A New York Times story on the philanthropic Clinton Foundation contained flawed details about the Foundation's finances, former President Bill Clinton clarified today. As a result of its errors, the story provided predictable fodder for attacks from right-wing media -- rabid for new opportunities to smear former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in anticipation of a yet-unannounced 2016 presidential campaign.
The Clinton Foundation, recently renamed the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, was the subject of an August 13 Times report which speculated the non-profit was experiencing “unease” over financial and management issues. The paper noted that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staff will soon move into the Foundation's Manhattan headquarters, and questioned the capabilities of senior Foundation employees. The Times also asserted that the Foundation “ran multimillion-dollar deficits for several years, despite vast amounts of money flowing in.” As purported evidence, the paper claimed the charity ran a $40 million deficit in 2007 and 2008 and an $8 million deficit in 2012, citing tax returns.
But the Foundation corrected the record today in a letter from former President Bill Clinton. He explained that the Times failed to provide the context and facts essential to its story and misconstrued the Foundation's basic accounting according to the law, casting a shadow based on a false premise. That is because the IRS requires tax-exempt organizations such as the Foundation to report multi-year financial commitments occurring in the year the commitment was made. So in 2005 and 2006, the Foundation reported a surplus exceeding one hundred million dollars. In subsequent years, that money is reported as spending, but not cash inflow. Clinton also pointed out the difficult reality all non-profits face fundraising during a recession.
The Times was also incorrect in its assessment of 2012 deficits, Clinton stated. The paper relied on unaudited numbers from the 2012 annual report, but audited financials will reveal a surplus.
Predictably, conservative media did not wait to learn these facts surrounding the Clinton Foundation, preferring to cite the initial Times story to decry imaginary scandals and lob both new and old attacks at Hillary Clinton.
Some conservative pundits took a conspiracy theorist approach: Fox host Eric Bolling wondered if Clinton and the Times were cohorts in attempting to get this scandal “out of the way early,” so that it will be old news by 2016.
Others, like Glenn Beck's The Blaze website, took the Times story as implying the Clintons have profited inappropriately from donations. The Blaze accused the couple of being “without shame,” while Tim Stanley of The London Telegraph, a British conservative newspaper, condemned the Clintons for corruption: “The Clintons have never been able to separate the impulses to help others and to help themselves.” Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was less subtle, ranting, “Most philanthropy is people giving money away, donating. The Clintons are getting rich doing it.”
Both Clinton's presidency and Hillary Clinton's potential presidency were also smeared by Ed Klein (the tabloid author of a fact-free attack book on the former first lady) and “libertarian” Conor Friedersdorf, who wrote in The Atlantic that the Times piece “is a reminder of what you inevitably get with Bill and Hillary Clinton: tremendous smarts, drive, ambition ... and a lot of baggage.”
The right-wing noise machine is scrambling to find a new Hillary scandal after old attempts have been exposed as frauds, and this latest outrage over a misleading Times story, which apparently failed to perform due diligence in reporting on the accounting requirements for foundations, is only the latest effort.