WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The foundation started by Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton should shut down despite its good work, two major newspapers said in editorials on Wednesday, calling for its closure to avoid perceptions of "pay-for-play" amid the U.S. presidential campaign as critics step up their attacks over the issue.
Despite plans announced earlier this week to reorganize the foundation if Hillary Clinton wins the White House in November, USA Today said the global charity must close for the Democratic presidential candidate to avoid any appearance of unethical ties.
"The only way to eliminate the odor surrounding the foundation is to wind it down and put it in mothballs, starting today, and transfer its important charitable work to another large American charity such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation," the paper's editorial board wrote.
The Washington Post said in its editorial that the planned steps unveiled on Monday to rename the foundation, end foreign and corporate donations and have Bill Clinton resign from the board should have happened sooner - before his wife served as secretary of state - and still fall short.
"The foundation undoubtedly does worthwhile work. Should Ms. Clinton win, all of that work and all of the foundation’s assets should be spun off to an organization with no ties to the first family," the Post's editorial board wrote.
The call from two leading U.S. news organizations came as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and other critics have upped their attacks against Clinton over the foundation and called for a special investigation in hopes of creating a rallying cry for fellow Republicans ahead of the Nov. 8 U.S. election.
While Republicans see attacking Clinton over the organization as a way of unifying conservatives divided over Trump, a political outsider, Democrats hope the controversy comes too late to make a difference in the election, in which most national public opinion polls show Clinton ahead.
The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit, funds aid programs in developing countries, including helping to treat people with HIV/AIDS.
The foundation has said Hillary Clinton was not involved with the group while serving as the nation's top diplomat. The Clinton campaign denies Clinton ever took any action because of donations to the foundation.
Clinton campaign spokesman Robby Mook told MSNBC on Wednesday that Clinton does not have a conflict of interest with charitable work, and pointed to her rival's tangled business interests with Wall Street, China and Russia.
"Donald Trump and his bottom line and his networks are directly connected to all kinds of international entities ... and nobody's asking him to disclose or divest," Mook said of the New York businessman.
(Writing by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)