deft," the headline reads.
"[Bill Clinton] depended on [Hillary Clinton] more than any other figure in his world. It blinded him to trouble, some advisers concluded, most notably about her ill-fated drive to remake the health care system," write authors Chozick and Baker.
"But he rarely overruled her, at least not in ways that staff members could detect. 'I can’t think of any issue of any importance at all where they were in disagreement and she didn’t win out,' recalled Abner Mikva, who served as White House counsel."
The article even credits Hillary Clinton with helping to save her husband's presidency:
Mrs. Clinton went up to Capitol Hill to rally Democrats against impeachment. “She was absolutely great,” recalled Lawrence Stein, the White House lobbyist. “They loved her. She called it a coup.”
Without her public support, Democrats might have abandoned the president, leading to pressure to resign or even a conviction in the Senate. Once again, Mrs. Clinton had rescued him.
An image of a strong, smart, loyal Hillary Clinton is one the former first lady will surely want 2016 voters to have of her. So perhaps it's safe to say the Clinton Foundation's $851,250 to the University of Virginia's Miller Center was money well spent.
UPDATE: In an email, a representative of the Miller Center states, "Both the George H.W. Bush Library Foundation and the George W. Bush Foundation have provided major financial support to this program on exactly the same grounds as the Clinton Foundation. Each has paid for the substantial transactional costs of their oral histories, but no funding for faculty salaries. The Program’s scholars, and the many outside scholars who volunteer their time to help with the interviews for no compensation whatsoever, maintain complete editorial control and academic independence over the interview sessions." Those donations do not appear in the database Foundation Search, but this post has been updated to reflect the representative's claim.