While pundits are tearing their clothes over an AP story showing almost 3% of meetings that Hillary Clinton held at the State Department involved people who had donated to the Clinton Foundation—so long as you extend the list to people who were involved in other charitable groups which donated to the foundation, and you limit your data to just a subset of Hillary’s time as Secretary of State. Which is frankly not shocking at all, no matter how much froth is produced over it.
The Clinton Foundation hasn’t put one penny in the pockets of either Bill or Hillary Clinton. And extensive reviews haven’t found any evidence—any evidence—that it affected a single action at the State Department.
And yet both pundits and some politicians are hand-wringing and following Donald Trump in calling for the immediate closure of the foundation.
So here’s a nice CNN review of just what the Clinton Foundation is, and what it does.
Bill Clinton set up the public charity after he wrapped up his presidency in 2001 with the idea of bringing government, businesses and social groups together to tackle big problems. It was kind of a new idea at the time. On Monday, Clinton wrote in a post on Medium that the foundation is about "creating opportunities and solving problems faster, better, at lower cost so that more people are empowered to build better futures for themselves, their families and their communities." …
The foundation is made up of 11 non-profit groups that work on four major issues: global health and wellness, climate change, economic development and improving opportunities for girls and women.
And perhaps most critically …
Health is a big focus. In more than 70 countries, according to the foundation, it helps 11.5 million people, including 800,000 children, with HIV/AIDS get their medication at 90% lower cost -- more than half the adults and three-quarters of the children getting treatment in the world today.
All those calling for the immediate closure of the foundation are calling for the disruption of health care to over 11 million people, and putting in doubt the lives ofover half the people being treated for HIV anywhere in the world. Read that part again: the Clinton Foundation helps 800,000 kids getting treatment for HIV/AIDS. That’s what it means to shut down the Clinton Foundation.
Hillary Clinton should be proud of everything about the Clinton Foundation. And those people like Trump, who is genuinely trying to profit by placing thousands of children at risk, or the pundits shaking their heads over the “optics” of the situation, should be deeply, deeply ashamed.
Republicans are putting the Clinton Foundation at the center of their attacks on Hillary Clinton again, which is no surprise. Sometimes it’s helpful, when you’re hearing attacks on something, to know a little about it. So: What does the Clinton Foundation do?
If you look at the Clinton Foundation’s consolidated expenses for 2014, which totaled $249 million, you’ll find that the biggest part of those expenses—57 percent—was for running the Clinton Health Access Initiative, or CHAI. Technically, CHAI is a freestanding nonprofit, and it files its own 990 tax return, but it is still roughly under the Clinton Foundation umbrella. CHAI was started in 2002 to focus on saving the “lives of people with HIV/AIDS in the developing world by dramatically scaling up antiretroviral treatment.” It has since expanded to address other health issues like malaria and maternal health, operating in some 35 countries. The Gates Foundation is CHAI’s biggest funder. It gave it over $60 million last year alone.
Meanwhile, the Clinton Foundation directly runs various programs tackling other problems. The largest of these, dollar-wise, is the Clinton Climate Initiative, which works to prevent deforestation, develop clean energy, and help island nations meet the climate challenge (as we’ve reported). As with CHAI, there’s nothing all that surprising about this effort, which is similar to other nonprofit work in the climate space. The government of Norway, which gives large amounts of money globally to slow deforestation, is among the top funders of CCI.
Okay, so HIV/AIDS treatment, malaria, maternal health, clean energy, preventing deforestation. The bulk of the Clinton Foundation’s money, according to this reporting, goes to these totally traditional activities for a public charity. Additionally, the Clinton Foundation told FactCheck.org that “Clinton Development Initiative staff in Africa train rural farmers and help them get access to seeds, equipment and markets for their crops” and “Clinton Health Matters staff work with local governments and businesses in the United States to develop wellness and physical activity plans.”
So there you have it. That’s what Donald Trump and a slew of other Republicans are attacking. As charitable work goes, it’s not exactly buying a Tim Tebow jersey, but we can’t all make that much of a difference in the world.