Mike Pence Runs With Conservative Media Lie About Clinton Foundation’s Charitable Spending

Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence ran with the lie that the Clinton Foundation has only devoted 10 percent of its funds to charitable causes. Pence’s figure, which has been frequently used by conservative media figures throughout the campaign, is wildly inaccurate: fact-checkers have concluded that the charity devotes 80-90 percent of money to charitable causes, and charity watchdogs have given the foundation high ratings.

During the October 4 debate, Pence claimed twice that “less than 10 cents on the dollar in the Clinton Foundation has gone to charitable causes.” Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine responded, “90 percent.” Debate moderator Elaine Quijano did not respond to the exchange.

Pence’s statistic is false.

PolitiFact wrote that the “Clinton Foundation spends between 80-90 percent on program services, which experts say is the standard in the industry to define charitable works. It spends the majority of its money directly on projects rather than through third-party grants.”

FactCheck.org similarly found that the claim that the Clinton Foundation only spends a small portion of its money on charitable works is “simply wrong.” It wrote that “One independent philanthropy watchdog did an analysis of Clinton Foundation funding and concluded that about 89 percent of its funding went to charity.”

Pence’s 10 percent statistic was popularized by author Peter Schweizer, who wrote the error-riddled book Clinton Cash. Trump and his campaign have repeatedly touted Schweizer’s work.

Claims that the Clinton Foundation gave a small percentage of its funds to charitable works have been echoed throughout the conservative media. For instance:

  • Rush Limbaugh claimed that “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.”

  • Fox Business host Gerri Willis claimed only 6 percent of the foundation's 2013 revenue “went to help people.”

  • Fox News co-host Eric Bolling said that “only 10 cents on the dollar went to charitable uses, causes.”

  • Fox News host Jeanine Pirro said of the Clinton Foundation: “It is not a charitable foundation. No charitable foundation has only 10 percent that goes to a charity.”

Further undermining Pence’s claims, two leading foundation watchdogs -- Charity Navigator and CharityWatch -- have given the Clinton Foundation high marks.

CharityWatch President Daniel Borochoff told CNN of the Clinton Foundation: “They have good governance and accountability. They have great financial efficiency. They have valuable, important programs that help a lot of people in the world. Pull the politics out. Regardless of what you think about Hillary, the Clinton Foundation is an excellent charity.”