Peter Schweizer, whose book Clinton Cash has been criticized for numerous errors and for reading “like a hatchet job,” is now claiming the Clinton Foundation gives just “10 percent” of its budget “to other charitable organizations, the rest they keep for themselves.” But Schweizer's cherry-picked statistic is so deceptive that even Fox News called it “incredibly misleading.”
During a recent appearance with radio host Bill Bennett, Schweizer attacked the Clinton Foundation for giving the impression that they do “hands-on” work in developing countries when “they only give about 10 percent of their income to other charitable groups.” Bennett replied with shock, asking Schweizer: “You're telling me 10 percent goes to the recipients?” Schweizer replied: “Yeah, 10 percent is what they give to other charitable organizations, the rest they keep for themselves.”
Schweizer's “10 percent” number has been a favorite talking point during his Clinton Cash book tour. For example:
- On the May 8 broadcast of CSPAN's Washington Journal, Schweizer attacked the Clinton Foundation for failing to “do a lot of hands-on work with people” in Asia and Africa, citing that “they give about ten percent of their money to other charitable organizations.”
- During a May 7 interview with WNYM's John Gambling, Schweizer claimed the Clintons “give probably about 10 percent of their total budget every year to charities that are actually doing hands-on work. The rest of it goes to pay salaries for this large infrastructure that they've built up.” Gambling replied: “That's criminal.”
- On the May 5 edition of WIND's Chicago's Morning Answer, Schweizer was asked by co-host Dan Proft asked if he knew what percentage of donations goes to “philanthropic endeavors.” Schweizer replied: “Yes, it's around 10 percent in terms of money that they actually give to other charities.”
Schweizer's “10 percent” talking point is a good example of how to lie with statistics.
Fox News senior correspondent Eric Shawn recently reported the 10 percent figure used by Clinton critics “sounds really bad but it's actually incredibly misleading.” He explained that the way the charity works is they “don't give grants to other charities. They do most of it themselves.” He cited IRS figures stating the foundation has a “rate of spending of about 80 percent” and “experts for charity say that's very good. That usually you want a charity to give about 80 percent.” (Despite Shawn's reporting, his Fox News colleagues have repeatedly pushed the statistic.)
PolitiFact's PunditFact also explained that the Clinton Foundation “keeps its money in house and hires staff to carry out its own humanitarian programs ... the Clinton foundation's charitable works are mostly done by people on the foundation's payroll.” That, reporter Louis Jacobson wrote, is “why the Clinton Foundation's 990s [tax forms] show a relatively small amount of money categorized as 'grants' -- only about 10 percent of all expenses in 2013.”
PunditFact criticized Rush Limbaugh, who said “85 percent of every dollar donated to the Clinton Foundation ended up either with the Clintons or with their staff to pay for travel, salaries, and benefits. Fifteen cents of every dollar actually went to some charitable beneficiary.” They wrote the “claim contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, so we rate it Mostly False.”
Schweizer's own book contradicts his thesis that the Clinton Foundation is ineffective. He cited two individuals, Princeton Lyman and Jim Yong Kim, to dismiss the foundation as having served as a “middleman” that “piggybacked on the efforts of other organizations.” But as Lyman, who served as an ambassador under Presidents Reagan and Clinton pointed out, Schweizer was taking his remarks “badly out of context.” Lyman said that Bill Clinton “deserves a lot of credit” on HIV/AIDS and “the Clinton Foundation did a lot to bring down the cost of AIDS drugs.” And Jim Yong Kim, cofounder of Partners in Health and current head of the World Bank, actually said Clinton has been “absolutely one of the most important people in the global response to HIV/AIDS” and praised the foundation staff for having taken “care of the procurement and supply-chain management of drugs, and provided critical, high-level political support.”
From the May 6 edition of Salem Radio Network's Bill Bennett's Morning in America:
SCHWEIZER: What's unique about the Clinton Foundation, and you don't get this impression when you look at the website or during Bill's recent trip to Africa. The other organizations that receive donations actually do hands-on work with people that are suffering in places like Africa. The Clinton Foundation actually does not. They operate as a middleman. So they work with other charitable organizations. Although it must be said that they only give about 10 percent of their income to other charitable groups. So yes, to answer your question, other charities do, but the Clinton Foundation's unique in the way it operates.
BENNETT: Wait a minute, only 10 percent, where does the rest go?
BENNETT: Is that the question?
SCHWEIZER: Yeah. It goes to paying a large staff, which includes political activists who have served with them in government and will serve in the campaign. It goes, a lot of it goes to travel and a lot of it goes to, you know, to PR to promote the Clinton brand, which is an important part of its role.
BENNETT: You've got a lot of charities out there, Peter, that advertise -- you know we get a lot of mail at home -- you know, 87 percent, 75, 94 percent, goes to the recipients, you know, only 6 percent for administration and overhead. You're telling me 10 percent goes to the recipients?
SCHWEIZER: Yeah, 10 percent is what they give to other charitable organizations, the rest they keep for themselves.