The Corner

Blame the Clintons for the Clintons’ Greed, Not ‘the System’

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Blame the Clintons for the Clintons’ Greed, Not ‘The System’

Over at The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof rushes to blame the country as a whole for the Clintons’ actions: “The problem is not precisely the Clintons. It’s our entire disgraceful money-based political system… Most politicians are good people. Then they discover that money is the only fuel that makes the system work and sometimes step into the bog themselves.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Bill and Hillary weren’t hitting the $700,000-per-speech-in-Nigeria circuit because they want to self-finance her campaign – at least, as far as we know. Bill and Hillary don’t want that money as “fuel to make the system work.” (Jeff Jacoby calculates that the Clintons’ average speaking fee is nearly five times what the median US household earns per year.) They want their $30 million per year for themselves – although we know they don’t spend it on private jets, because the Clinton Foundation already pays for all of their travel expenses.

A major change from the America of a generation ago is that people who run official nonprofits like charities expect to be compensated on a scale comparable to corporate CEOs.

This is true for nonprofit organizations

The 25 presidents, CEOs and other officers on our Highest-Paid Nonprofit Executives List averaged $520,000 in compensation in 2012, the most recent information available for all organizations (Note: Hospitals were excluded from our List)… The average compensation for the 100 highest-paid nonprofit executives was $307,818.

. . . and university presidents:

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute president Shirley Ann Jackson made more than $7 million in 2012…

Thirty six college presidents earned over $1,000,000 in 2012 — up one from the previous year — The Chronicle found. On average, college presidents earned nearly $400,000 in 2012, up 2.5% from 2011.

The Clinton Foundation’s 2012 Form 990 reveals that CEO Bruce Lindsey was paid a salary of $385,046, with $27, 535 in “estimated other compensation.”

The average American’s net worth is below $69,000.

By some measuring sticks, these nonprofit salaries actually outpace CEO salaries. If you look at CEO salaries at U.S.-traded public companies or the companies listed on the S&P 500, you get figures from $10 million to $11.4 million. But if you look at everyone with the title “chief executive” in the data of Bureau of Labor Statistics, which includes the hundreds of thousands of non-publicly traded American companies, you end up with average CEO pay of $178,400 in 2013.

This is not a new complaint . . .

In a letter to Robert J. Bach, the Boys & Girls Clubs board chairman, the senators said they were troubled by some of the group’s expenses at a time that it reported a $13-million loss on its 2008 Form 990 informational tax return.

The senators complained in a press release that the organization’s president, Roxanne Spillett, earned more than $900,000 in compensation in 2008, “even while local boys and girls clubs nationwide close their doors due to budget shortfalls.”

They also asked about reported spending that year of more than $4-million on travel, $1.6-million on conferences and meetings, and more than $540,000 on lobbying.

There was a time when a person running a nonprofit would have felt a sting of public shame for accepting a salary so high. It’s a nonprofit. You’re not supposed to get wealthy working there.

Frank Bruni:

So many of the candidates who raise their hands for “public service,” in their self-congratulating parlance, aren’t at peace with the economic humility that the phrase connotes. For more than a few of them, “public service” is a fig leaf over private cupidity. In many cases, it’s a prelude to a lucrative payday that they’re counting on.

UPDATE: A spectacular example of this in today’s New York Times:

The former president of the United States agreed to accept a lifetime achievement award at the June 2014 event after Ms. Nemcova offered a $500,000 contribution to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The donation, made late last year after the foundation sent the charity an invoice, amounted to almost a quarter of the evening’s net proceeds — enough to build 10 preschools in Indonesia.Happy Hearts’ former executive director believes the transaction was a “quid pro quo,” which rerouted donations intended for a small charity with the concrete mission of rebuilding schools after natural disasters to a large foundation with a broader agenda and a budget 100 times bigger.

“The Clinton Foundation had rejected the Happy Hearts Fund invitation more than once, until there was a thinly veiled solicitation and then the offer of an honorarium,” said the former executive director, Sue Veres Royal, who held that position at the time of the gala and was dismissed a few weeks later amid conflicts over the gala and other issues.

Press officers for Ms. Nemcova and for the Clinton Foundation said on Thursday that the foundation had not solicited the donation and that the money would be used for projects in Haiti, as yet undetermined.

If you’re a charity, you’re not supposed to be paying a half million dollars for what amounts to an appearance fee.

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