Clinton Foundation doing well for itself

Because many Americans open their hearts and wallets to worthy causes during the holidays, it seems like a good time to take a look at one proclaimed loudly for several years to have been very worthy: the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

Headquartered in Little Rock, Ark., the Clinton Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) organization, meaning it meets the government’s tests as a non-profit. According to foundation officials, their mission is to “improve global health & wellness, increase opportunity for women/girls, reduce childhood obesity, create economic opp & growth and help communities address effects of climate change.”

So, how’s the foundation doing on all that?

During 2015, the last year for which a federal 990 report on the foundation is available, it raked in more than $116 million in revenue.

Meanwhile, in pursuit of its lofty goals, the foundation handed out a total of $5,160,385 in grants.

It also spent $11,808,733 on various conferences, conventions and meetings.

That’s a total of less than $19 million, around 16 percent of what the foundation collected in 2015, in expenses.

But elsewhere in the 990 report for 2015, foundation officers list $75.2 million in “program service expenses.” They fall into three categories:

* $55,911,117 for the Clinton Global Initiative and “other program service” ranging from aid to Haiti to training more than 1,000 female entrepreneurs in Peru, from creating opportunities for girls and women to addressing the problem of obesity by working with schools.

* $7,815,493 for the Clinton Climate Initiative, which, among other things, digitalized more than 1.8 million climate records.

* $11,497,294 for the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, which happens to be the home of the foundation.

A long section of the 990 purports to explain the “program services accomplishments” spending — but it includes virtually no dollar amounts for specific projects. There are lots of claims of magnificent work, of course.

Read between the lines. Nearly all the supposedly mission-oriented spending paid for the foundation’s hundreds of employees to tell other people how to accomplish the missions. Very little money — the $19 million for grants, conferences, etc. — was provided for anyone to actually do anything.

Some people have benefited from the foundation, big time.

Twelve officials and other key employees of the foundation received more than $200,000 in compensation during 2015. The highest paid was Bruce R. Lindsey, chairman of the board, at $394,422. His other job is as a lawyer with a Little Rock firm. He previously was a key figure in Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, then a top aide in the White House. He was connected to the infamous Whitewater controversy, involving shady land deals that allegedly were linked to both Bill and Hillary.

Next highest on the totem pole was Eric Braverman, who received $359,710 despite stepping down as a foundation director on Jan. 19, 2015. Braverman reportedly had tried to institute reforms at the foundation, and was ousted for his efforts.

In case you’re wondering, 2015 wasn’t a fluke. It was typical, to judge by the foundation’s 990 forms for 2014 and 2013.

In 2014, the foundation took in $177.8 million. It handed out just $5.2 million in grants and spent another $12.5 million on meetings, conferences, etc.

In 2013, the foundation received $147.8 million. It doled out $8.9 million in grants and spent another $9.2 million on meetings, conferences and the like.

During that three-year period, the foundation paid out $102.7 million in salaries and benefits to employees.

There was an enormous beneficiary from the foundation’s work, however: the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. At the end of 2012, it had total assets of $183.6 million.

Just three years later, its assets had grown to $359.9 million

Mike Myer can be reached at mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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