Coverage of the Clinton Foundation and transparency around donations from Canada

April 29, 2015 | By: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Mark Blumberg
Topics: News

There have been a large number of articles discussing the transparency of the Clinton Foundation and gaps or mistakes in their filings.   Here is an article from the New York Times, the Washington Post and Bloomberg News.  Here is a response from the Clinton Foundation blog to all the coverage.

Although the Clinton Foundation is a US charity, it is one of 3 non-Canadian organizations that have special status in a category entitled Foreign charitable organizations that have received a gift from Her Majesty in right of Canada.  Essentially these three organizations are qualified donees which means that a Canadian donor can donate to them and receive the same donation credit as if they donated to a Canadian charity.  Furthermore, Canadian charities can make gifts to the Clinton Foundation and they do not have to have direction and control over the funds.   I have no problem with the Canadian government having a category of foreign charities that Canadians can donate to and receive tax benefits.   However, I have never liked the secrecy and randomness of why some foreign charities are picked and not others.   

Here is part of the Clinton Foundation blog:

The Foundation has 11 different initiatives, some of which function in organizationally different ways. One of these 11 initiatives is the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP), which is focused on advancing innovative solutions to poverty alleviation on a global scale. CGEP has come under heightened scrutiny this past week and I want to explain how it operates.

The Clinton Foundation executes all of the work that CGEP does. CGEP does receive financial backing for projects from an independent Canadian charity called the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (Canada), which Frank Giustra established so that Canadians could support the initiative’s valuable work and receive a charitable tax credit. CGEP (Canada) provides funding on a project-by-project basis and this money goes exclusively to CGEP projects, not to the Foundation’s general operating fund. 

Like every contributor to the Foundation, the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (Canada) is publicly listed as a donor on our website. But as it is a distinct Canadian organization, separate from the Clinton Foundation, its individual donors are not listed on the site. This is hardly an effort on our part to avoid transparency – unlike in the U.S., under Canadian law; all charities are prohibited from disclosing individual donors without prior permission from each donor.

I also want to address questions regarding our 990 tax forms. We have said that after a voluntary external review is completed we will likely refile forms for some years.  While some have suggested that this indicates a failure to accurately report our total revenue, that is not the case. Our total revenue was accurately reported on each year's form – our error was that government grants were mistakenly combined with other donations. Those same grants have always been properly listed and broken out and available for anyone to see on our audited financial statements, posted on our website.

So yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps to ensure they don't happen in the future. We are committed to operating the Foundation responsibly and effectively to continue the life-changing work that this philanthropy is doing every day. I encourage you to read more about that good work at http://www.clintonfoundation.org.  

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Mark Blumberg is a partner at the law firm of Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto and works almost exclusively in the areas of non-profit and charity law.

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