Clintons' charities saw sharp drop in giving in recent years

Public support for the Clinton Foundation
Public support for the Clinton Foundation

Under attack by Donald Trump and his Republican allies, the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation saw its donations drop sharply in 2015 and 2016, the nonprofit charity's financial records show.

The organization reported contributions and grants of $62.9 million last year, down from $108.9 million in 2015 and barely one-third of the $172.6 million collected in 2014.

The Boston-based Clinton Health Access Initiative, a 2010 spinoff from the foundation, reported less dramatic declines. That organization, which provides medical aid around the globe, received public support totaling $142.7 million last year, down from $170.7 million in 2015 but up slightly from the $141.5 million it received in 2014.

The financial figures are included in the two groups' 990 forms, which were filed with the Internal Revenue Service on Wednesday evening.

The foundation, with offices in Little Rock and New York City, posted the records online along with consolidated financial statements for both organizations.

In a letter accompanying the documents, acting CEO Kevin Thurm expressed gratitude for the "donors who make this life-changing work possible."

The drop in giving had been anticipated, Thurm wrote. It followed a three-year endowment drive, which had raised more than $180 million for the foundation.

Voluntary restrictions on donations, put in place at the start of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid, also came into play, he added.

Richard Marker, co-principal of Wise Philanthropy and an official with the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania, said the Clintons' focus on the 2016 campaign and the additional restrictions they placed on donations likely contributed to the drop in giving.

"It's by no means surprising that during the year of the election, there was less money and there was less giving and there was less specific fundraising for the foundation," he said.

Officials announced last year that the foundation would be laying off dozens of employees and ending the annual Clinton Global Initiative gathering in New York City.

Despite funding cutbacks, Thurm said the organization is still working to address "some of the world's most pressing challenges."

"In 2016, we continued our efforts to improve lives wherever we work," his letter stated.

Among the projects: aid to 150,000 farmers in Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania; support for a solar and geothermal power project in Saint Lucia; and construction of 21 playgrounds in the U.S.

The foundation also negotiated a deal so that naloxone, in nasal spray form, will be provided to the nation's high schools free of charge. The drug is used to "reverse opioid overdoses," Thurm said.

Formed in 1997, the Clinton Foundation focused initially on Little Rock, helping to raise money for Bill Clinton's presidential center.

Over the years, it expanded, with help from more than 330,000 donors.

Fortune 500 businesses, sovereign nations, celebrities and some of the world's richest people were among those who gave.

Over the years, the foundation raised more than $2 billion.

With presidential election campaigns underway last year, it also became a lightning rod.

Trump, the Republican presidential nominee at the time, labeled it a "criminal enterprise," while Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, portrayed it as "a world-renowned charity."

Trump suggested that the Clintons had used the foundation to enrich themselves, a claim the Clintons denied.

The former president and his daughter, Chelsea Clinton, are on the organization's board of directors, but are not paid for their services.

In April 2015, shortly after launching her second presidential bid, Hillary Clinton announced that she was leaving her unpaid position on the foundation's board "in order to devote myself to this new, all-encompassing endeavor."

The move diminished her role with the foundation but failed to satisfy her critics.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump questioned her previous ties to the foundation, alleging that as secretary of state, she had traded favors for donations.

In a television commercial, Trump also accused the foundation of accepting "staggering amounts of cash ... from criminals, dictators [and] countries that hate America."

Candidate Trump called for the Department of Justice to investigate the foundation; President Trump and some Republican lawmakers have urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to go after Hillary Clinton.

Testifying on Capitol Hill this week, Sessions didn't rule out further scrutiny of Clinton.

On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton told Mother Jones magazine that a politically motivated investigation would send the wrong message to the world and undermine American democracy.

"If they send a signal that we are going to be like some dictatorship, some authoritarian regime where political opponents are going to be unfairly, fraudulently investigated, that rips at the fabric of the contract that we have that we can trust our justice system," she told the magazine.

The release of the 990 reports comes as the Clintons and hundreds of friends and supporters are gathering in Little Rock this weekend to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1992 election that propelled the Clintons to the White House.

The consolidated financial statement lists total net assets of $389.3 million, down from $406.2 million the previous year. That includes the foundation's net assets of $326.7 million, down from $346.6 million and the initiative's net assets: $62.6 million, up from $59.6 million.

The two entities, combined, had $233.6 million in total revenue and support, down from $298.8 million in 2015. They listed combined expenses and losses of $250.4 million, down from $264.6 million.

The foundation reported total revenue of $70.8 million and total expenses of $87.4 million, a difference of $16.6 million. The initiative reported revenue of $143 million and total expenses of $139.9 million. Because of rounding, the difference is $3 million.

Leslie Lenkowsky, an expert on philanthropy with Indiana University, said the drop in donations "reflected the various controversies the Clinton Foundation was embroiled in last year."

It's hard to guess how much money will flow into the foundation now that the Clintons' White House hopes have faded, he said.

"Prior to Election Day and what appears to be the end of the Clinton political dynasty ... there were a lot of reasons for people to give to the Clinton Foundation. Some very good. Maybe some, not so good. But now the Clinton Foundation will have to earn [donations]. It'll have to persuade potential donors that the work of the foundation is worth supporting," he said.

A Section on 11/17/2017

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