The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Clinton Foundation’s Stingy Ways

Over at The Federalist, Sean Davis has a must-read report about the Clinton Foundation’s extraordinary stinginess with grants. The Foundation claimed that 88 percent of its 2013 expenditures “go directly” to its alleged “life-changing work.” Not really, says Davis, who took a close look at the numbers and discovered something else entirely:

There’s only one problem: that claim is demonstrably false. And it is false not according to some partisan spin on the numbers, but because the organization’s own tax filings contradict the claim.

He continues:

If you take a narrower, and more realistic, view of the tax-exempt group’s expenditures by excluding obvious overhead expenses and focusing on direct grants to charities and governments, the numbers look much worse. In 2013, for example, only 10 percent of the Clinton Foundation’s expenditures were for direct charitable grants. The amount it spent on charitable grants–$8.8 million–was dwarfed by the $17.2 million it cumulatively spent on travel, rent, and office supplies. Between 2011 and 2013, the organization spent only 9.9 percent of the $252 million it collected on direct charitable grants.

It looks like the Foundation — which once did a large amount of direct charitable work — now exists mainly to fund salaries, travel, and conferences:

While some may claim that the Clinton Foundation does its charity by itself, rather than outsourcing to other organizations in the form of grants, there appears to be little evidence of that activity in 2013. In 2008, for example, the Clinton Foundation spent nearly $100 million purchasing and distributing medicine and working with its care partners. In 2009, the organization spent $126 million on pharmaceutical and care partner expenses. By 2011, those activities were virtually non-existent. The group spent nothing on pharmaceutical expenses and only $1.2 million on care partner expenses. In 2012 and 2013, the Clinton Foundation spent $0. In just a few short years, the Clinton’s primary philanthropic project transitioned from a massive player in global pharmaceutical distribution to a bloated travel agency and conference organizing business that just happened to be tax-exempt.

None of this is surprising. In fact, it’s rather common for less-ethical charities to claim that all expenses for salaries, travel, and conferences are “program expenses” because employees are “speaking out” or — to use a favorite activist term — “fighting for” their causes. While most of the coverage of the Clinton Foundation focuses on the ethical challenges as a political problem for Hillary Clinton, the more meaningful story is the hundreds of millions of dollars of wasted charitable donations — money that spent wisely could have brought much greater real benefit to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. The large donors, however, likely weren’t deceived. They knew the Foundation was pay-to-play, and their own concern for the poor likely exactly matched that of the Foundation they were so lavishly funding.

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