A few weeks back, we outlined what we called The Clinton Foundation’s “Geithner moment,” where, after a Reuters investigation revealed discrepancies, the charity decided to refile five years worth of tax returns and review filings dating back as far as fifteen years. At issue are disclosures around contributions from US and foreign governments which Reuters claimed totaled “tens of millions” of dollars in a typical year but which mysteriously disappeared altogether from the organization’s 990s starting in 2010. As we noted at the time, the Foundation was quick to point out that when it comes to charities, it is exemplary in terms of 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.
A few days later, the charity’s acting CEO penned a lengthy blog post explaining the “mistakes” and assuring voters that the organization goes to great lengths to avoid conflicts of interest. Finally, a few days after that, IB Times questioned whether a $200,000 payment made to Bill Clinton by Goldman Sachs (ostensibly as compensation for a speaking appearance) was an effort to influence the State Dept’s decision making process surrounding a loan from the Export-Import Bank to a company that was set to purchase planes from a Goldman-backed supplier.
The latest on what will surely be one of politics’ most well-covered stories over the next 18 months, comes again from Reuters who reports that despite the Clinton Foundation’s recent attempts to play down the missing 990 disclosures, information on government funding is still not publicly available.
The Clinton Foundation has acknowledged that the government funding totals omitted from their tax returns cannot be found on their website either, despite the foundation's acting chief executive officer earlier suggesting they were available there.
The foreign government funding received by the globe-spanning charities of Hillary Clinton's family has received particular scrutiny in recent weeks as Clinton seeks to become the Democratic nominee in the 2016 presidential election.
The foundation's acknowledgement means precise totals for government grants to the charity for the last three years of Clinton's four-year tenure as secretary of state have still not been publicly disclosed. All U.S. charities have to separately disclose each year how much they get in government funding, both domestic and foreign.
Shortly before taking office in 2009, Clinton promised the Obama administration heightened transparency concerning donors to her family's charities to avoid accusations of conflicts of interests when she became the nation's most senior diplomat. In recent months, the charities have said they did not comply with some parts of the agreement.
In April, Maura Pally, the foundation's acting chief executive officer, said it was a mistake not to separately list government grants on its public tax forms for 2010, 2011 and 2012 after a Reuters review found errors, but added that the public could find the break-outs elsewhere.
"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," she wrote in a statement on the foundation's website.
The audited financial statements, however, do not break out government grants separately, foundation officials told Reuters.
Instead, they combine them with an unspecified amount of funds from private grant-making organizations, in keeping with generally accepted accounting principles, the foundation officials said. The revenue tables in the statements do not make explicit that any revenue at all comes from governments.
Asked if Pally's statements were therefore incorrect or misleading, a foundation spokesman, Kamyl Bazbaz, said no, because it was not necessary to separately break out government grants on audited financial statements.
Meanwhile, NY Magazine alleges that the Foundation attempted to "strong arm" influential charity watchdog Charity Navigator (which we discussed late last month) after the group put the Clinton charities on a "watch list." Here's more:
After being the subject of a spate of negative newspaper accounts about potential conflicts of interest and management dysfunction this winter — long before Clinton Cash — the Clinton Foundation wound up on a "watch list" maintained by the Charity Navigator, the New Jersey–based nonprofit watchdog. The Navigator, dubbed the "most prominent" nonprofit watchdog by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, is a powerful and feared player in the nonprofit world. Founded in 2002, it ranks more than 8,000 charities and is known for its independence. For a while, the Clinton Foundation was happy to promote Charity Navigator’s work (back when they were awarded its highest ranking). In September 2014, in fact, the Navigator's then-CEO, Ken Berger, was invited to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative. Of course that was before the Foundation was placed on a list with scandal-plagued charities like Al Sharpton's National Action Network and the Red Cross.
Since March, the Foundation has embarked on an aggressive behind-the-scenes campaign to get removed from the list. Clinton Foundation officials accuse the Navigator of unfairly targeting them, lacking credible evidence of wrongdoing, and blowing off numerous requests for a meeting to present their case. "They're not only punishing us for being transparent but are not being transparent themselves," Maura Pally, the Foundation's acting CEO, told me by phone from Morocco last week. "Charity Navigator doesn't disclose its donors, but we do and yet that means we're suffering the consequences"...
Navigator executives counter that the Foundation has demanded they extend the Clintons special treatment. They also allege the Foundation attempted to strong-arm them by calling a Navigator board member.
And here is the play-by-play:
The trouble with Navigator started on Wednesday morning, March 11. Foundation officials became alarmed when they received an anonymous email from the watchdog's Donor Advisory committee informing them they would be added to the list on Friday, March 13, unless they could provide answers to questions raised in newspaper accounts...
Over the next few days, Foundation officials desperately attempted to contact Navigator executives to rebut their claims but, inexplicably, couldn’t get through to anyone on the phone. On the evening of Friday, March 13, Pally sent a detailed email rebuttal...
It didn't work. During a tense phone conversation on the afternoon of March 17, Pally and Berger argued over the merits of the media's claims about the Foundation. Pally said they were without substance; Berger insisted that since the newspapers published the articles, they were relevant..
The Navigator invited the Foundation to respond publicly on their website. Instead, Pally asked Berger to meet and review confidential copies of the Foundation's handbook, “Global Code of Conduct,” and board bylaws. Berger declined, feeling it was another effort of backroom dealing and spin.
All of this serves to underscore both the degree to which the Clintons will be put under intense scrutiny as Hillary ramps up her campaign to return to The White House (this time as commander in chief) but also speaks to the fact that despite the protestations of politicians, transparency into Washington's dealings with foreign governments is sorely lacking, a fact which serves to keep Americans mired in a perpetual state of ignorance when it comes to the geopolitical wrangling that ultimately shapes the course of world history.