Bill Clinton posted an open letter on Friday disputing a recent New York Times article detailing staff and financial problems at the Clinton Foundation, and while Clinton's defense of the charity's money situation seems fairly solid, his defense of its office politics is less so. Hillary Clinton is transitioning to the foundation — recently renamed the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation — to have a platform to address political issues ahead of the 2016 presidential campaign.
The Clinton Foundation "ran multimillion-dollar deficits for several years, despite vast amounts of money flowing in," the Times' Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick reported on August 13. "The foundation piled up a $40 million deficit during [2007 and 2008], according to tax returns. Last year, it ran more than $8 million in the red."
Clinton said that's misleading. "The reporting requirements on our tax forms, called 990s, can be misleading as to what is actually going on," he writes. When someone pledges a sum of money to be given to the foundation over several years, the foundation has to report the whole sum the year the pledge is made, even though not all the money is in the bank.
In 2005 and 2006 as a result of multi-year commitments, the Foundation reported a surplus of $102,8000,000 though we collected nowhere near that. In later years, as the money came in to cover our budgets, we were required to report the spending but not the cash inflow.
It's incorrect today the foundation ran an $8 million deficit for last year, Clinton says, because that figure is "based on unaudited numbers included in our 2012 annual report." The audited numbers will put the foundation in the black, he says.
The Times places the deficits Clinton disputes in the context of spending "that raised eyebrows." There was the time the foundation bought a first-class plane ticket for Natalie Portman, who brought along "her beloved Yorkie," to an event in Austin. Clinton does not address the ticket nor the Yorkie.
As for the controversies over staff that the Times reported, Clinton does not fully address those claims. Many at the foundation were frustrated by Doug Band, a longtime Clinton aide with an outside consulting business some at the foundation worried created conflicts of interest. Band urged Clinton to fire Ira Magaziner, who worked with Hillary Clinton on health care in the 90s, and whom Clinton defended as someone who might have "managerial weaknesses," the Times said, but "was a visionary with good intentions." Clinton defends Magaziner at length but does not mention Band. Most interestingly, Clinton does not counter the Times' report that there was tension between Band and Chelsea Clinton, who joined the foundation's board in 2011. Chelsea was the one who suggest the chief executive job go to Eric Braverman. Clinton says Braverman and chairman Bruce Lindsey "have established a good working relationship and are proceeding with the rest of our planned changes, including consolidating the Foundation's separate New York City offices in one location in midtown to maximize collaboration and efficiency."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.