Clinton Foundation gives little to veterans groups
Large staff makes charitable giving hard to gauge
The Clinton Foundation has collected more than $2 billion in revenue since it formed — but has given only the tiniest fraction to veterans groups, instead preferring to focus on international causes and in-house operations that provide far more control and less transparency.
Meanwhile, a separate private charity, the Clinton Family Foundation, has donated about $100,000 to veterans groups, according to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Rival Donald Trump’s charitable giving to veterans has come under scrutiny since he promised to raise millions for the cause at a January rally in Iowa. Reports questioned whether he followed through, forcing him to release a list of organizations and dollar amounts he gave — including a $1 million check of his own.
Far less attention has been given to the Clintons’ charitable giving to veterans through their own organizations, and particularly the main Clinton Foundation and its close affiliate, the Clinton Global Initiative.
An examination of the foundation’s 990s, the IRS form that tax-exempt 501(c)3 charities must file annually, do not show any direct grants to veterans groups since 1998, when President Bill Clinton established the organization.
Most of its domestic grants are directed at health care and anti-poverty organizations and disaster relief, and amount to a small percentage of its cash. The foundation took in some $338 million in 2014 and doled out just $4 million in 10 grants in the U.S. — with the largest being $2 million to a health care center in Oregon.
In 2013, the Clintons made 11 U.S. grants of about $6 million, including $2 million to one of its spinoffs, the Clinton Health Access Initiative. It took in nearly $300 million that year, its financial statements say.
The Clinton Global Initiative, meanwhile, does list some “commitments” it has with veterans groups, most of them starting after 2011.
In one example, the initiative takes credit for gaining a commitment from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America in 2011 to join the Chamber of Commerce in holding Smart Job Fairs.
“These events served as a national model for best practices and focused on getting at least 1,000 new veterans hired into quality jobs,” says the Clinton Global Initiative website.
It says three such fairs were conducted before the two broke off the partnership.
The Clinton Global Initiative said the Iraq and Afghanistan group then shifted by targeting specific industries to “engaging a smaller number of veterans at each event.” The Clinton Global Initiative does not spell out in its narrative exactly what it did to create the job fairs beyond “commitments,” and a spokesman for the Clinton Foundation did not return phone messages.
A spokeswoman for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said the national group has not worked with the Clinton Foundation since 2013. When asked what the foundation specifically did to help the veterans group, she did not respond.
In another veterans program, the Clinton Global Initiative said that in 2011, a nonprofit, 3 Generations, which documents atrocities on film, committed to producing a 15-minute video with vignettes of people working to get veterans hired. 3 Generations produced two videos in 2011 and 2013 that were posted on its website.
Another Clinton Foundation unit, the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, teamed with Spike TV to hold a conference in January 2015 on veterans’ health. The “summit” was scheduled amid a PGA golf tour event, the Humana Challenge, which is co-sponsored by the foundation.
“Spike will bring veteran partners to the Health Matters stage for a special town hall, create fitness activations throughout the conference and share content from the event with their TV and digital audiences,” the Clinton group said.
The way the Clinton Foundation reaches veterans is in a way a microcosm of the charity’s atypical operations. Instead of raising money to hand out to entities, such as hospitals, as many other philanthropic groups do, the foundation spends money on its own employees, building a staff estimated at more than 2,000, with a presence in more than two dozen countries.
The arrangement makes it difficult to evaluate the work the foundation does.
Charity Navigator, one of the leading charity watchdogs, said it no longer judges the foundation’s performance.
“We had previously evaluated this organization, but have since determined that this charity’s atypical business model cannot be accurately captured in our current rating methodology,” Navigator says. “Our removal of the Clinton Foundation from our site is neither a condemnation nor an endorsement of this charity. We reserve the right to reinstate a rating for the Clinton Foundation as soon as we identify a rating methodology that appropriately captures its business model.”
Another group, Charity Watch, gave the Clinton Foundation the top rating of an “A.” The grade seems to be derived strictly from the foundation’s public audit and IRS 990 filings. Charity Watchdog also notes that 88 percent of donations are spent on programs. There is no assessment of the programs themselves.
“CharityWatch’s rating of the Clinton Foundation is based on the Foundation’s audited consolidated financial statements, which also include the accounts of the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and William J. Clinton Insamlingsstiftelse (Clinton Foundation Sweden), which respectively operate as separate legal non-profit entities,” Charity Watch states.
Charles Ortel, a conservative and an investment adviser, has been going over the Clinton Foundation’s books. Mr. Ortel has a successful track record as a watchdog, finding corporate financial problems simply by analyzing their public fillings.
He says that after a 15-month investigation, the Clinton Foundation numbers are “misleading.”
“The numbers that the Clinton Foundation supplies to the public in its legally mandated filings do not add up, are frequently incorrect, and appear to be materially misleading,” he wrote in a 2015 online report. “In numerous cases, the Clinton Foundation appears to have followed inconsistent policies adding in appropriate portions of the various activities it pursued around the world to create ‘consolidated’ financial statements.”
Donald Trump operates a small private charity that has handed out $5 million since 2009, prompting pundits to label him America’s least-charitable billionaire. But his family is more generous personally.
His son and business partner, Eric, runs his own charity that has donated millions of dollars to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. In 2015, the Memphis, Tennessee, hospital opened the Eric Trump Foundation Surgical and ICU Center. His website says his foundation has given or pledged $28 million to St. Jude’s.
The Clinton family’s Clinton Foundation, despite taking in over $2 billion since its inception, has donated little to veterans’ groups. Republican rival Donald Trump’s giving to vets has also come under intense scrutiny.