Last week, Hillary Clinton had what we called a “Geithner moment” when a Reuters investigation revealed that the Presidential candidate’s family charities had failed to report “tens of millions” in contributions from foreign governments on annual tax returns. For its part, The Clinton Foundation was quick to point out that when it comes to charities, it is exemplary in terms being forthright, but the missing disclosures will likely serve to fan the flames for Republicans who claim Clinton’s ties to the charities could make her susceptible to the influence of outside interests.
Meanwhile, the Foundation’s claims to transparency will surely be put to the test as the former First Lady ramps up her bid to return to The White House and as questions linger regarding contributions from foreign governments while Clinton was Secretary of State. Here’s an excerpt from a Washington Post piece published in February:
The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration…
Some of the donations came from countries with complicated diplomatic, military and financial relationships with the U.S. government, including Kuwait, Qatar and Oman…
Rarely, if ever, has a potential commander in chief been so closely associated with an organization that has solicited financial support from foreign governments.
Now, the Clinton Foundation is out with a public admission of its reporting “errors” as acting CEO Maura Pally describes, in a lengthy blog post, the supposedly innocent nature of the mistakes and the “unprecedented” steps the Foundation has taken in the past to avoid conflicts of interest between Hillary and foreign donors. Judge for yourself:
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A Commitment to Honesty, Transparency, and Accountability
By Maura Pally
Over the past few days, many questions have been raised about the Clinton Foundation, its initiatives, and the financial support that allows us to do the uniquely impactful philanthropic work that we do at home and around the world.
Without question the Foundation’s accomplishments stand on their own. From fighting obesity by helping create healthier learning environments for more than 16 million students; to working to combat one of our greatest global threats, climate change; to lowering the price of lifesaving antiretroviral drugs that have benefited more than 9 million people fighting HIV/AIDS; one thing is clear, the Clinton Foundation has not been afraid to take on big challenges and see real results.
Just as important as the results we see, is how the Foundation has transformed philanthropy into a collaborative effort by bringing NGOs, local stakeholders, government officials, private sector actors, and others together to maximize their collective investments. It seems logical, but fifteen years ago, that just wasn’t how philanthropy was done.
As the Foundation’s impact has grown, so too has its commitment to transparency. When Hillary Clinton was appointed Secretary of State, we took unprecedented steps to avoid potential conflicts of interest by going above and beyond what is required of any philanthropy and instituted voluntarily annual disclosure of all of our donors on our website. We also established a policy around the foreign government contributions we accept, recognizing that in order to continue our life improving work we rely on the contributions of government, as is the case with most large scale global charities.
Today, our donor disclosure and foreign government contributor policy is stronger than ever. Since Secretary Clinton decided to run for President, we have committed to disclosing all of our donors on a quarterly basis. In addition, we announced that we will only accept funding from a handful of governments, many of whom the Foundation receives multi-year grants from, to continue the work they have long partnered on.
The Foundation has 11 different initiatives, some of which function in organizationally different ways. One of these 11 initiatives is the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP), which is focused on advancing innovative solutions to poverty alleviation on a global scale. CGEP has come under heightened scrutiny this past week and I want to explain how it operates.
The Clinton Foundation executes all of the work that CGEP does. CGEP does receive financial backing for projects from an independent Canadian charity called the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (Canada), which Frank Giustra established so that Canadians could support the initiative’s valuable work and receive a charitable tax credit. CGEP (Canada) provides funding on a project-by-project basis and this money goes exclusively to CGEP projects, not to the Foundation’s general operating fund.
Like every contributor to the Foundation, the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (Canada) is publicly listed as a donor on our website. But as it is a distinct Canadian organization, separate from the Clinton Foundation, its individual donors are not listed on the site. This is hardly an effort on our part to avoid transparency – unlike in the U.S., under Canadian law; all charities are prohibited from disclosing individual donors without prior permission from each donor.
I also want to address questions regarding our 990 tax forms. We have said that after a voluntary external review is completed we will likely refile forms for some years. While some have suggested that this indicates a failure to accurately report our total revenue, that is not the case. Our total revenue was accurately reported on each year's form – our error was that government grants were mistakenly combined with other donations. Those same grants have always been properly listed and broken out and available for anyone to see on our audited financial statements, posted on our website.
So yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps to ensure they don't happen in the future. We are committed to operating the Foundation responsibly and effectively to continue the life-changing work that this philanthropy is doing every day.