FactCheck.org called a common conservative myth -- that the Clinton Foundation spends only a small fraction of its money on charitable works -- “simply wrong.” The flimsy statistic has made the rounds on conservative media, and was most recently repeated by Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.
The fact-checking organization noted on June 19 that Fiorina had claimed that "'so little' of the charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation 'actually go to charitable works.'" When pressed for more details, a super PAC supporting her campaign* claimed that only 6 percent of the foundation's revenue goes to charitable grants, and for the rest, “there really isn't anything that can be categorized as charitable.”
But as FactCheck.org explained, “That just isn't so. The Clinton Foundation does most of its charitable work itself.” In fact, an independent philanthropy watchdog found that about 89 percent of Clinton Foundation funding goes to charity, through their in-house work. FactCheck.org concluded the false claim “amounts to a misunderstanding of how public charities work.”
This myth surfaced earlier this year thanks to the error-filled anti-Clinton book Clinton Cash, written by discredited Republican activist Peter Schweizer. While promoting his book in May, Schweizer repeatedly claimed the Clinton Foundation gives just “10 percent” of its budget “to other charitable organizations, the rest they keep for themselves.”
As Media Matters noted at the time, several other media figures picked up Schweizer's cherry-picked statistic. Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed “85 percent of every dollar donated to the Clinton Foundation ended up either with the Clintons or with their staff.” As FactCheck.org noted, Fox Business host Gerri Willis said only 6 percent of the foundation's revenue “went to help people.” And on Fox News, The Five co-host Eric Bolling said that “only 10 cents on the dollar went to charitable uses.”
But even one of Bolling's Fox News colleagues called this statistic “incredibly misleading.” When Fox correspondent Eric Shawn was asked by host Bill O'Reilly about the “accusation ... that there only 10 percent of the money raised -- and it's $2 billion -- goes to grants out to poor people or institutions,” Shawn responded:
That sounds really bad but it's actually incredibly misleading, because, the way the charity works, they don't give grants to other charities -- they do most of it themselves. So that, they actually have a rate of spending of about 80 percent, according to the IRS figures, they say 88 percent, you know Bill -- the experts for charity say that's very good.
PolitiFact's PunditFact has also evaluated these claims, and found them to be “mostly false.”
*FactCheck.org originally reported that this information came from the Fiorina campaign, but has since corrected its post to note it came from the CARLY for America super PAC. Our language has been updated accordingly.