Gifts to Clinton Foundation From Foreign Governments Increasing

The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation has dropped a self-imposed ban and is again accepting contributions from foreign governments, the Wall Street Journal reports.

When Hillary Rodham Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, the William J. Clinton Foundation, as the foundation was named then, imposed a ban on most donations from foreign governments, although it accepted some in support of ongoing programs that were approved by State Department ethics officials. After Rodham Clinton resigned as secretary of state in early 2013, the renamed Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation accepted donations from at least four foreign governments and twice that number in 2014 — including gifts from the governments of Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Based on the foundation's contributors list, the Journal found that the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development agency of Canada, which is promoting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, donated between $250,001 and $500,000 to the foundation in 2014.

A Clinton Foundation spokesperson told the Journal that the organization — which is in the midst of a $250 million endowment campaign — raises money for education, healthcare, and environmental projects around the world; that donors go through a vigorous vetting process; and that the Canadian donation originated from an agency office separate from the one that advocates for Keystone XL. Nonetheless, with Rodham Clinton widely expected to run for president, some argue that the foundation should reimpose the ban on foreign government gifts that was in place when she served as secretary of state.

"Now that she is gearing up to run for president, the same potential exists for foreign governments to curry favor with her as a potential president of the United States," said Kirk Hanson, director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

If Rodham Clinton were to become president, "she [wouldn't be able to] recuse herself" from controversies involving governments that had made donations to the foundation, said James Thurber, director of American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. "Whether it influences her decision making is questionable, but it is a legitimate thing to focus on by her political opposition."

James V. Grimaldi, Rebecca Ballhaus. "Foreign Government Gifts to Clinton Foundation on the Rise." Wall Street Journal 02/17/2015.