The Clinton ‘Charity’ Begins at Home
Employment rolls for the Clinton Foundation show scads of political operatives—but this doesn’t seem to bother the IRS.
By Kimberley A. Strassel in the Wall Street Journal
The scandal of the century at the IRS was that agency’s secret targeting of conservative nonprofits. Perhaps a close second is the scandal of what the IRS hasn’t been investigating: the Clinton Foundation.
The media’s focus is on Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state, and whether she took official actions to benefit her family’s global charity. But the mistake is starting from the premise that the Clinton Foundation is a “charity.” What’s clear by now is that this family enterprise was set up as a global shakedown operation, designed to finance and nurture the Clintons’ continued political ambitions. It’s a Hillary super PAC that throws in the occasional good deed.
That much is made obvious by looking at the foundation’s employment rolls. Most charities are staffed by folks who have spent a lifetime in nonprofits, writing grants or doing overseas field work. The Clinton Foundation is staffed by political operatives. It has been basically a parking lot for Clinton campaign workers—a comfy place to draw a big check as they geared up for Hillary’s presidential run.
The revolving door is spinning quickly these days. There’s Dennis Cheng, a finance director for Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 bid, who went to the Clinton Foundation as its chief development officer. There he built a giant donor file, which he earlier this year took with him to head up fundraising for the Clinton 2016 campaign. There’s Katie Dowd, who raised $100 million as Mrs. Clinton’s new media director in 2008, then went to a Clinton PAC, then to the State Department, then to the foundation as a “tech adviser.” She’s now at Clinton 2016 as digital director.
Some operatives don’t even bother feigning separation. Longtime aide Cheryl Mills served as general counsel to Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 campaign, then worked at State. She then joined the board of directors of the foundation and remains on it still, even as she works on Clinton 2016. Nick Merrill, an aide to Mrs. Clinton at State, has continued on as her press liaison. Last year his name popped up on a news release as a contact person for the Clinton Foundation. Mr. Merrill will be a campaign spokesman for Clinton 2016.
Maura Pally was until recently the acting CEO of the Clinton Foundation. Her training for this important job was working as a lawyer in the Clinton White House, as a counsel to Hillary 2008, and in cultural affairs at the State Department. Valerie Alexander is the foundation’s chief marketing officer, and the woman responsible for turning the outfit into a Clinton PR machine. She worked as a senior communications adviser for Hillary 2008.
Amitabh Desai is the foundation’s foreign policy director. He was a legislative aide to Sen. Hillary Clinton. Craig Minassian is the foundation’s chief communications officer. He worked on Hillary 2008. Ira Magaziner is CEO of the Clinton Health Care Access Initiative. He is one of the Clintons’ oldest advisers. Bari Lurie, chief of staff to Chelsea Clinton, worked on Hillary’s Senate campaign and her 2008 run, and for her PAC. Erika Gudmundson is the foundation’s deputy director of communications initiatives. She was a press aide for Hillary 2008. You get the point.
The question isn’t how or whether these folks will help with Clinton 2016, but when and in what capacity. Ditto more than a dozen other staffers at the foundation who lack long histories with Clinton but who came straight out of politics—either working for the Democratic National Committee, other politicians or super PACS.
The other question is how many more operatives are cashing foundation checks that we don’t know about—as “consultants” for the group. We now know longtime Clinton pal Sid Blumenthal drew $10,000 a month. For what?
Then there’s Mrs. Clinton’s longtime aide, Huma Abedin, who worked as traveling chief of staff during the 2008 campaign, then went to State. There she was granted a special arrangement to continue earning money as a private-sector consultant. Among those she consulted for? The Clinton Foundation. Ms. Abedin has transitioned back as vice chairman of Mrs. Clinton 2016 campaign. There are surely more.
This is typically Clinton, which means it is typically on the edge of legal. The foundation operates as a nonprofit, raising hundreds of millions as a “charity.” We know from foundation tax filings that it spends an extraordinary portion of its funds on travel and staff. How many donors are unaware that their money is going to keep Clinton friends in full employment? How many are aware and give precisely for that reason—to help elect a new president, one who will gratefully remember their help?
Lucky for the Clintons, nobody looks. As a charity (and unlike a super PAC), the foundation is subject to almost no oversight. The IRS in the past has stripped charities of their tax-exempt status when they are shown to be operating for a purpose other than benevolence. The agency has shown no real interest in the Clinton Foundation. Go figure.
Clinton allies are insisting to all who listen that the foundation exists to do good. It does. It exists to do very good things for Hillary and Bill and all their longtime allies. And in that, it has succeeded beautifully.