NYT: Bill Clinton's 'Distasteful' $500,000 Charity Shakedown

Posted: May 29, 2015 1:30 PM

Just so we're clear, today's New York Times story about shady Clinton financial practices is separate from the undisclosed foreign cash revelations, apart from the international influence peddling allegations, distinct from the unreported foreign income story, different than the quid pro quo access-buying accusations, unique from the misreporting taxable income as charitable donations "mistake," and unrelated to the undisclosed "pass through" shell corporation report.  No, this is a new one:

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Petra Nemcova, a Czech model who survived the disaster by clinging to a palm tree, decided to pull out all the stops for the annual fund-raiser of her school-building charity, the Happy Hearts Fund. She booked Cipriani 42nd Street, which greeted guests with Bellini cocktails on silver trays. She flew in Sheryl Crow with her band and crew for a 20-minute set. She special-ordered heart-shaped floral centerpieces, heart-shaped chocolate parfaits, heart-shaped tiramisù and, because orange is the charity’s color, an orange carpet rather than a red one. She imported a Swiss auctioneer and handed out orange rulers to serve as auction paddles, playfully threatening to use hers to spank the highest bidder for an Ibiza vacation. The gala cost $363,413. But the real splurge? Bill Clinton. The former president of the United States agreed to accept a lifetime achievement award at the June 2014 event after Ms. Nemcova offered a $500,000 contribution to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The donation, made late last year after the foundation sent the charity an invoice, amounted to almost a quarter of the evening’s net proceeds — enough to build 10 preschools in Indonesia. Happy Hearts’ former executive director believes the transaction was a “quid pro quo,” which rerouted donations intended for a small charity with the concrete mission of rebuilding schools after natural disasters to a large foundation with a broader agenda and a budget 100 times bigger. “The Clinton Foundation had rejected the Happy Hearts Fund invitation more than once, until there was a thinly veiled solicitation and then the offer of an honorarium,” said the former executive director, Sue Veres Royal, who held that position at the time of the gala and was dismissed a few weeks later amid conflicts over the gala and other issues.

Team Clinton will surely dismiss Ms. Royal as a "disgruntled former employee with an ax to grind" -- they have a long history of impugning critics' character and motives -- but this arrangement does seem odd.  Here we have a relatively small charity eclipsing the entire budget for its major fundraiser in order to secure an appearance from Bill Clinton, in exchange for a $500,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation.  As the Times story notes, this fee amounted to a quarter of the evening's proceeds, and represented money that could have been put to good use in pursuit of the organization's laudable mission.  Instead, it landed in the Clintons' allegedly 'charitable' bank account, supposedly earmarked for "yet undetermined" relief work in Haiti.  Keep in mind that the Clinton Foundation has been described as a "slush fund" by an official at the Sunlight Foundation, has been placed on a "watch list" by the watchdog group Charity Navigator (which, in turn, has been pressured and bullied by the Clinton people), and was once explicitly characterized as "not charity," and in fact a "commercial proposition," by one of its founders.  But this is how the racket operates:

Never publicly disclosed, the episode provides a window into the way the Clinton Foundation relies on the Clintons’ prestige to amass donors large and small, offering the prospect, as described in the foundation’s annual report, of lucrative global connections and participation in a worldwide mission to “unlock human potential” through “the power of creative collaboration.”...“This is primarily a small but telling example of the way the Clintons operate,” said Doug White, who directs the master’s program in fund-raising management at Columbia University. “The model has responsibility; she paid a high price for a feel-good moment with Bill Clinton. But he was riding the back of this small charity for what? A half-million bucks? I find it — what would be the word? — distasteful.”

The Clintons might argue that they're capable of putting that cool half-million to better use than the much smaller and more targeted charity.  But is that really true?  The Clinton Foundation spends a fortune on overhead and operating costs, and appears to spend precious little on actual charity (see again, this quote).  Although it's tough to tell, given how opaque and apparently sloppy the entity's bookkeeping is.  I'll leave you with this little nugget mined from a slobbering Politico column intended to mount a defense of the Clintons by invoking the "phony scandals" talking point.  Here's why the foundation was paying political hatchet man Sidney Blumenthal $10,000 per month to work for their "charity" (while gathering unreliable, off-the-books intel for Sec. Clinton, as an end-round past the Obama administration's refusal to hire him):