The Clinton family's charitable foundation is defending its fundraising practices amid renewed scrutiny of its donors, and it's promising to take “appropriate” measures if former secretary of state Hillary Clinton runs for president.
The Clinton Foundation, started by former president Bill Clinton after he left the White House, has come under fire this week after the foundation disclosed information about its recent fundraising that raised fresh questions about potential conflicts of interest.
For instance, The Wall Street Journal reported that the foundation has quietly started accepting money from foreign governments, including an agency of the Canadian government responsible for promoting the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. And The Washington Post noted overlaps between the Clintons’ philanthropic and political donor networks.
The Clinton Foundation's relationships with corporations and wealthy donors have been an issue in the past and could come up on the campaign trail if Clinton decides to run for president in 2016. Both liberal Democrats hoping for an alternative to Clinton and Republicans trying to defeat her will likely see the revelations as a confirming some of their worst suspicions about the likely Democratic front runner, whom both camps portray as out of touch and too close to powerful interests.
Republicans were quick to seize on the new reports, suggesting that donors were trying to buy access to a potential future president though gifts to the foundation, while even some Democrats expressed unease. Some environmentalists, meanwhile, said the donations from the Canadian government and oil and gas companies raised “red flags.”
Republican National Committee spokesperson Michael Short said, “[It] looks like voters would have to worry about a lot more than the Lincoln Bedroom being for sale if Hillary Clinton were president,” a reference to a scandal from the Clinton administration where donors were given access to the White House.
The reports keep “ethics questions swirling and conflict-of-interest charges coming as Hillary hides from voters,” Short said later. Clinton has not made a public appearance in about a month, but is set to address a Silicon Valley women’s conference next week.
In a statement Thursday night, the Clinton Foundation defended itself and said it will review its practices if Clinton runs for president. “Like other global charities, the Clinton Foundation receives support from individuals, organizations and governments from all over the world. Contributions are made because the foundation's programs improve the lives of millions of people around the globe,” the statement said.
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“Should Secretary Clinton decide to run for office, we will continue to ensure the foundation's policies and practices regarding support from international partners are appropriate, just as we did when she served as secretary of state,” it continued.
When Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, similar questions about the perception of conflict of interest were raised. The Obama administration and the Clinton Foundation struck a deal to limit the foundation's fundraising practices, including curbing donations from foreign governments. And the foundation agreed to disclose far more about its fundraising than is typically required of charities.
The Clinton Foundation has said it has raised nearly $2 billion since its creation, the vast majority of which goes to program costs in a wide range of areas. The foundation has been on an intense fundraising drive and it tries to build a $250 million endowment, in part to ensure it can continue its work even if the Clintons retake the White House and have their philanthropic activities limited.