With the publication of Clinton Cash on the horizon, Clintonworld surely knew landing on the Navigator’s watch list would be a public-relations debacle. By early March, Clinton campaign officials were holding regular war-room meetings to orchestrate their defense against the book. 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. “All of the other organizations on your watch list have had substantiated allegations of financial, fiscal or other impropriety,” she wrote, according to an email the Foundation provided to New York. “The stories you cite about the Clinton Foundation merely point to donations, or gossip around our operations, none of which constitute any wrongdoing.”
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. “Our whole thing is, if major media outlets say there’s something here that you should be aware of, we’re not going to be judge and jury on what the media says,” Berger later told me. “We felt there had been enough questions.” As a matter of practice, the Navigator doesn’t conduct its own investigations. On its website, they state: “Charity Navigator … takes no position on allegations made or issues raised by third parties, nor does Charity Navigator seek to confirm or verify the accuracy of allegations made or the merits of issues raised by third parties that may be referred to in the CN Watchlist.”
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.