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Bill Clinton, Big Money To Leave Foundation If Hillary Clinton Is Elected

Aug 18, 2016
Originally published on August 19, 2016 6:01 am

Major changes would come to the Clinton Foundation if Hillary Clinton is elected president this fall.

Bill Clinton would step down from the foundation board and it would stop accepting money from foreign and corporate sources, the former president told staff on Thursday. Information on the possible role of Chelsea Clinton in the foundation was not available.

The Clinton Foundation confirmed to NPR these details, which were originally reported by the Associated Press.

The Clinton Global Initiative will also be shut down next month. The hallmark of that is an annual gathering of international leaders, thinkers and philanthropists hosted by the Clinton Foundation. Its annual meeting is scheduled for September 19-21 in New York City.

The foundation, established in 1997, has been the focus of charitable work by the Clinton family since Bill Clinton left the White House in 2001. It's also been the focus of their charitable giving. The most recent tax returns released by Bill and Hillary Clinton showed the couple donating $1 million to the foundation in 2015.

Some of the priorities the foundation lists on its website include: "improving global health, increasing opportunity for girls and women, reducing childhood obesity and preventable diseases, creating economic opportunity and growth, or helping communities address the effects of climate change."

But there have been plenty of headaches brought on by the Clinton Foundation. It has taken money from governments whose policies are at odds with the U.S. More recently, questions about the relationship between the State Department under Hillary Clinton's leadership and the Clinton Foundation were resurfaced as emails revealed some efforts to make connections between donors or associates of the foundation and personnel or experts at the State Department.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus said in a statement on Wednesday, "If everything was above board while Hillary Clinton ran the State Department as the Clintons have said, then why change a thing?"

The statement from Preibus went on to criticize the existence of the foundation while Clinton is running for president: "But now that they have admitted there is a problem, the Clinton 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."

The Clinton campaign maintains that there was nothing improper about exchanges between longtime Clinton aides who were working at the Clinton Foundation and the State Department. Though this change in policies seems to be a tacit acknowledgement that the perceptions about the Clinton Foundation are a cloud hanging over her candidacy, which is beset by low ratings from the public on honesty.

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The Clinton Foundation, created by Bill Clinton almost two decades ago, has been harshly criticized by Republicans. And now it is announcing three big changes. Two would happen if Hillary Clinton becomes president. The third will take place next month, well before Election Day. Here's NPR's Peter Overby.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation has done good deeds, from organizing emergency relief efforts to promoting economic growth in developing countries. But it's also had some big controversies. Many of them involved wealthy donors, allegations of improper access or favors and a whiff of the networking that surrounds a political campaign, not a charity. That's what these changes are targeting.

The most dramatic change, Bill Clinton - who turns 70 today, by the way - would leave the foundation's board should Hillary Clinton be elected president. It's a way to put some distance between the foundation and the Oval Office. The foundation had no information about possible changes for Chelsea Clinton, who's vice chair of the board.

The second change, if Clinton wins in November, no more contributions from corporations or foreign sources. The loss of foreign money, especially, would hurt the foundation's budget. But giving it up would cut off a possible backdoor conduit for money that's illegal in American political campaigns. Hillary Clinton's opponents have often challenged the foreign contributions, especially from Middle Eastern countries that suppress women's rights.

The third change doesn't depend on the election returns. The foundation will close down the Clinton Global Initiative. The initiative is a network of politicos, business magnates and philanthropists who launch projects to improve everyday life in some part of the world. The initiative holds its last annual gathering in September.

Republicans didn't let these announcements go without comment. Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus issued a statement suggesting that since, quote, "they have admitted there was a problem," unquote, the foundation should return all the foreign contributions it had ever received. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.