Earth & Conservation

The Clinton Foundation Scandal Explained

Known for its global philanthropy, the Clinton Foundation still receives much criticism. So why is the foundation so controversial?

In campaign stops throughout the year, presidential nominee Donald Trump has called for an official investigation into the Clinton Foundation, the charitable organization established by former president Bill Clinton. In fact, the foundations has been dogged by perceptions of impropriety for years. In today's Seeker Daily report, Trace Dominguez sorts through the facts and the spin behind the controversy.

Also known as the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the organization was started in 1997 by Bill Clinton as a way to raise money for a presidential library. It's since shifted focus to general philanthropy efforts and has raised more than $2 billion in total, according to some estimates. The foundation's key humanitarian goals include encouraging economic development, promoting health and wellness, and increasing opportunity for girls and women worldwide.

Unlike most other charitable foundations, the group often funds its own humanitarian projects directly, rather than simply dispersing funds to other people or organizations. But it's the matter of money coming into the foundation that's generated the most controversy. With a former president and possible future president running the foundation, the Clinton Foundation is vulnerable to accusations of impropriety and perceived conflicts of interest.

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As such, when Hillary Clinton accepted the position of Secretary of State, the Foundation stopped accepting donations from foreign governments and any other groups or people that could generate conflicts of interest. However, as soon as her tenure ended, millions of dollars poured into the foundation from countries like Saudi Arabia, much of it coming from private donors closely tied to the Saudi royal family.

According to an investigation by the Associated Press, of the 154 people from private interests who met with or spoke to Clinton while she was Secretary of State, 85 ended up donating large amounts of money to the Foundation immediately after she left the position. In total, those 85 donors contributed more than $150 million.

While the optics of such juxtaposition are clearly not great, no illegal connection has ever been established between the money donated to the foundation and political favor. And it's not for lack of trying - various investigations have been initiated over the years by different groups.

In any case, on the giving end, the Clinton Foundation has a sterling record as a charitable institution. Multiple charity watchdogs have cleared the organization of any misappropriation of funds: Charity Navigator rates the Clinton Foundation four out of four stars, and CharityWatch gives the group an A for spending the majority of its funds on actual charitable missions.

-- Glenn McDonald

Learn More:

CNN: Foundation Becomes Campaign Issue

The Washington Post: The Inside Story of how the Clintons Built a $2 Billion Global Empire

Politifact: Fact-checking Donations to the Clinton Foundation