Will Clinton Foundation Disclose All Documents?

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Will Clinton Foundation Disclose All Documents?
| published May 12, 2015 |

By R. Alan Clanton Thursday Review editor

Though the executive director of (and various spokespersons for) the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation now concede that mistakes have been made in the way the charitable foundation managed it donations and its recordkeeping, the Clinton Foundation remains a Rubik’s Cube of transaction entanglements and unreported financial information, according to reports from the Associated Press and Reuters. The foundation may also be attempting to cloak it problems in legal technicalities and narrow, legalistic interpretations of the law.

Primarily at issue, as Hillary Clinton enters the first full month of campaigning since her official announcement that she intends to run for President in 2016, are donations from foreign sources—individual, corporate and governmental—made to the foundation during the time when Clinton served as U.S. Secretary of State. Reporters also want to know whether some of the huge speaking fees paid to Bill Clinton during that same period, fees ranging from $200,000 to $500,000 per appearance, were in fact little more than a quid pro quo—heavy sums of cash given in exchange for tacit cooperation by the State Department or in exchange for U.S. government or corporate agreements.

Under IRS rules in the United States, charitable organizations—large or small, and regardless of the type of work they perform—are required to disclose to the public contributions which come from government agencies. That mandate of full disclosure includes sources of cash both domestic and foreign, as well as local, state and Federal monies.

Last month, amid much scrutiny and controversy, the foundation’s director (actually, acting executive director) admitted that in the confusion involving the large sums of cash, some inadvertent mistakes had been made. According to the Clinton Foundation’s website and statements by foundation officers, a fuller, more detailed listing of foreign donations would soon be forthcoming. But journalists for AP and Reuters are reporting that some of the information supposedly available for review on the website cannot be found, including the tax returns for the foundation during the years in question.

Also still unavailable are the names of donors and amounts of contributions by many foreign donors, including more than a thousand Canadian donors bundled largely through the efforts of billionaire Frank Giustra. Giustra and spokespersons for the Clinton Foundation have said publicly that under Canadian law such donations must remain private, but tax experts in Canada and the United States say that no such limitation exists. Last Friday, the Clinton-Giustra Partnership, a Vancouver-based affiliate of the Clinton Foundation, did reveal the names of 21 of its largest donors after those contributors agreed in writing to allow information about their charitable gifts public. But hundreds more names and donation totals remain shrouded from view, one of several all-too-obvious violations of the foundation’s 2008 agreement to make all contributions a part of the public record.

Bill Clinton was one of several instrumental parties in arranging and facilitating a complex international deal whereby Guistra gained access to uranium mining rights in Kazakhstan, and one of the 21 big money donors to the Clinton Foundation was Ian Telfer. Telfer was once CEO and chairman of Uranium One, a mining company which was sold to a Russian conglomerate during the time when Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State. Journalists are looking into questions of why the U.S. Department of State may have acquiesced, perhaps even encouraged, that sale—which made tens of millions for Telfer, a close personal friend and business associate to Giustra. Another of the heavyweight contributors to the Clinton Foundation was Sergey Kurzin, a businessman who was instrumental in making the mining rights deal go smoothly for all parties involved.

Giustra says that under Canadian law, his component of the Clinton Foundation is restricted from disclosing information about contributors, a legal position which remains unclear to some tax analysts in the U.S. and Canada. Republicans want to know why—if in fact Canadian contributions are in fact shielded from disclosure—the Clinton Foundation accepted such large sums in the first place, despite an agreement with Congress and the White House that foreign contributions would always be accompanied by a full accounting of information about the donors.

Further complicating matters for both sides in the controversy is the fact that Hillary Clinton acknowledges that she deleted tens of thousands of emails sent and received during her tenure as top diplomat for the United States, emails which she has told reporters were personal in nature. Those emails, her critics are now arguing, may have contained critical conversations between Clinton, the State Department, and the foundation. These gaps in accountability conflict directly with both the Clinton Foundation’s—and Hillary Clinton’s—frequent pledges of transparency.

But despite the email fracas, which erupted months ago when it was revealed that Hillary Clinton had used a privately-crafted email account while acting as Secretary of State—a violation of Federal rules and procedures for government employees—Hillary Clinton had decided to move on with her much-anticipated campaign for President. Within the Clinton circle there was hope that the dual storms of the email account and the homebrew server would blow over, freeing her to begin in earnest her bid for the White House.

Clinton announced her candidacy via social media in mid-April. Clinton is the front-runner in a field which includes Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. And though Clinton has challengers from within her party, she outpolls O’Malley, Sanders and other Democrats by lopsided margins. Republicans fully expect to face Clinton in the general election next year.

But the complex world of the Clintons, which spills easily over into the foundation, has proven to be a major distraction for Hillary Clinton’s campaign as she approaches one month of more-or-less full-time campaigning as an official candidate. In early 2009, as she was preparing to take the helm at the State Department, Clinton agreed to abide by transparency rules set in place by the Obama administration regarding the foundation’s activities—most especially its fundraising operations, which even then included substantial contributions from foreign sources and foreign governments.

Furthermore, the guidelines and rules which apply to non-profit groups like the Clinton Foundation require that government contributions be listed separately from private and individual donations—not lumped together by other category types. Despite a widely-disseminated statement by Maura Pally, the foundation’s acting chief executive, back in April, that the information was then readily available for a full review by journalists, public interest groups and other interested parties, reporters and investigators have found that the contribution data is still lumped together with no indication of how much of the money came from foreign government sources, how much from corporations, and how much from individuals.

Clinton Foundation officials have said that they stand by the data provided, and cite various legal technicalities to explain why some of the requested information is not readily available. And even though the foundation says it is making every effort to cooperate with those who want to examines the financial records, reporters have complained that the foundation is hiding behind legalisms and deliberately complex fine print to shroud the details.

The brouhaha comes at a tricky time for the Clinton campaign as it gears up to begin what will surely be a long process of defining the Clinton message and preparing for upcoming Republican attacks. Just this past weekend a dozen GOP candidates (and would-be contenders) appeared at a forum in South Carolina, dividing their ordnance evenly between President Obama and candidate Clinton. Clinton campaign strategists would also like to move the conversation forward quickly, so that Clinton and team can concentrate on raising cash—an expected $1 billion, by some estimates, before the campaign is over in November 2016.

Some liberal and progressive groups are also concerned that Clinton is dodging accountability and muddying her progressive message by not offering a fuller disclosure of financial information—not just that of the foundation (of which she no longer serves as an officer or employee)—but also of her substantial super-PAC and the mega-bundlers helping to raise millions of dollars for the campaign. Since becoming a candidate, Clinton has made several public comments regarding the need for election finance reform.

“We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccounted-for money out of it, once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment,” Clinton told an audience of supporters in Iowa in April.

But when it comes to bundlers—those specialized fundraisers who collaborate with dozens, scores, hundreds of other people in order to create a paper trail of names and addresses all contributing at the maximum allowed by law—the Clinton campaign has been unclear and even evasive as to whether it intends to divulge that information, and under what circumstances. The campaign has made a special effort to encourage the big bundlers to each raise roughly $27,000 apiece, which is ten donors at the maximum of $2700 each. When a bundler achieves this goal, that person becomes a member of an elite circle known within the Clinton campaign as “Hillstarters.”

But the names of those high-dollar organizers may not be disclosed, at least according to the oblique internal policies crafted by the Clinton campaign staff. Besides, Federal law allows for a variety of complex but navigable loopholes to avoid full and complete disclosure of money channeled by bundlers, and numerous reporters and watchdog groups say that the Clinton campaign is successfully embracing each and every one of these loopholes.

Meanwhile, many heavyweight previous U.S. donors to the Clinton Foundation are already making their money count even more by sending cash contributions toward Hillary Clinton’s campaign. According to several political watchdog groups, several of the foundation’s biggest rainmakers plan to host—or have already hosted—lavish high-dollar fundraising events. One such event, planned for next week in Chicago, will be a special gathering of deep pocket donors at the home of media and publishing tycoon Fred Eychaner. Records indicate that Eychaner has so far contributed more than $25 million to the Clinton Foundation, one of several examples of how the overlap which will exist between donors to the foundation and those who contribute to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential bid.

Related Thursday Review articles:

The Clintons, The Foundation & The Foreign Cash; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; May 1, 2015.

Clinton Foundation Will Continue to Accept Foreign Cash; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; April 16, 2015.