Hard News by Russell Brown


Taxpayers' Union: still stupid, cynical and dishonest

In  a story cross-posted from Newstalk ZB today, the Herald reports that it has "been revealed the New Zealand Government has paid a foundation owned by Hillary Clinton $7.7 million," going on to note  that "in November it became apparent New Zealand was implicated, but exactly how much and when it occurred was unknown."

Um ... implicated?

At this point you should be aware that this is a story generated by the Taxpayers' Union, so the level of stupidity will typically be very high.

Here's how the story came to be. Late last year, the Clinton Heath Access Initiative published its updated donor list, covering the period from 2010 to September 2016. Presumably, the Taxpayers' Union noticed that New Zealand was on the list and on November 11 fired off an OIA request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. That request resulted in this response from MFAT. Well and good. It's mildly interesting.

What's not well and good is the idiotic commentary from Taxpayers' Union spokesman Jordan Williams:

Mr Williams said New Zealand's one of the biggest contributors and a pattern is emerging of New Zealand using aid money for diplomatic, instead of aid purposes.

"Why are we giving millions of dollars of New Zealand aid money to the Clinton Foundation? It's similar almost to the Saudi sheep saga."

It's nothing like the Saudi sheep saga at all. Not even remotely.

The Clinton Health Access Initiative has saved literally millions of lives by providing HIV/AIDS medication in countries where it was otherwise unaffordable. Nearly 12 million people currently take HIV/AIDS drugs provided by the initiative. It also provides anti-malarial drugs and other forms of healthcare support. (It further bears noting that not only is the foundation not "owned" by Hillary Clinton, CHAI itself has been a separate nonprofit since 2010.)

Williams continued:

Mr Williams added it not only looks bad to New Zealanders, it'll also surely annoy the incoming Trump administration.

"If you were forming a plan to make New Zealand unpopular among the incoming administration you couldn't formulate a better plan than giving money to the Clinton Foundation".

Mr Williams said the government needs to promise the tap will be turned off between New Zealand tax payers and the foundation.

Seriously? Have a look at that donor list. The governments of Australia, Britain, Norway and Canada have given multiples more in aid to CHAI than New Zealand has. We're not one of the "biggest contributors" – and if we were, what of it?

Our contributions are tied to a project to reduce child malnutrition in Rwanda and Ethiopia by strengthening local farming and food processing infrastructure with the goal of providing fortified foods to children and breastfeeding mothers. Successive tranches of aid are subject to reporting – which, it appears, has been very favourable. Harvests are up, there's a new food-processing joint venture and vulnerable women and children are being fed.

Oddly enough, this isn't actually news. The project is listed on MFAT's African aid page. The New Zealand-based international aid consultancy FCG ANZDEC announced back in 2013 that it would be working with the New Zealand Aid Programe and CHAI on the project

Yes, 2013. And yet somehow we're being asked to believe that this is all diplomatic pandering with an eye on a Hillary Clinton presidency.  

The Taxpayers' Union, nonetheless, doubles down on the stupid in its press release:

Even worse, this money comes from the NZ Aid budget which should be going to programes which are the most effective at helping the world’s poor - not sidetracked into political objectives.

It is possible that officials have reason to believe that the Clinton Foundation’s work does provide good value for money, although given the controversy in the US that seems unlikely. The refusal to front up and explain leaves a stench of buying political access.

Given New Zealand’s faux pas in co-sponsoring the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel on Christmas Eve, and the heavy criticism of New Zealand which has resulted, the continued support of the Clinton Foundation risks even more damage to New Zealand’s ability to wield any influence in the US.

I submit that these clowns probably know very well they're peddling bullshit. They know this is aid money for an ongoing development project and they know quite well they're constructing fake news. I think it's unfortunate that the news media would be helping them by credulously reporting that construction.

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