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Clinton Foundation

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Clinton Foundation
Clinton Foundation logo.png
Founded 1997; 19 years ago (1997)[1]
2001 (2001) (as William J. Clinton Foundation)[2]
2013 (2013) (as Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation)
Founder Bill Clinton, former President of the United States
Purpose Humanitarian
  • New York City
Area served
Key people
Bill Clinton (2001–present)
Hillary Clinton (2013–15)
Chelsea Clinton (2011–present)
Donna Shalala (president, 2015–present)
Eric Braverman (president, 2013–2015)
Bruce Lindsey (president, 2004–2011)
Ira Magaziner (head of Clinton Health Access Initiative)
Doug Band (originator of Clinton Global Initiative)
$214 million in 2012[2]
$262 million in 2013[3]
$223 million in 2015[1]
350 in 2013[2]
2,000 in 2015[1]
Mission "To bring people together to take on the biggest challenges of the 21st century"

The Clinton Foundation (founded in 1997 as the William J. Clinton Foundation,[4] and called beginning in 2013 the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation[5]) is a nonprofit corporation under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. tax code. It was established by former President of the United States Bill Clinton with the stated mission to "strengthen the capacity of people in the United States and throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence."[6] Its offices are located in New York City and Little Rock, Arkansas.

Through 2016 the foundation had raised an estimated $2 billion from U.S. corporations, foreign governments and corporations, political donors, and various other groups and individuals.[3] The acceptance of funds from wealthy donors has been a source of controversy.[3][7] The foundation "has won accolades from philanthropy experts and has drawn bipartisan support, with members of the George W. Bush administration often participating in its programs."[3]

Charitable grants are not a major focus of the Clinton Foundation, which instead keeps most of its money in house and hires staff to carry out its own humanitarian programs.[8] Because of this unusual structure for a foundation, Charity Navigator, a charity watchdog, has said it does not have a methodology to rate the Clinton Foundation.[8] Consequently, they added the foundation to their charity "watch list" in April 2015; it was removed from the "watch list" in December 2015 after the charity posted amended tax returns and a public memo on its website.[9] A different charity monitor, CharityWatch, says that 88% of the foundation's money goes toward its charitable mission and gave the foundation an A rating for 2016. In 2015, based on revenue of $223 million and an expense ratio of 12% the foundation spent in excess of $26 million to complete its mission.[10]


The origins of the foundation go back to 1997, when then president Bill Clinton was focused mostly on fundraising for the future Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.[1]

Bill Clinton founded the William J. Clinton Foundation in 2001 following the completion of his presidency.[2] Longtime Clinton advisor, Bruce Lindsey, became the CEO in 2004.[11][12] Later, Lindsey moved from being CEO to being chair, largely for health reasons.[11] Other Clinton hands who played an important early role included Doug Band,[13] and Ira Magaziner. Additional Clinton associates who have had senior positions at the foundation include John Podesta and Laura Graham.[2]

Most of the foundation's successes came from Bill Clinton's worldwide fame and his ability to bring together corporate executives, celebrities, and government officials.[2] Similarly, the foundation areas of involvement have often corresponded to whatever Bill Clinton suddenly felt an interest in.[2]

Preceding Barack Obama's 2009 nomination of Hillary Clinton as U.S. Secretary of State, Bill Clinton agreed to accept a number of conditions and restrictions regarding his ongoing activities and fundraising efforts for the Clinton Presidential Center and the Clinton Global Initiative.[14] Accordingly, a list of donors was released in December 2008.[15]

By 2011, Chelsea Clinton was taking a dominant role in the foundation and had a seat on its board.[2][16] To raise money for the Foundation, she gave paid speeches, such as her $65,000 2014 address at the University of Missouri in Kansas City for the opening of the Starr Women's Hall of Fame.[17]

In 2013, Hillary Clinton joined the foundation following her tenure as Secretary of State. She planned to focus her work on issues regarding women and children,[18][19] as well as economic development.[11] Accordingly, at that point, it was renamed the "Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation".[2] Extra attention was paid to the foundation due to the 2016 United States presidential election.[2][11]

In July 2013, Eric Braverman was named CEO of the foundation.[12] He is a friend and former colleague of Chelsea Clinton from McKinsey & Company.[2][11] At the same time, Chelsea Clinton was named vice chair of the foundation's board.[2][12] The foundation was also in the midst of a move to two floors of the Time-Life Building in Midtown Manhattan.[2]

Chelsea Clinton moved the organization to an outside review, conducted by the firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. Its conclusions were made public in mid-2013.[11] The main focus was to determine how the foundation could achieve firm financial footing that was not dependent upon the former president's fundraising abilities, how it could operate more like a permanent entity rather than a start-up organization, and thus how it could survive and prosper beyond Bill Clinton's lifetime.[2][11] Dennis Cheng, a former Hillary Clinton campaign official and State Department deputy chief, was named to oversee a $250 million endowment drive.[2] The review also found the management and structure of the foundation needed improvements, including an increase in the size of its board of directors that would have a more direct involvement in planning and budget activities.[11] Additionally, the review said that all employees needed to understand the foundation's conflict of interest policies and that expense reports needed a more formal review process.[11]

In January 2015, Braverman announced his resignation. Politico attributed the move to being "partly from a power struggle inside the foundation between and among the coterie of Clinton loyalists who have surrounded the former president for decades and who helped start and run the foundation."[20] He was succeeded at first in an acting capacity by former deputy assistant secretary, Maura Pally.[21]

On February 18, 2015, The Washington Post reported that, "the foundation has won accolades from philanthropy experts and has drawn bipartisan support, with members of the George W. Bush administration often participating in its programs."[3]

In March 2015, former Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration, Donna Shalala, was selected to run the Clinton Foundation going forward.[22]

In August 2016 The Boston Globe's editorial board suggested that the Clinton Foundation cease accepting donations. The Globe's editorial board offered praise for the foundation's work but added that "as long as either of the Clintons are in public office, or actively seeking it, they should not operate a charity, too" because it represents a conflict of interest and a political distraction.[23]

In 2016, the Reuters wire news service reported that the Clinton Foundation suspected that it had been the target of a cyber security breach. As a consequence of the suspected cyber security breach, Clinton Foundation officials retained a security firm, FireEye, to evaluate its data systems. The cyber security breach has been described as sharing similarities with cyberattacks that targeted other institutions, such as the Democratic National Committee.[24]

Programs and initiatives

Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI)

As of January 1, 2010, the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, became a separate nonprofit organization called the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).[2][25] Organizations such as the Clinton Foundation continue to supply anti-malarial drugs to Africa and other affected areas; according to director Inder Singh, in 2011 more than 12 million individuals will be supplied with subsidized anti-malarial drugs.[26]

In May 2007, CHAI and UNITAID announced agreements that help middle-income and low-income countries save money on second-line drugs. The partnership also reduced the price of a once-daily first-line treatment to less than $1 per day.[27]

The Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative's work on the ground has been subject of some criticism. The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, wrote that governments and organizations in Africa and Asia that partnered with the Foundation expressed caution and alarm at the Foundation's focus on treating a large number of patients with less regard for the importance of adherence, follow-up and quality of care.[28]

CHAI was spun off into a separate organization in 2010; Ira Magaziner became its CEO (he had been a key figure in the Clinton health care plan of 1993).[2] Chelsea Clinton joined its board in 2011, as did Tachi Yamada, former President of the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.[2]

Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and CGI U

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) was founded in 2005 by President Clinton. Doug Band, counselor to President Clinton, was also heavily involved in the formation.[13] Clinton has credited Band with being the originator of CGI and has noted that "Doug had the idea to do this."[29] Band left his paid position at CGI in 2010,[2] preferring to emphasize his Teneo business and family pursuits, but remains on the CGI advisory board.[11] The overlap between CGI and Teneo, which Bill Clinton was a paid advisor, drew criticism.[2] One of its major donors is Norway's government—20 million Norwegian kroner per year as of 2013.[30]

President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff opens Clinton Global Initiative Latin America in Rio de Janeiro, 2013

In 2007, President Clinton started CGI U, which expanded the model of CGI to students, universities, and national youth organizations. CGI U has been held at Tulane University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Miami, the University of California, San Diego, The George Washington University, Washington University in St. Louis, Arizona State University, and University of California, Berkeley. Panelists and speakers have included Jon Stewart, Madeleine Albright, Vandana Shiva, Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Stephen Colbert, Jack Dorsey, Greg Stanton, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Shane Battier, Salman Khan (founder of Khan Academy), and U.S. Rep. John Lewis.[31][32][33][34][35]

President Clinton with Alonzo Mourning during CGI University Day of Service in Miami, Florida.

Clinton Global Citizen Awards

The Clinton Global Citizen Awards are a set of awards which have been given by the Clinton Global Initiative every year since 2007.[36] The awards are given to individuals who, in the opinion of the Clinton Foundation, are "outstanding individuals who exemplify global citizenship through their vision and leadership".[36] Past recipients of the award include Mexican businessman and philanthropist Carlos Slim,[36] Irish billionaire Denis O'Brien,[37] Moroccan entrepreneur Mohammad Abbad Andaloussi,[38] Rwandan President Paul Kagame,[39] Afghan women's rights activist Suraya Pakzad,[40] Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández,[41] and Pakistani labor rights activist Syeda Ghulam Fatima.[42]

Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI)

President Clinton started a program to fight climate change, the Clinton Foundation's Climate Initiative (CCI) in August 2006.[43]

On August 1, 2006, the Foundation entered into a partnership with the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, agreeing to provide resources to allow the participating cities to enter into an energy-saving product purchasing consortium and to provide technical and communications support.[44]

In May 2007, CCI announced its first project which will help some large cities cut greenhouse gas emissions by facilitating retrofitting of existing buildings. Five large banks committed $1 billion each to help cities and building owners make energy-saving improvements aimed at lowering energy use and energy costs.[45]

At the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative, President Clinton announced the 1Sky campaign to accelerate bold federal policy on global warming.[46] The 1Sky campaign supports at least an 80% reduction in climate pollution levels by 2050.

On May 19, 2009, CCI announced the global Climate Positive Development Program where it will work with the U.S. Green Building Council to promote "climate positive" city growth.[47]

Clinton Development Initiative (CDI)

The Clinton Development Initiative, originally the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative, was formed in 2006 as a partnership between Scottish philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter's Hunter Foundation and former President Bill Clinton's Clinton Foundation to target the root causes of poverty in Africa and promote sustainable economic growth.[48]

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation is a partnership between the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association that is working to end the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States by 2010.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which provided an initial $8 million to start the Healthy Schools Program, awarded a $20 million grant to expand the program to over 8,000 schools in states with the highest obesity rates.[49]

At the industry level, the Alliance struck agreements with major food and beverage manufacturers to provide kids with nutritional options, and established nutrition guidelines for school vending machines, stores and cafeterias to promote healthy eating. Some of the companies involved in these efforts are Coca-Cola, Cadbury plc, Campbell Soup Company, Groupe Danone, Kraft Foods, Mars and PepsiCo.[50][51]

Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative

Established in 2007 with Canadian business executive Frank Giustra, CGSGI describes itself as "pioneering an innovative approach to poverty alleviation."[52] Giustra's involvement with the Clinton Foundation has been criticized by the International Business Times.[53]

Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI)

In November 2012, Bill Clinton announced the launch of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI). CHMI is a national initiative, building on the Clinton Foundation's work on global health and childhood obesity, that works to improve the health and well-being of people across the United States by activating individuals, communities, and organizations to make meaningful contributions to the health of others. CHMI holds an annual Health Matters conference every January in the Coachella Valley.[54]

Disaster relief

The Foundation has funded extensive disaster relief programs following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit, President George W. Bush asked former Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton to raise funds to help rebuild the Gulf Coast region. The two Presidents, having worked together to assist victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, established the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund to identify and meet the unmet needs in the region, foster economic opportunity, and to improve the quality of life of those affected.[55] In the first month after the hurricane, the Fund collected over 42,000 online donations alone; approximately $128.4 million has been received to date from all 50 states and $30.9 million from foreign countries. The foundation was again involved following the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[2]

No Ceilings project

In 2013, Hillary Clinton established a partnership between the foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to gather and study data on the progress of women and girls around the world since the United Nations Fourth World Conference On Women in Beijing in 1995.[56][57] This is called "No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project."[56][57] The Project released a report in March 2015.[58]


Around 2007, the Clinton Foundation was criticized for a lack of transparency. Although U.S. law did not require nonprofit charities — including presidential foundations — to disclose the identities of their contributors, critics said that the names of donors should be disclosed because Hillary Clinton was running to be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. Commentator Matthew Yglesias wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that the Clintons should make public the names of foundation donors to avoid any appearance of impropriety.[59]

A lengthy donors list was then released by the Foundation in December 2008,[15] which included several politically sensitive donors, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Blackwater Worldwide.[60] The Foundation stated that the disclosures would ensure that "not even the appearance of a conflict of interest" would exist once Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.[60]

The ethics agreement between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation that was put into force at the beginning of the Secretary of State Clinton's tenure came under scrutiny from the news media during February 2015. A Wall Street Journal report found that the Clinton Foundation had resumed accepting donations from foreign governments once Secretary Clinton's tenure had ended.[61] Contributions from foreign donors who are prohibited by law from contributing to political candidates in the U.S. constitute a major portion of the foundation's income. The foundation's chief communications officer Craig Minassian explained that it is a "false choice to suggest that people who may be interested in supporting political causes wouldn’t also support philanthropic work."[3] A Washington Post inquiry into donations by foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation during the secretary's tenure found six cases where such governments continued making donations at the same level they had before Clinton became secretary, which was permissible under the agreement, but also one instance of a new donation, $500,000 from Algeria for earthquake relief in Haiti, that was outside the bounds of the continuation provision and should have received a special ethics review, but did not.[62] Foundation officials said that if the former secretary decided to run for president in 2016, they would again consider what steps to take in reference to foreign donations.[62] But in general, they stressed that, "As with other global charities, we rely on the support of individuals, organizations, corporations and governments who have the shared goal of addressing critical global challenges in a meaningful way. When anyone contributes to the Clinton Foundation, it goes towards foundation programs that help save lives."[62] State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki attested that the foundation's commitment to the ethics agreement in question "has been over and above the letter of the law".[63] In August 2016, with less than 90 days before the upcoming presidential election, the Clinton Foundation announced that it will stop accepting foreign donations if Clinton is elected.[64]

In March 2015, Reuters reported that the Clinton Foundation had broken its promise to publish all of its donors, as well as its promise to let the State Department review all of its donations from foreign governments.[65] In April 2015, the New York Times reported that when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, the State Department had approved a deal to sell American uranium to a Russian state-owned enterprise Uranium One whose chairman had donated to the Clinton Foundation, and that Clinton had broken her promise to publicly identify such donations.[66] The State Department "was one of nine government agencies, not to mention independent federal and state nuclear regulators, that had to sign off on the deal."[67] notes that there is "no evidence" that the donations influenced Clinton’s official actions or that she was involved in the State Department's decision to approve the deal,[68] and PolitiFact concluded that any "suggestion of a quid pro quo is unsubstantiated."[67]

After her January 2009 appointment as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton proposed hiring long-time Clinton friend and confidant Sidney Blumenthal as an advisor, however, Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, blocked Blumenthal's appointment at the State Department.[69] Blumenthal was subsequently hired by the Clinton Foundation and after the 2011 uprising in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi, Blumenthal prepared, from public and other sources, about 25 memos which he sent as emails to Clinton in 2011 and 2012 with advice regarding Libyan matters.[70][71]

2015 State Department subpoena

In February 2016, The Washington Post reported that the United States Department of State issued a subpoena to the foundation in the fall of 2015. According to the report, the subpoena focused on "documents about the charity's projects that may have required approval from federal government during Hillary Clinton's term as secretary of state" and "also asked for records related to Huma Abedin, longtime Clinton aide who for six months in 2012 was employed simultaneously by the State Department, the foundation, Clinton's personal office, and a private consulting firm with ties to the Clintons."[72]


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External links