As her run to the White House begins, Hillary Clinton appears to be taking a preemptive approach to about questions over her family charity's ties to foreign money. Announced in a statement Wednesday, the board for the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation will limit donations from foreign governments during Clinton's run for president in a move likely aimed at protecting the organization and her campaign. Clinton resigned from the foundation's board last week as she officially declared her presidential campaign, but the move is likely a response to long-standing criticism of the nonprofit reliance on foreign money while Clinton was U.S. secretary of state.
The Associated Press found 16 countries gave direct grants of between $55 million and $130 million. Included in that list are Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom. These six countries will continue to be allowed to donate having previously supported the foundation's healthy, poverty, and climate change programs.
But given the politicized relations between the United States and certain countries, some past Clinton Foundation donors were viewed as questionable. Other high-donor countries include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, and the Dominican Republic. Though the nonprofit will not accept direct contributions from other governments, they can still participate in the Clinton Global Initiative. The new policy also does not limit donations from foreign individuals or companies, including those connected with their governments, The Washington Post said. The newspaper found that a third of the foundation's biggest donors were from overseas.
The policy changes also said the Clinton Global Initiative, which brings together world leaders to solve global problems and helps match donor contributions to projects independent from the foundation, will not hold international events nor accept contributions or sponsorships from foreign governments except for attendance tickets. A planned conference in Morocco in May will continue. The foundation will also disclose its donor list every quarter, as opposed to annually, beginning in July. The board plans to formally announce the details of its policy changes on Thursday.
During Clinton's four-year tenure as secretary of state, critics pointed to the possible conflict of interest of having foreign money flowing directly through her family's foundation. That money, they argued, could essentially be seen as buying or currying favors with the United States' top diplomat. Clinton had denied any undue influence on her position and agreed to restrict new foreign donors to the organization while working for the Obama administration. In February, however, the foundation admitted it failed to inform the State Department of a $500,000 donation from Algeria back in 2010.
Though Clinton is officially off the foundation's board, the nonprofit is still a family venture. The decision to limit its foreign donors shows a smart play to protect both Clinton and the foundation's interests. With more transparent efforts, the foundation appears to be buffering itself from Clinton's critics as her presidential run revs up. Likewise, Clinton appears to be anticipating the questions that lie ahead of her possible road to the White House. But whether that will be enough to quiet the critics once and for all is unlikely.
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