Saturday, October 1, 2016

Bill and Hillary Inc.

Economist reports:
The Clintons’ activities have three pillars. First, their role as politicians and the holders of public office. Second, their private income-generating activities, mainly “for-profit” speeches that they give for their own gain rather than for the foundation or other causes. The Economist estimates that, based on their tax returns and other disclosures, the couple have given 728 such talks since Mr Clinton left office in 2001, making $154m of fee income. Of this, 86% came from Mr Clinton. Mrs Clinton gave no for-profit speeches while in office, but because of Mr Clinton’s speaking tours, $49m, or 32% of the couple’s for-profit speech revenue, was made while she was secretary of state in 2009-13. Some gigs echoed the banality of the campaign trail—try the American Camping Association in Atlantic City. Others were far-flung, with visits to Moscow, Jeddah and Beijing. About 43% of total revenue came from events abroad.

After the crisis of 2008-10 concerns rose about banks “capturing” regulators and politicians, so payments from these firms are controversial. The frequency of the Clintons’ for-profit speaking appearances at some banks does raise eyebrows: 13 talks for Toronto Dominion, 12 for Goldman Sachs and ten for UBS. Of the 23 Western banks that regulators classify as systemically important, 12 have paid the Clintons on a for-profit basis. Still, overall only 15% of the Clintons’ cumulative speech income came from financial firms. Mrs Clinton’s campaign declined to comment on the figures in this article.

The third pillar is the Clinton Foundation, a sprawling philanthropic conglomerate. It was formed in 1997 to fund Mr Clinton’s presidential library and then morphed into something bigger. Mr Clinton says the inspiration came just after he left office, in 2001, when he was based in Harlem and helped local firms there. He realised the benefits of partnerships. After the attacks of September 11th 2001, he raised funds to help the victims’ children. In 2002 the foundation took on HIV in the emerging world. Since then, new divisions have been added to respond to new problems. Today it has 12 divisions, including its health activities abroad, the CGI events and its work in Haiti.

The foundation’s expansion and operating performance have been impressive. But its governance, sources of capital and approach to related parties are flawed.

Revenues from donations and grants rose from $10m in 2001 to $338m in 2014, the last year for which accounts are available. Assets rose from $21m to $440m. Unlike many foundations, the Clinton Foundation operates projects on the ground and employs 2,000 staff. It runs a fairly tight ship, with 64% of revenues in 2014 spent on its projects rather than on overheads...

Mr Clinton wanted a philanthropic empire, but unlike America’s tycoons he had to do it with other people’s money. The foundation is mainly financed by the pillars of society, for example the Gates Foundation. But an estimated $181m, or 9%, of its cumulative revenues has come from foreign governments and $54m of that, or 3% of the total, from autocratic states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. A further 40% has come from other foreign sources, including multilateral bodies and companies. Donations are either earmarked for specific projects, or go into a general kitty.

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