Hillary Clinton
Credit: Keith Kissel/Flickr

When the right wing started talking about the Clinton Foundation early in this election season, the headlines often made it sound like “foreign donors” were contributing to Hillary’s campaign rather than her family’s charitable non-profit. That’s where all this started. With the release of more emails, major media outlets and political commentators began to envision problems in terms of optics, if not actual conflicts of interest. And so it is likely that if Hillary is elected president, the foundation will either cease to exist or the initiatives will be taken over by some other groups.

It seems to me that an awful lot of information has been left out of this discussion. Perhaps a few facts are in order. First of all, when it comes to foreign donors, that has actually been part of the Foundation’s vision from the beginning.

We believe that the best way to unlock human potential is through the power of creative collaboration. That’s why we build partnerships between businesses, NGOs, governments, and individuals everywhere to work faster, leaner, and better; to find solutions that last; and to transform lives and communities from what they are today to what they can be, tomorrow.

A big part of their work is developing public/private partnerships where private money is used to leverage local government investment in their areas of interest (global health and wellness, opportunity for girls and women, childhood obesity, economic opportunity and growth, and addressing the effects of climate change).

Secondly, based on the Foundation’s 990 and the Clinton’s tax return, it is clear that neither Bill, Hillary nor Chelsea have ever received a salary or any other compensation from the foundation. Quite the opposite is true. In 2015, the Clintons actually donated $1 million to the foundation. In other words, neither Hillary’s campaign nor the Clintons themselves have profited from this work.

Thirdly, what about the emails that show collusion between Clinton’s work at the State Department and the foundation. I’m going to let Kevin Drum summarize that one.

So what about the latest batch of emails. Do they really show “seedy dealings” by Team Hillary?

I dunno. One is from a Clinton Foundation executive asking a Hillary aide if she can set up a meeting for a big donor with someone at State. The Hillary aide says she’ll see what she can do, and then blows it off. In another, a foundation executive asks for help getting someone a job. He’s told that everyone already knows about the guy, and “Personnel has been sending him options.” In other words, he’s blown off. In yet another, it turns out that a Clinton aide spent some of her own time helping the foundation look for a new CEO.

So….what? People in Washington schmooze with people they know to help other people they know? Shocking, isn’t it? My guess is that the average aide to a cabinet member gets a dozen things like this a week. If all we can find here are two in four years—both of which were basically blown off—the real lesson isn’t that Hillary Clinton’s State Department was seedy. Just the opposite. It was almost pathologically honest.

On the flip side, what has the Clinton Foundation accomplished?

The 10-year-old initiative has facilitated programs that aided more than 430 million people in 180 countries, with government, private and civil-society entities working together in 90 percent of the programs, he [Bill Clinton] noted at the initiative’s annual meeting…

Forty-six million children have better educational opportunities, more than 110 million women and children have better access to health care, and clean drinking water is more available to over 27 million people, he said…

The initiative prides itself on some 3,200 “commitments to action” – concrete plans for a new approach to a major problem – by its members.

One such pledge has led to financial education for more than 1.2 million poor women and youths and scholarships for more than 10,000 students in Kenya. Another has spawned more than 430 successful online crowdfunding campaigns for projects centered on women and girls. A third, aimed at enlisting African-American churches in combatting HIV and AIDS, has trained more than 500 religious leaders.

I understand the reason the Clintons have decided that they should discontinue involvement in these efforts when/if she is elected president. But let’s be clear that it has nothing to do with any impropriety on their part or the Foundation’s. And I’d like to associate myself with these remarks from Neera Tanden.

P.S. One more fact: according to Charity Watch, the Clinton Foundation only spends 12% of their funds on overhead (fundraising and administration) – which is incredibly low for a non-profit. That is why they receive an “A” rating from that watchdog.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.