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opinion | Dan Payne

Hillary Clinton is political, but her foundation isn’t

Hillary Clinton met with parents and child care workers in Chicago last month during her presidential campaign.
Hillary Clinton met with parents and child care workers in Chicago last month during her presidential campaign.Getty Images/file 2015

The much-discussed Clinton Foundation builds partnerships with businesses, governments, nongovernment organizations, other foundations, and wealthy individuals. Like Robin Hood, the foundation used those resources to reduce childhood obesity and improve meals at 20,000 US schools, aid 56,000 small farmers in Malawi, launch programs to save forests in Cambodia, Guyana, Indonesia, Kenya, and Tanzania, and cut the cost of HIV/AIDS medications for 9.9 million people in 70 countries.

Clinton detractors would have us believe the foundation is an arm of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. But judging by the politics of its donors, people give and support the foundation without regard to her campaign. Consider these big donors:

Big Media is well-represented, an indication that they don’t see the foundation as a political arm of Campaign Hillary. Comcast, NBC Universal, News Corporation, Thomson Reuters, Time Warner, and Turner Broadcasting are big contributors; other big givers include Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecom magnate and largest shareholder of The New York Times Company. Bloomberg News donated $500,001-$1 million. (Gifts are reported as a range.)

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If the foundation benefits Clinton’s candidacy, that will come as news to James Murdoch, co-chief operating officer for the company that owns Fox News, donated $1 million-$5 million, as well as his father Richard, who founded Fox News and gave $500,001-$1 million.

Major conservatives have given major dollars. Calling itself “The #1 conservative site in the nation,” Newsmax Media chipped in $100,001-$250,000 and also $1 million-$5 million. The recently deceased Pittsburgh billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, principal heir to the Mellon family’s old banking, oil, steel and aluminum fortune, was described as “one of America’s leading funders of conservative causes.” He donated $250,001-$500,000.

Even big name Republicans are on board. Many Republicans have supported Foundation events, including the Global Initiative meetings. Guests have included Laura Bush; former two-time presidential candidate Mitt Romney; TV host Donald Trump, who also forked over $100,000; New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, presidential candidates Carly Fiorina; former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.

What about Stephanopolous? Yes, George Stephanopolous, of ABC News, gave $75,000 to the foundation, which was publicly listed. Yes, he helped Bill Clinton’s campaign for president and should have told his bosses and his audience about his donation. But he gave to support efforts against AIDS and deforestation. His gift reveals nothing about his political history that wasn’t already known.

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How diverse can you get? None other than onetime vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin attended a Clinton Global Initiative session to hear a speech by Senator John McCain, the-then presidential nominee.

The ideological variety of the foundation’s supporters shows its work is seen by even the most political people as apolitical. Many things can be said to criticize Hillary Clinton. But using the Clinton Foundation to advance her run for president isn’t one of them.

Dan Payne is a Boston-based media consultant who has worked for Democratic candidates around the country and does political analysis for WBUR radio.

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