Saturday, October 1, 2016

Trump vs. Clinton: Charitable Apples & Oranges

Confused about the Clinton Foundation vs. the Trump Foundation? Both are called foundations, but that doesn't mean they operate the same way. Here's a basic comparison:

Private foundations get most of their money from a single source (individual, family, or corporation) without soliciting funds from the public, though donations can be accepted. They support charitable activities serving the public good, primarily through making grants to other nonprofits. 
Public charities get support from the general public (individual, government, and/or foundation) and provide direct services. 
Both are categorized as tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations under the U.S. tax code - which means they are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity.

The Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation (BHCCF) is a public charity. BHCCF is unique, with a former president on the board, worldwide fundraising and programming, and a focus on public/private partnerships. Most of the Clintons' personal giving is through BHCCF; they have given more money at a much higher proportion of their worth than Donald Trump.
The Donald J. Trump Foundation (DJTF) is a private foundation. DJTF is also unique; although a family-named foundation, its namesake has not contributed anything since 2008. Trump has publicly promised millions to charity, but has actually contributed less than $10,000 over the past seven years.
  • BHCCF has assets of $354 million and annual expenses of $91,280,000.
  • DJTF has assets of $1 million and annual expenses of $596,500.
  • BHCCF funds Bill's presidential library, has twelve divisions including its health activities abroad as well as the Clinton Global Initiative, promotes sustainable economic growth in Haiti, and has been a leader in providing affordable care for those who are HIV-positive.
  • DJTF gives to groups associated with conservative politics, healthcare, sports, and those that serve Trump's business interests.
  • BHCCF has a website where you can check out their mission, programs, annual reports, and tax returns:
  • DJTF has a one-page site called The Donald J. Trump Foundation for Vets: that simply features a message thanking folks who donated online to support veterans.
  • BHCCF's President is Donna Shalala. Bill and Chelsea are board members, along with seven other people from diverse backgrounds. The foundation has 486 staff members.
  • DJTF is run by Trumps (Donald, his four oldest children, plus one Trump Organization employee). It has no staff.
  • BHCCF definitely blurs the lines between charity, business, politics, and public service. Donors had private meetings with Clinton when she was Secretary of State. Though a quid pro quo has never been proven, the appearance of impropriety is troubling.
  • DJTF gets its financial support from folks with personal and business ties with Trump, making contributions to charities favored by them. DJTF has been used as a vehicle to buy and keep charitable auction items, settle lawsuits on his for-profit businesses, and receive business payments thereby avoiding paying income tax.
Both Clinton and Trump have used their foundations to foster personal and professional relationships. This is neither illegal nor uncommon in the nonprofit world, though it can border on the inappropriate or even unethical. What is illegal is using funds donated for a tax-exempt charitable purpose to buy personal items, pay business debts, or support business interests.

Two charitable foundations: one doing actual good work and the other a vanity project rigged (often illegally) to help Trump's business interests. There's no comparison at all.