Not all Clinton charities bound by new set of rules
WASHINGTON — Big chunks of the Clinton family’s charitable network would be exempt from a self-imposed ban on foreign and corporate donations if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, loopholes that highlight the complexity of disentangling her from the former first family’s myriad potential conflicts of interest.
The most prominent of the exceptions applies to the Boston-based Clinton Health Access Initiative, which in 2014 accounted for 66 percent of spending by the Clinton network of charities. The initiative’s board plans to meet “soon” to discuss whether to participate in the planned restrictions. Adhering to the policy announced by Bill Clinton on Thursday would starve the organization of much of its operating cash and could gut its work of combating the spread of HIV infections and malaria around the world.
At least two other Clinton-related charities also aren’t immediately affected by Thursday’s decision to limit donations.
They include the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an entity cofounded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation, and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, a joint venture between Bill Clinton and Canadian mining billionaire Frank Giustra.
The alliance, a nonprofit that brought in $17.5 million in contributions including money from Nike and the Walmart Foundation, doesn’t have plans to change its fund-raising.
Giustra, in a statement to the Globe, said that his organization would “spin CGEP into an independent entity” to continue its work.
“President Clinton and I believe it is important that we continue the work of alleviating poverty around the world,” said Giustra.
That statement illustrates both the high-minded goals of the Clinton charitable works and the potential for undue political influence if Hillary Clinton occupies the Oval Office. A piecemeal approach to addressing such potential conflicts is the response so far to this challenging juxtaposition of interests.
The job of curbing contributions from particular sources is further complicated by the confusing and sprawling network of Clinton-branded charities, which have been collecting cash under an array of legal entities on behalf of the Clintons’ favored causes for roughly 15 years.
It is an unprecedented situation in American politics, and a major political hurdle en route to another unprecedented possibility: the first former first lady — and the first lady — with a real shot at the presidency.
Bill Clinton’s announcement Thursday also provided Republicans with a new attack line: If the Clinton Foundation could cause conflict of interest for a Hillary Clinton White House, why didn’t the same standard apply to the Hillary Clinton State Department?
The Clintons said when President Obama tapped her for the post in 2009 that the foundation’s interests would be walled off from her work at the State Department. In practice, that border proved porous and problematic and prime fodder for political attacks.
“You’re going to have every GOP candidate in America asking: ‘Do you believe that the Clinton Foundation should be shut down?’ ” said former House speaker Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich said he had a two-hour briefing from the Republican National Committee on the various pieces of the Clinton charitable enterprise. “It is staggering,” Gingrich said. “This is a corrupt institution, run for corrupt purposes.”
In financial terms, if not in visibility, the biggest piece of the Clinton charities is the Clinton Health Access Initiative, with offices on Dorchester Avenue. Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, and longtime Clinton lawyer Bruce Lindsey sit on the board of directors for both CHAI and the Clinton Foundation.
“CHAI is a separate legal entity from the Clinton Foundation with its own board,” said CHAI spokesman Regan Lachapelle in a statement. “The CHAI board will be meeting soon to determine its next steps.”
Shutting off all access to foreign government grants would be potentially crippling to the charity, which relied on such funds for 60 percent of its revenue in 2015, according to the charity’s papers. Another 38 percent of funds came from private foundations, some of which are connected to large corporations, including the Ikea Foundation.
Though the CHAI organization is by far the largest piece of the Clintons’ network, it maintains a much lower profile and has a history of failing to follow the rules set up by the related Clinton Foundation to avoid conflicts of interest while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.
This charity works in 32 countries and saw a huge increase in foreign donations while she helmed the State Department. But CHAI never reported those increases to the State Department as was required by an agreement hammered out between the charity and the Obama administration. It also failed to report new foreign donations, another requirement.
The Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership has been another flashpoint. It was founded to create “social enterprises that help people lift themselves out of poverty,” according to Clinton charity filings. The New York Times revealed that Giustra benefited when Clinton’s State Department signed off on a deal that helped Giustra’s uranium mining interests.
Chelsea Clinton and Lindsey also serve on the board for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. That group already bans funds from food or beverage companies but otherwise “welcomes everyone to the table,” said Megan Corey, a spokeswoman for the organization. “We will continue to follow our own separate fund-raising policies,” she said.
The broader ban on corporate and foreign donations also would affect charities under the more narrow auspices of the Clinton Foundation, including the Clinton Presidential Center, which houses the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Ark.
This creates a unique problem for the former president: The donation ban does extend to the sprawling library, according to Clinton Foundation spokesman Craig Minassian, and it would therefore be the only one of its kind starved of corporate donations.
The Clintons have been making some preparations for the big shift that her possible presidency entails: In 2013, after Hillary Clinton stepped down as secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation embarked on a massive fund-raising endeavour aimed at creating a $250 million endowment.
Donors to that cause included people who would now be barred from making contributions to the Clinton Foundation charities, including Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, who offered $1 million from his private charity. Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien also contributed.