When the ties between the Clinton Foundation and foreign governments during Hillary Clinton’s term as Secretary of State first emerged, the foundation insisted that they had complied with State Department protocols on disclosure and approval. When State denied that they had approved donations from foreign governments, the foundation shifted the question and claimed that they had been transparent on their website, even though they hadn’t properly disclosed the donations on their tax returns and are having to refile for those years. Reuters’ Jonathan Allen took a look at the data on the website, and finds the Clinton Foundation still has trouble telling the truth:
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.
In fact, they mixed them up with private grants, which the Clinton Foundation said was … pretty much the same thing. They apologized to Allen in an e-mail “for any confusion here,” but other watchdog groups aren’t going to buy it. Allen reached out for comment from the Campaign Legal Center, which scoffed at the foundation’s latest attempt to explain away their opacity:
“These explanations do nothing but raise more questions,” she said of Bazbaz’s comments. “It gives the feeling that they’re not coming clean.”
The CLC isn’t alone in their skepticism. The watchdog group Charity Navigator has found itself under a lot of pressure from the Clintons to restore their rating for the foundation, but so far Charity Navigator isn’t budging:
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. “They felt they were of such importance that we should deviate from our normal process. They were irritated by that,” says Berger.
The feud is a microcosm of all that is exhausting about the Clintons’ endless public battles. Generally, it goes like this: bad press about their lack of transparency sparks some real-world consequence or censure, the Clintons complain that they’re being held to an unfair standard while their critics contend that they expect to be able to write their own rules, and the resulting flare-up leads to more bad press.
This is the same Maura Pally, it should be noted, that claimed the foundation had disclosed its government donations on the website.
If the Clintons wanted to clean up their reputation, they’d stop spending 60% or more of their charity revenues on “expenses,” and start spending more than 15% of revenue on grants. In fact, why that doesn’t happen now that the campaign has begun and the foundation doesn’t need to operate as a shadow campaign is difficult to understand. The Clintons could get a clean bill of health in 2015 that would alleviate some of the attention in 2016, but they’d rather bully watchdogs instead of operating a legitimate charity. One has to wonder why.