The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Clinton Foundation pledges ‘appropriate’ handling of foreign donations if Hillary Clinton runs in 2016

The Clintons at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York in September 2013. (Mehdi Taamallah/AFP/Getty Images)
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In a new statement, the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation has defended its fundraising practices and promised that should Hillary Rodham Clinton run for president, as is widely expected, the foundation will “continue to ensure the Foundation’s policies and practices regarding support from international partners are appropriate, just as we did when she served as secretary of state.”

The Foundation did not define “appropriate” or offer other information about how such donations would be treated if Clinton formally launches a campaign.

Under a written agreement signed in 2008, when then-President-elect Obama was preparing to appoint Clinton as secretary of state, the foundation agreed to restrictions on donations from foreign governments. Specifically, the foundation agreed that foreign governments that had been supporting its charitable work could continue to do so at the same levels as in the past. But if those governments wished to increase their contributions or if new governments wanted to donate, the foundation would have to submit those proposed donations to a state department ethics officer for review.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that one-third of the donors who have given the Foundation more than $1 million are based outside the United States, as are more than half of donors who have contributed more than $5 million. The Wall Street Journal also reported this week that the restrictions on foreign government donations in place while Clinton was secretary of state have now expired. The foundation reports that it received donations last year from foreign governments, including those in Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Republicans have seized on the reports to accuse Clinton of potential conflicts of interest, particular with foreign interests that are legally barred from donating to U.S. political organizations but have been generous backers of the Clinton family’s charitable group.

“Like other global charities, the Clinton Foundation receives support from individuals, organizations and governments from all over the world,” the group said in the statement issued Thursday. “Contributions are made because the Foundation’s programs improve the lives of millions of people around the globe.”

The foundation's statement noted that the group is more transparent than is required of U.S. charities. Though not required to do so by law, the foundation has released lists of its donors since 2008, as part of the same agreement with the Obama administration.

Using data updated by the foundation this month and reflecting giving through 2014, the Post also found a strong overlap between the Clintons’ political base and foundation donors and found that financial institutions made up the largest industry sector of the foundation’s corporate support. The foundation has raised nearly $2 billion in cash donations and pledges since its creation in 2001, the Post found.