The Clinton Foundation debacle keeps gaining more and more quicksand for Hillary and her presidential campaign. Largely ignored by a lot of people, back in March, the Bill Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation was placed on a watch list by Charity Navigator, one of the non-profit self-styled watchdog groups. This actually was the start of the Clinton Foundation scandal that we have watched unfold in recent weeks. (Charity Navigator is so prominent at this point, it basically amounts to the J.D. Power of the non-profit world. Being put on a watch list by them is not a good thing for the reputation of any non-profit.)
In non-profit, every organization strives for a four-star Charity Navigator rating, and the little seal of approval that is put on all publications.* What it takes to get one is a combination of transparency and good stewardship which includes publishing the latest audited financial statements on the organization’s website along with a tax form known as a 990. The 990 that goes to the government lists all major donors, but that list is not included in what is available for public inspection for most organizations. However, for private FOUNDATIONS, and political organizations, the list is public.
(This is where the non-disclosure of individual donors the the Clinton Foundation Canadian affiliate gets sticky. Because of the revelation that there were donors that were not listed on the 990s, several years’ worth had to be refiled.)
Reports of that information added fuel to the fire with the gatekeepers at Charity Navigator, but really, this story started in March beginning with a Wall Street Journal piece, and the more they learned, the more the watchdog started paying attention. The initial Wall Street Journal report claimed:
“…at least 60 companies that lobbied the State Department during [Hillary Clinton’s] tenure donated a total of more than $26 million to the Clinton Foundation.” Politico, meanwhile, revealed that the Foundation failed to report to the State Department a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government, a violation of the ethics agreement the Clintons had arranged with the Obama White House. Politico also reported that the Foundation’s former CEO, Eric Braverman, quit after a “power struggle” with “the coterie of Clinton loyalists who have surrounded the former president for decades.”
For organizations to maintain a sterling reputation in the non-profit world, rumors and reports like that are, to put it mildly, not good. Hence, Charity Navigator, which is famous for being independent and non-partisan, put the Clinton Foundation on the watch list along with the Red Cross which is more pseudo-government than non-profit, and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. (Scandal is a pretty dirty word in the non-profit world.)
And that, according to Gabriel Sherman at New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer, started the “Clintonworld’s” ham-handed attempts to get themselves off the watch list:
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, [Acting foundation CEO Maura] 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 toNew York. “The stories you cite about the Clinton Foundation merely point to donations, or gossip around our operations, none of which constitute any wrongdoing.”
There’s that “there’s no evidence” defense again. At this point in American life, the Wall Street Journal’s reputation outshines theClintons’ and the Clinton Foundation’s put together, so it would be in Charity Navigator’s interests to pay attention to anything the media organ reports about prominent foundations.
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; [Charity Navigator’s Ken] 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. We felt there had been enough questions.”….
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. “We were not opposed to having a sit-down meeting. The point was, what is it that we’re going to cover? We’ve already been around the block. What’s the value of this?”
And thus it was that Charity Navigator refused to be bullied by the Clinton Foundation.
No self-respecting skeptic of the Clintons and the grifters that they are is shocked by any of this and will dismiss this entire episode as just one more example of how the Clintons, and the loyalists with whom they surround themselves, operate. Shadily. Opaque. As if they were playing a gigantic game of three card monte with hundreds of millions of dollars. What is vital here, is that this is being discussed on the left. There is no way these scandals can be swept under the rug – especially when neutral groups like Charity Navigator hold the line. Which points to the other problem Charity Navigator has regarding the financials of the organization: stewardship.
A glance at the Clinton Foundation’s audits and the 990s revealed one of the main reasons groups like Charity Navigator exist: people making major gifts want to know where donations actually go. It is generally accepted that 10% of an organization’s income must be used for administration and overhead, with the rest going to programs. The Clinton Foundation’s expenses were wildly out of balance.
Last month, the website The Federalist looked at the Clinton Foundation’s IRS filings for the period between 2008 and 2012. According to its analysis, only 15 percent of the $500 million raised during that span when towards grants for other organizations.
Nearly $110 million was paid out in the form of salaries and benefits while $25 million went towards travel expenses. Almost 60 percent of the organization’s disclosed revenue — or $290 million — was listed under the category of “other expenses.”
Without the line items in the “Other Expenses” category, there is no way to know how this was spent. Doubtful considering the sources, that the other expenses were program related. As for an audit: EVERY non-profit of repute has an annual audit and these reports are used to demonstrate the good stewardship idea. One feature of the 990s having to be refiled, the audits will need to be redone as well.
Groups like Charity Navigator may be a thorn in the side of the non-profit world, but in this case, they have held the line and been able to force revelations regarding the Clinton Foundation’s questionable donors when shouting down the rumor idea and using the line “there is not one shred of evidence” didn’t work. Transparency is a dirty word to the Clintons. Even the left is now figuring out why.
*Note from the writer: as a former non-profit worker, I actually interfaced with Charity Navigator for the little emblem that was sent to me in a graphics file. I put the audits and the 990s on the website, and I made sure that the transparency was there. They’re serious about this.