Trying to quell a controversy over a $225,000 speaking fee at UNLV, Hillary Clinton told ABC News Friday that all her speaking fees from colleges were “donated” to the family’s Clinton Foundation. It naturally didn’t occur to ABC News to ask whether Hillary deducted this “pass-through” from her taxes, as would likely be legal under the tax code.
“All of the fees have been donated to the Clinton Foundation for it to continue its life-changing and life-saving work. So it goes from a foundation at a university to another foundation,” Clinton told ABC.
The Clinton Foundation is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations. All donations to it are deductible from the donors taxes. If Hillary “donated” the speaking fee as she claims, she would be able to deduct that donation from her gross income, lowering her tax bill considerably.
The Washington Post estimates that Hillary will deliver 8 speeches at universities this fall. The Washington Examiner calculates that she would earn at least $1.8 million from these speeches, based on some publicly released speaking fees.
If she donated that entire sum to the family foundation, she could save hundreds of thousands of dollars on her taxes. Even if the speaking fees were paid by the universities directly to the foundation, her speeches would likely be an in-kind contribution to the foundation, as she doesn’t appear to be an officer or employee of the organization.
The Clinton Foundation has grown to a non-profit behemoth, with over $225 million in assets. It isn’t entirely clear what the foundation actually does. Reading a summary of its activities filed with its annual 990 reads like a Clinton State of the Union address. With over $50 million in annual donations, Hillary’s speaking fees would be a very small part of its operations.
Hillary says it does “life-changing and like-saving work,” but it pays twice as much in salaries as it gives out in grants. It stands astride the nexus between government, big business and mega-wealthy individuals. The potential conflict of interest between its work and a Hillary presidential term would ordinarily invite thorough media scrutiny and vetting.
What’s the point of a little “scrutiny”, though, when “history” is in the making.