"A glimpse inside operations at the Clinton Foundation" PBS NewsHour 8/24/2016
aka 'Clinton Foundation, Guilt by association'
SUMMARY: The Clinton Foundation has been subject to increasing scrutiny in the presidential race, as its funding and Hillary Clinton's role as secretary of state appear ever more intertwined. Clinton vowed this week to change donor restrictions if she wins. Hari Sreenivasan speaks with James V. Grimaldi of the Wall Street Journal, Columbia University's Doug White, and foundation president Donna Shalala.
HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour): Now to the 2016 presidential race, and the growing scrutiny over Bill and Hillary Clinton's namesake foundation.
DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: It's impossible to tell where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins.
HARI SREENIVASAN: That was Republican nominee Donald Trump (aka Bully Trump) today in Tampa, Florida.
The Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit, was started back in 1997, and in less than two decades, has grown into a philanthropic giant. In 2014, the foundation took in $338 million and had $250 million in expenses, geared toward improving global access to AIDS drugs, speaking out on women's rights, and more.
But some of the countries that contribute to the Clinton Foundation struggle with human rights issues of their own, like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Kuwait.
And a recent Associated Press analysis found that about half of the 150 people from outside government who met with, or spoke by phone with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state either donated or pledged donations to the Clinton Foundation.
This morning, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook responded.
ROBBY MOOK, Clinton Campaign Manager: By our count, there were 1,700 other meetings that she had. You know, she was secretary of state. She was meeting with foreign officials and government officials constantly. So, to pull all of them out of the equation, cherry-pick a very small number of meetings, is pretty outrageous.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And in a statement posted on Monday, Bill Clinton said that, if Hillary is elected, the foundation would — quote — “accept contributions only from U.S. citizens, permanent residents and U.S.-based independent foundations, and not foreign or corporate entities.” He also said he would step down from its board, and stop fund-raising for it.
DONALD TRUMP: The amounts involved, the favors done, and the significant number of times it was done require an expedited investigation by a special prosecutor immediately, immediately, immediately.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Still, the Republican ticket has seized on the Clinton Foundation as a line of attack in recent days.
But as Trump's campaign stop today made clear, the questions swirling around the philanthropic group could keep on swirling as the campaign moves into the final stretch.
We dig into the details now, with Doug White, former director of Columbia University's graduate fund-raising management program, and an adviser to nonprofit groups and philanthropists, and James Grimaldi, investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal.
Doug White, let me start with you. What's the core critique of how the foundation operates?
DOUG WHITE, Former Director, Columbia University Fundraising Management: Well, right now, the core critique should be what its mission is accomplishing around the world. We don't know the specifics on that, but they are doing a lot of good work around the world, from my estimation.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And so is there an appearance of impropriety or a conflict of interest in how the foundation works or whether or not it increased access to Secretary of State Clinton?
DOUG WHITE: There is most definitely an appearance of impropriety. There's no question about that at all.
My concern is what kind of influence prior to now that has been into Secretary Clinton's office, and then, as — if she becomes President, what will the influence be then?
I don't want to have a President who is that enhanced by the donors of other — by another charity, so that when we have questions that are dealing with the issue of international relationships, we have to separate that from what a foundation is all about.
HARI SREENIVASAN: James Grimaldi, what are the meetings that Secretary of State Clinton took that are raising these concerns?
JAMES GRIMALDI, The Wall Street Journal: Well, there was a recent Associated Press report that analyzed the calendars of Secretary Clinton.
And they looked at all the private meetings for the first half of her tenure at the State Department, because that's all that's been released under the lawsuit they have under the Freedom of Information Act. There were 145 meetings, and about 85, I believe, of those meetings were with Clinton Foundation donors.
So, that raised the question about whether those meetings meant that if you paid money to the donation or gave some sort of gift that you were going to get expedited treatment at the State Department.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Even if this is a limited cross-section of all the meetings that she took, is there evidence or are there issues where she advocated on behalf of companies that might have contributed to the foundation?
JAMES GRIMALDI: Yes, so I took a look at that question.
We broke down all of the donors for the Clinton Foundation. We categorized them by size. And then we looked at the largest corporation. Of those corporations, we then compared them with lobbying records that are filed with the United States Congress.
When we did that, we found that 60 corporations that were lobbying the State Department while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state had given $26 million to the Clinton Foundation. In addition, they had participated in commitments, they call them, charitable projects, with the Clinton Foundation, valued by the foundation at more than $2 billion.
Those are sort of big numbers in terms of that. The billions didn't go to the Clinton Foundation. They went to charities and charitable activities, but the Clinton Foundation rightly takes some credit for those.
So the question is, when these favors that Hillary is doing for certain companies or these companies are seeking favors from Secretary Clinton, were they giving because they were hoping she was going to help them out?
Now, in certain cases, we know that she actually did help certain companies out. But, in those cases, they were probably for logical, rational reasons any secretary of state, for example, lobbying the Russians to buy jets from Boeing, lobbying Algeria to buy $2 billion worth of generators from General Electric.
But we also know that both of those companies, as well as others like Microsoft, Wal-Mart who had asked for favors and gotten them, also had given gifts to the Clinton Foundation, either before, during or after those favors were performed by Secretary Clinton.