The Clinton Foundation Scandals, Explained

Everything you need to know about the shady dealings of the Clinton family's global corporate charity conglomerate

An elderly homeowner dreams about money. (AP)
February 26, 2015

The national media has finally started to investigate the shady dealings of the Bill, Hillary, & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The results have been, well, entirely predictable. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Clinton Foundation?

The Clinton Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 by former President Bill Clinton. It seeks to bring people together using money to find creative solutions to global challenges. In 2005, the foundation established the Clinton Global Initiative in order to "convene global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing challenges." Hillary Clinton joined in 2013 after leaving the State Department. Since its founding, the foundation has raised nearly $2 billion.

What are its guiding principles?

Here are the foundation’s guiding principles, according to the website:

  • We're all in this together.
  • Nothing truly happens unless a life is changed.
  • No one has all the answers, but we can bring together the people who can find them.
  • Results you can measure are the only results that matter.
  • Empowerment is liberating and life-changing.
  • There is always a way to be faster, leaner, and better.
  • The greatest good is helping people live their best life story.

What does that even mean?

Good question. The Clinton Foundation is fluent in the language of feel-good corporate jargon. Many have suggested that these words, when arranged in such a fashion, have no meaning.

Why is the Clinton Foundation in the news these days?

Hillary Clinton is running for president, but due to her advanced age, inability to think on her feet, and unquenchable lust for money, she would like to avoid having to actually campaign for as long as possible. For the most part, the national press has seemed content to let her get away with this. However, a few enterprising reporters are attempting to legitimately vet the presumed Democratic nominee, and have begun to investigate the inner workings of the Clinton Foundation. In doing so, they’ve uncovered some troubling facts.

Oh, really? Like what?

The string of revelations began last week, when the Wall Street Journal reported that the Clinton Foundation had quietly lifted its ban on accepting donations from foreign governments. The ban was put in place at the request of the Obama Administration in 2009, when Hillary Clinton started her tenure as Secretary of State. Soon after she quit her job in 2013, however, the foundation began accepting millions of dollars from foreign government donors, including Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

That sounds pretty sketchy, but at least the foundation didn’t accept any foreign donations while Hillary was secretary of state. Right?

Not exactly. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars in foreign government donations while Hillary was serving in the State Department. Most of those donations were technically allowed due to the many exemptions included in the so-called "ban." However, at least one of those donations—$500,000 from the Algerian government—violated the ban, and was not reported to the State Department’s ethics office.

Oh, that sounds pretty bad.


What did the foundation say?

A spokesman for the Clinton Foundation admitted that the Algerian donations should have been reported, but basically shrugged and said it didn’t matter because the money was used to "save lives."

What does that mean?

It's hard to say. In the absence of further reporting, they probably expect us to just take them at their word.



Who else donates to the Clinton Foundation?

Thanks for asking. The Clinton Foundation takes money from just about everyone, including many of the giant corporations liberals claim to despise, such as ExxonMobil, Citigroup, Barclays, Pfizer, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, General Electric, Monsanto, McDonald’s, Walmart, among many others. The Washington Post noted that many of the foundation's biggest donors are foreign citizens who are unable to give money directly to U.S. political campaigns.

Okay, but they’re probably just gentle souls trying to make a difference. Right?

Not really. The Clintons have attended a number of events with foundation donor Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian steel magnate who has been accused of unfair trade practices. Frank Guistra is a Canadian mining tycoon and member of the Clintons’ inner circle who has donated tens of millions of dollars to the foundation. In 2005, Bill Clinton accompanied Guistra on a trip to Kazakhstan for a meeting with the country’s strongman president. After the meeting, Guistra’s company was awarded some lucrative mining contracts in Kazakhstan, and Guistra donated more than $30 million to the Clinton Foundation. Both men deny accusations of a quid pro quo.

What about the corporations?

Good question. During her time as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton helped secure lucrative foreign contracts for companies who had donated millions to the Clinton Foundation, including General Electric, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, and Boeing. In addition to the donations, these companies spent millions lobbying the State Department during Clinton’s tenure.

Wow. The Clintons have been in politics their entire lives. They must know how bad all this looks.


Maybe they just don’t care?


Has Hillary even tried to defend herself?

Nope. Her aides have repeatedly declined to comment.

Is anyone else defending her?

Not really.

The New York Times politely urged the Clinton Foundation to sever its ties to foreign governments, but others weren’t so kind. National Journal’s Ron Fournier denounced the foundation’s decision as "sleazy" and a "clear conflict of interest." Bloomberg’s John Heileman called it "totally insane." Even Salon described the situation as a "ridiculous" "mess."

Ouch. And she's still giving paid speeches, right?


Is it normal to be so rich, yet so obsessed with money?

It's not unusual, but yeah, this is pretty absurd.

This seems like a big deal. Is the media treating it like one?

Sort of. It has received some coverage, but not nearly as much as Rudy Giuliani’s recent comments about President Obama.

Maybe Hillary shouldn't run. Would a Joe Biden presidency be so bad?

Now you’re talking.