Here’s Why Everyone Is Talking About The Clinton Foundation

Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea Clinton, take part in the closing session of the Clinton Global Initiative's 10th annual meeting on September 24, 2014, in New York City.
Did anyone who donated money to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state receive an unfair advantage? That's the question critics and journalists are asking this week as yet another controversy emerges from the Democratic presidential candidate's emails. New emails released as part of a lawsuit filed by the conservative group Judicial Watch show that Clinton and her top aides met with multiple people who donated to the Clinton Foundation while she was a senior Obama administration official. In addition, at least half of the people with private interests (people who were outside of government) who met with Clinton gave money to the foundation, an Associated Press investigation found. State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said in a press briefing on Monday that the emails did not show any wrongdoing or bias, and that "there wasn’t a single channel for access" to Clinton. He added: "There was nothing that we have seen that implied any kind of untoward relationship." But the news had already drawn ire from her Republican opponent. "No issue better illustrates how corrupt my opponent is than her pay-for-play scandals as secretary of state," Donald Trump told voters in the swing state of Ohio on Monday. "Her foundation took in large payments from major corporations and wealthy individuals, foreign and domestic, all while she was secretary of state," the GOP nominee continued. Clinton's campaign fired back. "The foundation has already laid out the unprecedented steps the charity will take if Hillary Clinton becomes president," Hillary for America Chair John Podesta said in a statement. "[Donald Trump] must commit to fully divesting himself from all of his business conflicts to ensure that he is not letting his own financial interests affect decisions made by his potential administration," Podesta added. So, what is the Clinton Foundation, what issues does it work on, and did donors receive favorable treatment from the then-secretary of state? Refinery29 breaks down what you need to know about the controversy.

There was nothing that we have seen that implied any kind of untoward relationship.

Mark Toner, State Department deputy spokesman
What is the Clinton Foundation?
The foundation is a nonprofit organization, whose stated “apolitical” purpose is to build “partnerships between businesses, NGOs, governments, and individuals,” and also to take on some of the biggest global challenges, including climate change, global health, and improving opportunities for women and girls. For instance, the charity reports that because of its work, 31,000 American schools are able to give children healthy food options in an effort to combat child obesity. According to the foundation, they have 300,000 contributors and 90% of donations are $100 or less. But then there are donations in the amount of more than $10 million each from Australia, Norway, and Saudi Arabia; and more than $5 million from Kuwait and the Netherlands, according to the foundation's website.

The Clintons said there was no money exchanged for services or the privilege of interacting with the secretary during her tenure. And the emails that were released provide evidence that not all those handing over cash got what they were asking for in return, according to The Washington Post.

The foundation's website states that all donors — corporations, nonprofits, and individuals — receive for their contributions “is helping to improve lives around the world.”

The foundation has already laid out the unprecedented steps the charity will take if Hillary Clinton becomes president

John Podesta, Hillary For America Chair
Accusations about conflicts of interest
In its investigation, the AP examined Clinton’s calendars and emails and made a “systematic effort” to look at the “intersecting interests” of people who interacted with Clinton and who also donated money to the Clinton charity.

For example, U2’s Bono, who had attended foundation events, reportedly asked Clinton for help to broadcast concerts to the International Space Station. Executives from Estée Lauder were said to have met with Clinton at a time when the State Department was working with the iconic beauty brand’s corporate charity in South Africa, according to AP. Former top Clinton aide Huma Abedin is said to have acted as the go-between for donors seeking access to Clinton while she served as secretary of state, according to Judicial Watch. However, Abedin is reported to have said that all requests needed to be made through official State Department channels. And while it doesn’t yet appear that the Democratic nominee or her husband, former President Bill Clinton, violated any legal arrangements, the political implications aren’t good for Clinton, who the majority of registered voters don’t think is trustworthy.

Her foundation took in large payments from major corporations and wealthy individuals, foreign and domestic, all while she was secretary of state.

Donald Trump, Republican presidential candidate
How have the campaign and the foundation responded?
If Clinton wins the White House in November, the foundation will make some changes, Bill Clinton said in a statement. For one, he will step down from the board and stop raising funds. Further, only contributions from U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and U.S.-based independent foundations will be accepted, Clinton said. When asked why the Clintons don’t make the changes now, Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook told CNN: "The foundation is doing an enormous amount of work, and it takes time when you're in a number of countries around the world to retool, refocus the mission, and adapt. It will take some time to adjust." The renewed attention to the Clinton Foundation comes on the heels of news that some 15,000 additional Clinton emails will be released, probably around election time. Clinton has tried to downplay the fuss about her email troubles. "My emails are so boring,” the Democratic nominee recently said on Jimmy Kimmel’s late- night show. "And I'm embarrassed about that. They're so boring. So we've already released, I don't know, 30,000-plus, so what's a few more?" But whether voters believe Clinton or her detractors, however, continues to be a big part of the 2016 presidential race.

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