My Turn: James Comey and the reset button on honesty in government

Original Article

When James Comey became the chief U.S. law-enforcement officer in 2013 as FBI director, swearing to “faithfully discharge the duties of the office,” “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion,” he probably never thought he would face indicting the heir apparent leader of the party under which he would serve.

The facts regarding Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s actions surrounding the use of an unsecured, private email server for conducting government business, show that she violated some 10 federal statutes.

Several are national security-related felonies, including: 1) disclosure of classified information (22 of which documents were top secret); 2) unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents; and 3) destruction of evidence (erasure of the hard drive and deletion of some 30,000 emails by Secretary Clinton), after a government investigation had commenced (Benghazi hearings began Oct. 10, 2012).

Comey can’t give Secretary Clinton a pass without trouble because of a related but lesser violation in handling classified material by General David Petraeus that was recently adjudicated, resulting in a $100,000 fine and two years of probation. Petraeus merely gave his personal notebooks, which contained classified information, to his biographer, who never disclosed any secrets.

Hillary Clinton brazenly lied about neither sending nor receiving classified information and showed reckless disregard for the nation’s security. Her email server – hosting voluminous classified and top secret information – was repeatedly breached and exposed by notorious Romanian hacker “Guccifer,” the Russians (who have 20,000 Clinton server emails in their possession), and probably others.

The fact that the administration under which Comey serves has conducted itself with unprecedented partisanship and lawlessness, makes it vital for him to uphold the law and proceed with indictment.

But the reasons for this step go deeper. Hillary Clinton has been an integral part of the Clinton Foundation, which is unprecedented in size and global scope as an influence-peddling political slush fund. According to the foundation’s own recent tax returns, just 10 percent of expenditures go to charitable grants, with the bulk of the expenditure balance spent on salaries, benefits, fundraising, travel and conference organizing.

The record shows the Clinton Foundation received large contributions from several business magnates who soon thereafter received Clinton State Department clearance for controversial business deals. Saudi Arabia contributed $10 million to the Clinton Foundation before Hillary became secretary of State. A few years later the Hillary Clinton State Department formally cleared the largest single sale of military aircraft to the Saudis.

The most plausible explanation for Hillary Clinton’s circumventing longstanding government rules on secure communication and implementing a private email server, was simply to conceal a conflict of interest in continuing a role in the Clinton Foundation while also serving as secretary of State.

As the FBI investigation nears completion, Comey might find encouragement from Theodore Roosevelt, who declared: “We cannot afford to differ on the question of honesty if we expect our republic permanently to endure. Honesty is not so much a credit as an absolute prerequisite to efficient service to the public. Unless a man is honest, we have no right to keep him in public life; it matters not how brilliant his capacity.”

Our messy political process rarely raises up the best candidates, but before the November election, the FBI director is in a special position to help disabuse the American citizenry of accepting dishonesty and abuse of power in government.

Comey has a unique opportunity to press the reset button on government corruption and bring about an essential course correction in these troubled times.

Scott S. Powell

Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Scott Powell has enjoyed a career split between theory and practice with over 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and rainmaker in several industries. He joins the Discovery Institute after having been a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution for six years and serving as a managing partner at a consulting firm, RemingtonRand. His research and writing has resulted in over 250 published articles on economics, business and regulation. Scott Powell graduated from the University of Chicago with honors (B.A. and M.A.) and received his Ph.D. in political and economic theory from Boston University in 1987, writing his dissertation on the determinants of entrepreneurial activity and economic growth.