The Biggest Clinton Scandals That Didn't Pan Out

September 20th 2016

Mike Rothschild

In a 1998 interview with the "Today Show," then-First Lady Hillary Clinton described a “vast right-wing conspiracy” against her husband, with its goal of bringing the Clintons down in scandal and disgrace. Like no other power couple before or since, the Clintons have attracted pointed fingers, whispers of chicanery, accusations of corruption and murder, and, yes, vast conspiracy theories.

Texts from Hillary

To be sure, nearly three decades of Republican scandal-digging has produced a few hits to the body – culminating in then-President Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment for perjury. And Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton certainly deserves the same scrutiny as anyone running for president. But for every scandal that landed, far more have proven to have little or nothing behind them. Long before the outrage over Hillary’s pneumonia diagnosis, “basket of deplorables” comment, her private email server, the Clinton Foundation, or Benghazi, there was an industry of Clinton scandal-mongering.

With the media continuing to make constant references to '90s-era scandals, it’s helpful to take a look back at the ones that didn’t pan out and what exactly they were looking for in the first place:

1. Travelgate

One of the most referenced faux Clinton scandals is Travelgate, the controversy surrounding the firing of seven White House travel office employees in May 1993. The White House stated the employees were sacked because the FBI found financial improprieties in the travel office, including missing money and bad record-keeping. But the burgeoning cable news business went nuts over allegations that the firings were carried out to allow friends and relatives of the Clintons to take over the lucrative White House travel business, including charter flights.

Seven years of investigations followed. The FBI, General Accounting Office, and multiple independent counsels were pulled in, and the Clintons were painted as greedy schemers with no scruples about destroying others. After five years, dogged Clinton foe Ken Starr, one of those independent counsels, exonerated both Bill and Hillary Clinton of wrongdoing. Even then, it would take another two years for the matter to be put to bed by another independent counsel report, which found that the Clintons were evasive and not forthcoming, but had committed no crime.

2. Troopergate

In a January 1994 story, conservative journalist David Brock claimed to have followed a trail of donor accusations to four Arkansas state troopers, who made a variety of wild allegations against then-governor Bill Clinton. They included orders to scout women for him to have affairs with, rent hotel rooms, drive him to trysts, track his wife's movements, and deliver gifts to the women.

The accusations weren’t investigated at either the state or federal level, and the troopers came under fire for accepting money from a Republican donor. While Brock apologized for the story in 1998 and later renounced the far right, Troopergate did have one lasting effect – it contained the first reference to Bill Clinton sexual harassment accuser Paula Jones. That nugget of the scandal ended with Clinton’s impeachment. Despite being debunked, Troopergate is still lumped in with the Clinton Scandal Greatest Hits.

3. Filegate

Long before Hillary’s emails became an endless grind of scandal, there was Filegate the illegal possession of hundreds of FBI files related to senior Republicans, as well as one of the Travelgate employees who had been fired. When revealed in 1996, the file deliveries sent the White House scrambling for explanations. President Clinton called it a mix-up caused by outdated personnel lists, while his election opponent Bob Dole said it was more in line with Richard Nixon’s enemies list.

The FBI, and both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees investigated the scandal, but came up empty, while a fingerprint analysis of the files revealed no evidence that Hillary Clinton ever touched them. Ken Starr’s 1998 report exonerated the Clintons, as did the 2000 independent counsel report on Travelgate. But the conspiracy machine ground away, and the final lawsuit over Filegate wasn’t thrown out until 2011.

4. Chinagate

Largely overshadowed by other Clinton nonsense, Chinagate was an attempt by China to influence U.S. politics in 1996 by funneling large donations to the Democratic National Committee — a violation of federal law. The anti-Clinton machine girded for war, as both the Department of Justice and Congress duly investigated it, spending millions of dollars looking for evidence that the Clintons did something — anything — wrong.

While the scandal led to a number of arrests of prominent Chinese nationals living in the U.S., the Clintons were never found to have any knowledge of the donations, nor to have profited from them.

5. The Clinton Body Count

A supposed record of all the people the Clintons have had killed to cover their crimes, the so-called “Clinton Body Count” list began circulating in 1993, dreamed up by conspiracy theorist Linda Thompson and given legitimacy by anti-Semitic former Congressman William Dannemeyer. Most versions of the list (there are several) start with White House Counsel Vince Foster’s 1994 suicide, calling it a murder staged by the Clintons to cover their tracks in the Whitewater scandal. Conspiracy theorists list dozens of minor staffers, interns, political figures, associates, and Clinton foes, all killed by staged suicides, induced heart attacks, “accidents,” and “unknown circumstances.” The list is constantly updated to include new victims – including several deaths in the summer of 2016.

The Clinton death list is a staple of Clinton conspiracy theories, with Donald Trump making vague allegations about Foster as recently as June 2016. Other than listing people who have actually died, the Clinton Body Count traffics purely in fantasy. The Clintons have accumulated countless friends, enemies, colleagues, and acquaintances. Over a long enough timeline, some will pass away both from natural and unnatural causes. Additionally, many of the names didn’t know the Clintons at all. A few appear to be made up. Virtually none are people whose death would benefit the Clintons, while people whose death might actually be of use to the Clintons continue to live, breathe, and push Clinton scandals.

6. Cattle Futures

It’s a noun AND a fake Clinton scandal. With then-Governor Bill Clinton making a pittance of a salary, Hillary Clinton started trading in cattle futures with the help of a lawyer friend who was an outside counsel to food giant Tyson. With his advice, she rode the ups and downs of a risky market and parlayed $1,000 into a gain of what she claimed was $100,000. After becoming pregnant with Chelsea, Clinton claimed to have lost her nerve, and largely left commodity speculating behind.

In 1994, with Clinton scandal mania raging, a slew of amateur and professional financial analysts tried to determine if Hillary was a good trader, just lucky, or getting special treatment. Of particular interest were her connections to her broker, a trader who eventually was suspended and fined by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange for corruption and bad record-keeping. Hillary herself was never investigated for anything, and she got out at the right time – cattle futures prices collapsed a year after she stopped trading.

7. Whitewater

Not all of the Clintons’ attempts to boost their income in Arkansas were as successful as Hillary’s cattle futures trading. One in particular turned into a complex scandal that became a millstone around their necks for decades. The Clintons lost between $40,000 to $70,000 when they took out a large loan to buy 230 acres of land on Arkansas’ White River, intending to turn it into a vacation community. Their Whitewater Development Corporation went bust thanks to skyrocketing interest rates and the fact that the land was mostly useless as residential property. The couple the Clintons invested with, James and Susan McDougal, quickly became involved in a busted savings and loan investment, defrauding investors and the government of millions of dollars.

In 1994, the Justice Department began investigating Whitewater, looking for evidence that the Clintons were connected to the McDougals’ scam through fraudulent loans or improper billing. Naturally, both the House and Senate conducted investigations, and Hillary Clinton became the first First Lady in history to testify for a grand jury. The investigations dragged on for years, eventually bringing in independent counsel Ken Starr. The Clintons were never linked to the savings and loan scam, but both the McDougals and a former law partner of Hillary Clinton were among 15 people charged with fraud.

Added up, the various independent investigations into faux scandals like Whitewater, Travelgate, and Troopergate – along with real ones like the Monica Lewinsky affair – cost taxpayers $80 million. Most of which was spent in vain, doing nothing but spawning un-killable memes about the Clintons’ corruption.