Seeking to blunt the public relations damage from a stinging New York Times exposé of his nonprofit, former president Bill Clinton issued a two-and-a-half page open letter on Friday attempting to rebut a couple of the Times‘ claims.
The Clinton Foundation, soon to be renamed the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, says the New York Times’ claim that it ran a $40 million deficit in 2007 and 2008 and an $8 million deficit last year are in error.
“The reporting requirements on our tax forms, called 990s, can be misleading as to what is actually going on,” wrote Clinton. He said multi-year commitments can blur the numbers reported in 990s and “will often indicate that we have more or less money than is actually in our accounts.” As for the Times‘ claim that last year the Clinton Foundation ran an $8 million deficit, Clinton says it was “based on unaudited numbers” and promised that “when the audited financials are released, they will show a surplus.”
The New York Times has yet to respond to Clinton’s letter.
However, tellingly, Bill Clinton’s letter did not address the Times’ lengthy–and in many ways more damaging–revelations about how the Clinton camp leverages access and the Foundation’s brand power to score lucrative crony contracts.
For example, a key figure in the New York Times piece, Bill Clinton’s “surrogate son” Douglas Band, is not even mentioned in the open letter. Nor is the company Band co-founded, Teneo, which also hired Hillary Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin, wife of disgraced mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. The Times reported that Chelsea Clinton “became increasingly concerned” that Band and Teneo’s outside business were negatively impacting the Foundation” and that “some Clinton aides and foundation employees began to wonder where the foundation ended and Teneo began.” Yet Clinton’s open letter addresses none of the Times’ cronyism allegations.
As The Hill notes, Bill Clinton “likely wants to neutralize opponents using the foundation as a detriment to a possible presidential bid by his wife in 2016.”
Still, many questions remain unanswered.
As of 2008, the Clinton Foundation raised at least $46 million from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei, Oman, and other foreign governments–the very governments Secretary of State Hillary Clinton eventually negotiated with. President Clinton’s letter failed to address the apparent conflict of interest.
Moreover, the letter failed to clear the air regarding Hillary Clinton’s 2004 donation from New York developer Robert Congel who contributed $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Shortly thereafter, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton reportedly helped the developer bag millions in federal assistance for his mall project.
Instead, Clinton’s letter concludes by saying the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation’s focus is raising an “endowment.”