Most of my family is going to hate this. Many of my friends will think I’m crazy. However, I have a true confession regarding The Clinton Foundation (or the “Bill, Hillary, & Chelsea Clinton Foundation”): It doesn’t bother me at all.
I haven’t been following most of the “news” on it, but it seems to me there are two basic complaints:
- Pay to Play – The Clinton’s solicited charitable donations from people and entities and then did favors for those donors.
- Personal Enrichment – The Clinton’s have used their foundation to live a lavish lifestyle and are benefiting personally from the foundation.
On the first concern, Mark Cuban points out that donations increased after Hillary left the State Department (donations went from less than $143 Million in 2013 to $172.5 Million in 2014 – a 20% increase). I find it difficult to believe that people increased their donations in the hope that Hillary would be elected and do them a favor in three or four years. I’ve never sought political favors from anyone, but my sense is that 3+ years is a little long to wait.
I don’t believe there was pay-to-play, but if there was, who was harmed? Do we have evidence that the State Department failed in its duties because somebody didn’t pay up? Do we even have suspicions that this is the case? Money was given to charity, and then that person requested a meeting. Ok, did they receive favors contrary to the interest of the country? Why do donations to charity preclude ever meeting with the government? We don’t even believe that political donations preclude meeting with government officials. Oh, I forgot that the Treasury Secretary will meet with a Wall Street CEO because he’s such a great guy…
I view the second concern as some combination of legitimate concerns about the non-profit system and basic sour grapes. I believe a fair amount of the animosity is because people don’t like Hillary. Fine – I don’t like Hillary either. Does that really mean that the foundation is a scam? Should we really eliminate any good from the foundation because it enables Hillary to travel on private jets?
I believe it’s more accurate to be frustrated with the system rather than the Clinton Foundation itself. According to Giving USA, Americans gave $373.25 Billion to charity last year. I am grateful for the non-profit sector, and the many who try to serve others. I’m grateful for their successes in health care, education, the arts, and religion. I’m grateful for those who ease human suffering. I believe we should be trying to figure out how to help do more of these good things. Here are two suggestions:
- Increase Transparency – Yes, transparency should be better for the $177 Million received by the Clinton Foundation last year. It should also be better for the $119 Billion received by religious institutions last year.
- Make Foundations Spend – I believe the buildup of an endowment at The Clinton Foundation, much larger endowments at many universities, and even a large investment pool at the NCAA are ridiculous. Increase the amount non-profits are required to spend in order to qualify for the tax advantages they enjoy.
Yes, I’m frustrated by some parts of the system. I’m not frustrated with the Clinton Foundation specifically. Sorry.