High-dollar donors to Hillary Clinton’s family foundation have hosted the majority of the Democratic presidential candidate’s early fundraisers, data compiled by political spending watchdogs reveal.
Twelve of the 21 Hillary for America fundraising events reported by the Sunlight Foundation have been or will be hosted by donors to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, according to Sunlight’s Political Party Time website, which tracks fundraising events.
The foundation donors hosting fundraisers include some of the largest supporters of Clinton’s past political efforts. Together, they have given as much as $90 million to the foundation, according to donor disclosures on its website.
The largest foundation donor to host one of the events is Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner. Clinton will attend a fundraiser at his home on May 20. Eychaner has donated more than $25 million to the Clinton Foundation.
Clinton fundraisers’ donations to the foundation have come by way of personal contributions as well as through foundations and private companies that they own or operate.
Last week, Clinton attended fundraisers at the San Francisco homes of billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and Susie Tompkins Buell, founder of the Esprit clothing brand.
Steyer has personally donated to the foundation. Buell has done so in a personal capacity and through her own eponymous foundation and a donor-advised fund of a separate philanthropic group. The latter has contributed as much as $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.
Hedge fund manager Marc Lasry has personally donated as much as $250,000. His firm, Avenue Capital Management II, LP, has chipped in another $25,000 to $50,000.
The foundation lists donations in ranges, making it difficult to know exactly how much each donor has contributed. It also declines to say when specific contributions were made. More than 1,000 donors to the group remain anonymous.
The foundation has become a source of controversy in recent weeks following revelations that Clinton, as secretary of state, may have taken actions that benefitted foreign governments and corporations that donated to the foundation.
Details of those transactions were revealed in a new book, titled Clinton Cash, by Hoover Institute fellow Peter Schweizer. Clinton’s presidential campaign is going to extreme lengths to discredit Schweizer following the book’s release.
In the book, Schweizer suggests the foundation has served to advance the Clintons’ political aspirations since the end of Bill’s presidency.
"Perhaps the most important function of the foundation is to bolster Bill and Hillary’s reputations as global humanitarians by bringing relief and care to people all over the world," Schweizer wrote.
"This reputation not only flatters the ex-president’s ego and benefits Hillary’s political career, but it also has real value both in terms of global influence and financial reward."
Many of the foundation donors hosting Hillary for America fundraisers are long-time Clinton supporters. Haim and Cheryl Saban, whose foundation has given as much as $25 million to Clinton’s, backed her 2008 presidential bid, as did Buell, Lasry, and Eychaner.
Some Clinton Foundation donors have also contributed recently to other groups expected to back her candidacy, formally or informally.
The TomKat Charitable Trust, the foundation run by Steyer and his wife, is a major donor to the Center for American Progress, which was founded by Clinton campaign operative John Podesta and is expected to play a major role in crafting Clinton’s policy positions.
Steven Rattner and his wife Maureen White are also CAP donors. They have given as much as $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation personally and through their own foundation. They will host Clinton at their New York City home for a fundraiser on Wednesday.
CAP donor Elizabeth Bagley hosted Clinton last month for another fundraising event in Washington, D.C. Bagley and her husband have given as much as $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.
In addition to supporting the Clintons’ political prospects, Schweizer says that donations to the foundation can be a means to ingratiate oneself with the powerful family in the hope of securing access to their inner circle.
"People look for ways to influence those in power by throwing money in their direction," Schweizer wrote. "Politicians are all too happy to vacuum up contributions from supporters and people who want access or something in return."
The Clintons and their foundation vehemently deny any quid-pro-quos.
"The big question is whether taking such money constitutes a transaction," Schweizer wrote. "The Clintons would undoubtedly argue that it does not. The evidence presented in this book suggests otherwise."