Hit Over Foreign Fundraising, Clinton Foundation Reavows Vigilance

With its acceptance of foreign gifts threatening to become a campaign issue before there's even a campaign, the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation attempts to calm the waters.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and husband Former U.S. President Bill Clinton attend the Closing Plenary Session: 'Aiming for the Moon and Beyond' during the fourth day of the Clinton Global Initiative's 10th Annual Meeting at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers on September 24, 2014 in New York City.

Photographer: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The Clinton Foundation will take steps to manage contributions from foreign governments and other entities if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chooses to run for office, it said Thursday, amid incoming fire over the issue from Republicans. The foundation, with its long roster of donors to be investigated, is widely seen as one of the greatest vulnerabilities of her all-but-certain campaign.  

“Should Secretary Clinton decide to run for office, we will continue to ensure the foundation's policies and practices regarding support from international partners are appropriate, just as we did when she served as secretary of state,” the foundation said in a statement.

The foundation stopped accepting most foreign government contributions in 2009 when Clinton joined the Obama administration, but that ban ended when she left Foggy Bottom and became more engaged with the foundation, which was renamed the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation to reflect the heightened involvement of the two Clinton women. The foundation has been building a $250 million endowment, in part to prepare for the fundraising restrictions that would come with another Clinton in the White House.

“Like other global charities, the Clinton Foundation receives support from individuals, organizations and governments from all over the world,” the foundation said, defending its collection of foreign cash. “Contributions are made because the foundation's programs improve the lives of millions of people around the globe.”

It has a “record of transparency that goes above what is required of U.S. charities,” including voluntarily disclosing donors on its website. Those voluntary disclosures drew attention this week as the Wall Street Journal reported on foreign governments’ 2014 contributions, which the foundation had added with little fanfare to its online database. The United Arab Emirates gave between $1 million and $5 million last year, the Journal found, while the German government gave as much as $250,000. A Canadian agency advocating for the Keystone XL pipeline, the Qatari committee working on the 2022 World Cup and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have also given to the foundation since Hillary Clinton’s early 2013 departure from the State Department. 

Foreign citizens and governments can’t give to U.S. political campaigns, but they have been able to give to the Clintons through the foundation, raising questions about inappropriate influence peddling ahead of Hillary Clinton’s likely presidential campaign.

The foundation has raised close to $2 billion since Bill Clinton left the presidency, according to a Washington Post analysis published Wednesday, and took in $262 million in 2013 alone.

America Rising, a conservative super-PAC that has spent much of its energy countering Clinton, called Wednesday for the foundation to return foreign contributions and noted that “the ethical lapse to accept the money in the first place calls into question Hillary Clinton’s judgment.”

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