Under Scrutiny, Clinton Charities to Refile Tax Returns

As questions about former President Bill Clinton's paid speaking engagements and donations to the Clinton family's charities mount, the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Health Access Initiative have announced that they will refile tax returns that misstated the amounts they received in contributions from foreign governments, Reuters reports.

For three years during Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation's form 990s reported no government contributions, foreign or domestic. Those entries were errors, the foundation told Reuters; several foreign governments — which were later included in the annually updated donors list on the foundation's website — continued to give tens of millions of dollars in support of programs on climate change and economic development. "We are prioritizing an external review to ensure the accuracy of the 990s from 2010, 2011, and 2012 and expect to refile when the review is completed," foundation spokesperson Craig Minassian told Reuters in an email. The decision to review the tax returns, which was made in March following inquiries from Reuters, may be extended to filings going back fifteen years.

In addition, CHAI, an affiliated organization that began filing separate tax returns in 2010, is refiling its form 990s for 2012 and 2013, said CHAI spokesperson Maura Daley, who described the incorrect figures as typographical errors. CHAI previously refiled form 990s for 2010 and 2011, saying its initial filings had over-reported government grants by more than $100 million. Scrutiny of the Clinton charities has intensified in recent months in anticipation of, and in response to, Hillary Clinton's announcement that she is running for president. Even though she has resigned from the foundation's board and the two charities have modified their policies to limit contributions from foreign governments, critics argue that her affiliation with the organizations is problematic.

Recent investigations by the New York Times and Peter Schweizer, a former Hoover Institution fellow and author of the forthcoming book Clinton Cash, allege that donors to the Clinton Foundation were involved in building, financing, and selling off Uranium One, a Canadian mining firm with interests stretching from Central Asia to the American West, to Russia's atomic energy agency. One of them, Canadian mining executive Frank Giustra, contributed $31.3 million to the foundation in 2007 after meeting with Bill Clinton and the president of Kazakhstan and subsequently closing a deal with the state-run uranium agency in that country. Subsequently, as the sale of Uranium One — a transaction that required the approval of several U.S. government agencies, including the State Department — was in the works, Uranium One chair Ian Telfer donated a total of $2.35 million to the foundation. Although it's not clear whether the donations played any role in facilitating the years-long development and approval of the Uranium One deal, the Times suggests that the episode underscores questions about conflicts of interest at a foundation headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign donors while his wife was secretary of state.

Meanwhile, reporting by the Washington Post suggests that the line between Clinton's paid speeches and his work for the foundation was often blurred as he traveled the country and globe to promote the work of the foundation while accepting payments for speaking engagements totaling in the millions. Between 2001 and 2013, the Post reports, Clinton was paid at least $26 million in speaking fees from sixty-seven organizations that donated at least $10,000 to the foundation — including Goldman Sachs, Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, Boeing, Carlyle Group, Microsoft, and Cisco Systems — some of them with interests before the U.S. government.

Although Hillary Clinton did not begin accepting fees for speaking engagements or join the foundation until after she left the State Department, her husband's speaking fees benefited both of them. While cabinet members are required to disclose fees of $200 or more for speeches made by a spouse, fees for four speeches Bill Clinton made while his wife was secretary of state did not appear in her tax filings because, a spokesperson for the foundation told the Post, the speeches benefited the foundation and therefore were not subject to disclosure requirements. In the foundation's filings, those fees were treated as non-tax-deductible revenue rather than donations.

"It's not surprising that organizations who believe strongly in the Clinton Foundation's mission and are impressed by its results are genuinely interested in President Clinton's perspective," Minassian told the Post. "The president often says the foundation is his life today, and he welcomes any opportunity to educate people about it and encourage more people to work together to solve some of the most critical global challenges we all face."