WASHINGTON (AP)—The board of the Clinton Foundation said Wednesday night that it will continue accepting donations from foreign governments, but only from six nations, a move that appears aimed at insulating Hillary Rodham Clinton from controversies over the charity’s reliance on millions of dollars from abroad as she ramps up her presidential campaign.
Clinton, who resigned from the foundation’s board last week, has faced mounting criticism over the charity’s ties to foreign governments. Her campaign for the Democratic nomination referred questions about the board’s decision to the foundation.
The board of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation said that future donations will only be allowed from the governments of Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom – all nations that previously supported the charity’s health, poverty and climate change programs.
While direct contributions from other governments would be halted, those nations could continue some participation in the Clinton Global Initiative, a subsidiary program that encourages donors to match contributions from others to tackle international problems without direct donations to the charity. But the foundation will stop holding CGI meetings abroad after a final session scheduled for Morocco in May. And most foreign governments will no longer be allowed to sponsor programs.
The foundation also will begin disclosing its donors every quarter instead of annually – an answer to long-standing criticism that the foundation’s once-a-year lists made it difficult to view shifts and trends in the charity’s funding. Former President Bill Clinton and other foundation officials have long defended the charity’s transparency, but the new move signaled sensitivity to those concerns, particularly as his wife begins her race for the White House.
Last month, while she was still a foundation board member, Hillary Clinton defended the family charity to questions about its reliance on donations from foreign governments, saying the foundation had “hundreds of thousands of donors.”
An Associated Press analysis of Clinton Foundation donations between 2001 and 2015 showed governments and agencies from 16 nations previously gave direct grants of between $55 million and $130 million. Those governments include the six nations that will be allowed to continue donating. The remaining 10 are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Kuwait, Italy, Brunei, Taiwan and the Dominican Republic.
Foundation spokesman Craig Minassian said that under the new disclosure policy, “the Clinton Foundation is reinforcing its commitment to accountability while protecting programs that are improving the lives of millions of people around the world.” But he also insisted that the old annual disclosure policy went “above and beyond what’s required by voluntarily disclosing our more than 300,000 donors on our website for anyone to see.”
Hillary Clinton had previously agreed with the Obama administration to limit new foreign donations to the foundation while she served as secretary of state, but at least six nations that previously contributed still donated to the charity during her four-year stint. In one case, the foundation failed to notify the State Department about a donation from the government of Algeria.
The foundation’s board began discussions over the past two days about altering some of the charity’s procedures in an effort that officials said was aimed at improving transparency without harming fundraising for critical programs. The board’s decisions were first reported Wednesday night by The Wall Street Journal.
Clinton Foundation officials had hinted in recent weeks that the organization was considering new limits on foreign government donations after several media accounts this year raised questions about the foundation’s reliance on those practices.
Republican Party critics and media accounts targeted the foundation’s reliance on funding from several Mideast governments that suppress dissent and women’s rights – concerns that Hillary Clinton’s State Department focused on during her stint between 2009 and 2013.
But there are potential problems even among some of the six governments that will be allowed to continue providing direct donations to the foundation.
The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, which has already given the foundation between $250,000 and $500,000, has also pushed for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which environmental critics say could spread carbon emissions. President Barack Obama has yet to decide on the project, which would span several U.S. states, but he has already vetoed one bill aimed at swiftly approving the plan.
Foundation officials said the charity is not involved in that issue at all and has a “strong program” aimed at curbing reducing carbon emissions.