Laws Are For the Little People: Clinton Charity Ignores Disclosure Laws for Foreign Donations

Writing for Scripps News, Mark Greenblatt takes New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to task for his reluctance to enforce state law against the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Health Access Initiative, which has ignored the requirements for documenting foreign donations for years.

Greenblatt explains early in his lengthy report that New York has more stringent requirements for reporting donations than the federal government:

The Internal Revenue Service  has long required charities to disclose on their federal tax returns the total amount of contributions they receive from all governments, foreign and domestic. The federal form does not require a charity to publicly identify its government contributors. However, any charity that wishes to operate or raise funds in New York must also, according to a state law, meet more rigid transparency requirements and publicly disclose “the name of each agency” and “the amount of each contribution” received from any government agency, every year.

A partial review by Scripps of charities registered in New York found inconsistent compliance with the instructions.

The New York Attorney General’s office published a set of detailed instructions for all charities to follow. It directs them to make sure the total amount of government contributions disclosed to the state is equal to what the charities report to the IRS. From 2010-2014, for every year it has filed disclosures with the state, the Clinton Health Access Initiative has ignored this direction.

After the Clinton Health Access Initiative spun off from the Clinton Foundation in 2010, it reported just $242,099 in government contributions to the state of New York, all of them domestic grants — but it filed over $26 million in government grants with the IRS, many of them from foreign agencies. As Greenblatt points out, that’s quite a discrepancy.

Under-reporting foreign donations to New York allowed the Clinton group to get around the requirements for itemizing those donations, and identifying exactly where they came from. The discrepancy between New York and IRS filings grew larger with each passing year through 2014, when the CHAI reported $86,820 in donations to the IRS — but just $3,034 to New York. The total discrepancy from 2010 through 2014 adds up to $225 million.

Greenblatt’s report notes that while the Clinton Foundation mothership receives what little attention the mainstream media feels like paying to Clinton financial scandals, the CHAI actually receives over six times as much foreign money as the Foundation does, and it has made no public commitment to stop accepting funds from overseas if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency. The CHAI was mentioned in The Hill’s roundup of possible loopholes Clinton could exploit to keep taking foreign money.

The Clinton Health Access Initiative’s response to Scripps’ findings was to insist it was following the New York regulations as it understood them, and would “provide them with foreign government donor information, if they would like it.”

As several tax and transparency experts cited by Greenblatt point out, that’s not how the disclosure laws work. “It appears as though the Clinton Health Access Initiative is attempting to disclose less than the law requires, and to deflect blame onto the attorney general’s office as though financial disclosure requirements are individually negotiated on a by-request basis,” said John Wonderlich of the Sunlight Foundation.

This effectively leaves the Clinton organization free to ignore New York’s filing requirements unless the Attorney General decides to actively enforce them, and the current AG, Eric Schneiderman — who has been in office since before 2010 — evidently feels no such inclination. He did, however, rouse himself to pursue a court case against Citizens United over donor information, the very same group that famously found itself before the Supreme Court after making a film critical of Hillary Clinton.

In a complete coincidence that certainly has nothing whatsoever to do with how he exercises his discretion, Schneiderman sits on the Clinton campaign’s New York “leadership council,” and has donated $2,700 to her campaign, the maximum allowed by law.

Responding to Monday’s publication of the Scripps report after a three-month investigation, Jason Miller, the senior communications adviser for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, called it “another example of the Clintons thinking they are above the law, and our rigged political system protecting them from accountability.”

“The Clinton Foundation’s acceptance of foreign contributions is on its face an unprecedented and unacceptable conflict of interest that will badly compromise Hillary Clinton if she is elected president. The fact that New York’s highly partisan Attorney General is turning a blind eye to the Clinton Foundation’s failure to follow state disclosure laws is a shocking abdication of his sworn duty to faithfully discharge the duties of his office and he should open an investigation immediately,” said Miller.

Congressional Republicans have pointed to the CHAI as one of several violations to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s memorandum of understanding with the Obama Administration, as reported by The Hill on Monday:

The memorandum stated the foundation would publish the names of all its contributors as well as the names of all new contributors. But the Clinton Health Access Initiative, a fund within the foundation, did not meet its reporting requirements from 2009 to 2013, an “oversight” that the group’s spokeswoman, Maura Daley, told Reuters was later rectified.

The Clinton campaign did not answer follow-up questions from Scripps about their findings, but pointed to the Carter Center as another example of a charity that lumps foreign donations together on New York filings. That’s quite a bit different than not reporting them at all, as the Clinton Health Access Initiative did.  

In an amusing footnote, when Scripps told the Carter Center they had been cited as a supporting example by Clinton’s campaign, the Carter Center said its regulator paperwork was contracted out to a private company, promised to provide New York with itemized disclosures in the future — and sent a detailed list of all foreign and domestic donations from fiscal year 2014 to the Scripps News Service within two hours.


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