The acting chief of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation acknowledged in a new statement that the global philanthropy launched 15 years ago by the former president has made missteps — but defended the organization’s charitable work and its commitment to transparency.
The new statement, posted Sunday to the organization’s blog, comes in a response to a flood of scrutiny of the charity and its donors that has coincided with Hillary Rodham Clinton’s entry into the presidential campaign. The attention has led Republicans to charge that Clinton is too cozy with donors who have given millions to her family’s foundation, helping to burnish her reputation in the process.
It has also threatened the reputation of the charity, which runs health and poverty reduction programs around the world.
The foundation's acting chief executive officer, Maura Pally, said in the statement that the organization has instituted new commitments to openness as its impact has grown. When Hillary Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, the foundation began annually disclosing its donors, which is not required by law, and instituted new procedures for accepting contributions from foreign governments. (The agreement with the Obama administration was not a ban; the foundation has acknowledged accepting millions from foreign governments in these years.)
After Clinton entered the race, the foundation announced that it would accept donations only from a handful of countries that have funded continuing programs. The foundation also said it would begin disclosing its donors four times a year.
At the same time, the foundation confirmed last week that it is likely to resubmit several years of tax filings to the Internal Revenue Service after discovering that they incorrectly reported that the organization received no support from foreign governments in those years. Pally stressed that the forms had accurately reflected the foundation’s overall revenue but said the filings would be corrected.
“So, yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them and have taken steps to ensure they don’t happen in the future,” Pally said in the statement. “We are committed to operating the Foundation responsibly and effectively to continue the life-changing work that this philanthropy is doing every day.”
Bill Clinton founded the organization in 2001, after leaving the White House. In the years since, it has grown into a worldwide $2 billion enterprise. In 2013, after Hillary Clinton stepped down as secretary of state, she joined the foundation’s board and the organization added her name, as well as that of daughter Chelsea, to its title. On announcing her presidential candidacy, Hillary Clinton stepped down from the board.
The foundation announced last month that former secretary of health and human services Donna Shalala, a longtime Clinton ally, would succeed Pally as the operational head of the charity. Bill Clinton remains on the foundation's board, as does daughter Chelsea, who serves as the organization's vice chair.
The organization has a complicated structure, including 11 charitable initiatives, some of which have at times incorporated separately and filed their own tax returns to the IRS.
In her statement, Pally highlighted the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, which works to alleviate poverty and is named for Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining magnate who sits on the foundation's board and is one of its largest donors.
She explained that the partnership receives direct funding from a separate organization by the same name that is based in Canada. Unlike the Clinton Foundation, the Canadian Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership does not disclose its donors, she said, in keeping with Canadian law.
The partnership has received increased scrutiny in recent days because of Giustra's role in a New York Times story last week that looked at the role of foundation donors in a deal that resulted in a Russian state-owned company owning large deposits of uranium around the world, including in the United States.
Pally's explanation is intended to shed light on why certain donors who have been publicly identified as contributors to the Clinton Giustra charitable effort do not appear among donors listed on the Clinton Foundation's Web site.
"This is hardly an effort on our part to avoid transparency — unlike in the U.S., under Canadian law; all charities are prohibited from disclosing individual donors without prior permission from each donor," she said in the statement.
She said the foundation's rules were intended to assist it in its mission of addressing climate change and childhood obesity and bringing low-cost drugs to people around the world. "Without question the Foundation’s accomplishments stand on their own," she said. "One thing is clear. The Clinton Foundation has not been afraid to take on big challenges and see results."