The Clinton Foundation is acknowledging that it made “mistakes” in its financial reports on the donations made by foreign governments while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. The matter has threatened to become a political problem in the early days of her campaign for president.
In a statement Sunday, acting chief executive Maura Pally said the foundation “will likely” have to refile its U.S. tax returns for several years after a review of its donations is completed. She said the foundation’s total revenue on the tax forms was accurate, but that it had mistakenly lumped in the foreign donations with other contributions even as it had disclosed the information on the foundation’s web site.
Political critics have questioned the Clinton Foundation’s transparency, citing the possibility of conflicts of interest with her actions as the country’s top diplomat from 2009 to early 2013. Pally said the foundation, whose anti-poverty and health care initiatives stretch throughout the world, is committed to transparency in its disclosure of donations.
But she said the names of donors to a Canadian partner of the foundation will remain secret because under Canadian law all charities are prohibited from disclosing the names without their prior permission.
Pally said the foundation going forward will only accept donations from “a handful of governments.”
“When Hillary Clinton was appointed Secretary of State, we took unprecedented steps to avoid potential conflicts of interest by going above and beyond what is required of any philanthropy and instituted voluntary annual disclosure of all donors on our website,” Pally said.
That donor list includes contributions of between $10 million and $25 million from Saudi Arabia, Norway, Australia and the Dominican Republic. Kuwait, Ireland and the Netherlands have contributed between $5 million and $10 million, while Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have each given between $1 million and $5 million, according to the foundation.
Pally also pushed back at specific criticism of donations linked to a Canadian mining executive, whose company, including one of the largest uranium mines in the U.S., was sold to Russia’s atomic energy agency when Clinton was secretary of state.
Frank Giustra and a Canadian charity he established are each listed among the foundation’s top donors with total contributions exceeding $25 million. A New York Times report last week described millions of dollars in donations that were not disclosed during Clinton’s time as the top U.S. diplomat when she had to approve the sale of Giustra’s company.
Pally stressed that the charity is independent, and that Giustra established it in Canada so that Canadians could receive a tax credit for their donations to support the Clinton Foundation.
“But as it is a distinct Canadian organization, separate from the Clinton Foundation, its individual donors are not listed on the site,” Pally said. “This is hardly an effort on our part to avoid transparency — unlike in the U.S., under Canadian law, all charities are prohibited from disclosing individual donors without prior permission from each donor.”
Clinton is not involved with the foundation while she campaigns to succeed her former boss, President Barack Obama. Her husband, Bill Clinton, launched the foundation after his own presidential term ended in 2001. It has focused on a range of initiatives including promoting education and economic opportunities for women and girls, and addressing climate change and AIDS.
In addition to statements addressing donations from foreign governments, the foundation’s website also highlights its many contributions from major corporations, saying those donations did not “overlap” with Secretary Clinton’s work.
An examination of the donor list showed many of the top U.S. corporations making donations to the Clinton Foundation. Nineteen of the 30 companies that make up the benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average stock index have made donations, most totaling more than $500,000. They include the Wal-Mart, the nation’s top retailer, Exxon, the biggest oil company, and JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank.
Other campaigners for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations include lawmakers and state governors who themselves take in large political contributions from a wide range of corporate officials, as is Hillary Clinton for her campaign.
Clinton has drawn extra scrutiny with questions about her use of private email during her time as secretary of state instead of a government-issued account, as well as lingering issues from that time such as the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.