Clinton's Foundation to Alter Donations Policy if Elected
NEW YORK (AP) — Hillary Clinton's family foundation will no longer accept foreign and corporate donations if she is elected president, and will bring an end to its annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting regardless of the outcome of the November election.
Former President Bill Clinton made the announcement at an afternoon meeting with foundation staff members, according to participants who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement.
Bill Clinton said the foundation plans to continue its work, but intends to refocus its efforts in a process that will take up to a year to complete. The former president, who turns 70 on Friday, said he will resign from the board, and the foundation will only accept contributions from U.S. citizens and independent charities.
It will no longer take money from any foreign entity, government, foreign or domestic corporations, or corporate charities. A Clinton spokesman said the former president will also refrain from delivering paid speeches until the November election and will no longer give paid speeches if Hillary Clinton is elected president.
At the staff meeting, Clinton said he and his daughter, Chelsea Clinton, did not face any external pressure to make the changes, but wanted to avoid any potential issues or second guessing for Hillary Clinton should she move into the White House.
The future of the Clinton Foundation has been one of the overarching questions shadowing Clinton's campaign.
The sprawling charitable network, founded after Bill Clinton left office in 2001, has raised more than $2 billion for initiatives focused on global health, climate change, economic development and increasing opportunities for women and girls.
While Hillary Clinton stepped down from its board after launching her 2016 campaign, her husband and daughter have remained in leadership roles, prompting questions about the ability of the organization to continue its work should Clinton win the White House.
Some of the group's funding has come from foreign donations and political donors to the Clinton family. Money accepted from countries such as Saudi Arabia drew scrutiny from both Republicans and Democrats early in Clinton's presidential bid.
Republicans said the changes fell short and urged the Clinton Foundation to immediately stop receiving foreign donations. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said the announcement was "too little, too late," adding, "if everything was above board while Hillary Clinton ran the State Department as the Clintons have said, then why change a thing?"
Priebus said the foundation "should immediately cease accepting foreign donations and return every penny ever taken from other countries, several of which have atrocious human rights records and ties to terrorism." He said the foundation's continued acceptance of foreign donations during Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign was a "massive, ongoing conflict of interest that gets bigger by the day."
When Clinton served as secretary of state, the foundation reached an agreement with the Obama administration to prohibit, and in some cases curtail, foreign donations to its programs.
But questions persist about the level of influence foundation donors had at the State Department. That criticism intensified after emails from Clinton's time at the department were made public as part of a lawsuit.
After she left the State Department, the foundation resumed accepting donations from overseas. Bowing to pressure in April 2015, the group announced that it would restrict donations to only six Western nations and disclose its donors more frequently.
Former Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, questioned Hillary Clinton at length about the foundation and potential conflicts of interest in early 2009 during her nomination hearing. He was pushing for more transparency than what was ultimately agreed upon between the foundation and the Obama transition team.
Lugar said moving forward, if she wins the White House, he hopes she and Bill Clinton make a completely clean break from the foundation to avoid anyone thinking that favor is being given to people who helped out the foundation.
"The Clintons, as they approach the presidency, if they are successful, will have to work with their attorneys to make certain that rules of the road are drawn up to give confidence to them and the American public that there will not be favoritism," Lugar said earlier this week.
In September, the former president will convene his 12th and final Clinton Global Initiative, an annual meeting that has included Obama, foreign heads of state, corporate leaders and celebrities to discuss commitments aimed at addressing poverty, health care, education, climate change and other topics. The foundation has estimated that commitments by its members have improved the lives of more than 430 million people in more than 180 countries.
Bill Clinton said that similar meetings like the Clinton Global Initiative America and CGI International will end with next month's meeting. He said he was hopeful that his organization could continue CGI University, an annual meeting of students held on a college campus in the spring.
Associated Press writers Lisa Lerer and Eileen Sullivan contributed from Washington.