The Clinton Foundation is working now to "spin off" or "find partners" for many of its programs, including all international activities and programs funded by foreign and corporate donors, the head of the Clinton Foundation told NPR's Peter Overby. The "unraveling," which would be an attempt to prevent conflicts, would go into effect if Hillary Clinton is elected president.
It will take time to make the changes to each of the foundation's affected programs, said Clinton Foundation President Donna Shalala. "This kind of unraveling has to be done with a scalpel so that we just do not hurt people, and do not interrupt the very good work that's being done," she said.
Many of the foundation's programs would become separate non-governmental organizations "without us participating in the governance obviously," Shalala said. Partner organizations, she said, would also "continue the work that was started by the Clinton Foundation."
Founded by President Bill Clinton, the foundation has become a major player in international health and global philanthropy. In 2014, the Clinton Foundation reported $439 million in assets and $338 million in revenue, with $217 million spent on programs.
But it has also been heavily criticized for potential conflicts with the State Department under Hillary Clinton's leadership. Released emails have shown some efforts to connect donors or associates at the foundation to personnel at the State Department.
And on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported that as secretary of state, Clinton met or had phone conversations with 154 private citizens — more than half were donors or connected to entities that gave money to the foundation or its projects.
In response, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence called for the foundation to be "immediately shut down" and for an "independent special prosecutor [to] be appointed to determine if access to Hillary Clinton was for sale." Donald Trump has also called for the foundation to be shut down.
The foundation announced last week that if Hillary Clinton were to be elected, Bill Clinton would step down from the foundation board and it would stop accepting money from foreign and corporate sources. Shalala said Chelsea Clinton would remain on the board.
Shalala insisted the changes are not a reactionary move. "We're not responding to the outside criticism," she said. "I was brought in a year ago to help start thinking through what the form would take if she was elected, and the president wanted to do it very carefully."
It would have been "presumptuous" to make such changes before Clinton was the nominee, Shalala said.
The Clintons could have avoided conflicts by letting an independent board of directors oversee decisions, said Leslie Lenkowsky of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. But, he said, he hasn't seen any clear evidence that foundation donors got more than small favors from Hillary Clinton's State Department. "Unless it really gets to affecting public business, you know, it's not nice to look at and the donors shouldn't do it," he said. "But you know, it happens all the time."
"The most important thing to the president and to Chelsea is that the work continues but under different umbrellas away from the foundation, obviously, because we will not be able to accept corporate donations or international money as we have to support our programs," Shalala continued.
Bill Clinton "will not be involved" in the initiatives that are spinning off or merging with another foundation, Shalala said. He also would not do any fundraising for the foundation.
So what would remain of the foundation? "We have some things that are funded by American foundations," Shalala said. She also pointed to the presidential library and Clinton center in Little Rock, Ark. "There are elements of the Clinton Foundation that people often don't think about that stay forever."
If Clinton wins the election, Bill Clinton will not have any official connection to the foundation, Shalala said, but "I'm sure he's going to go visit his library."
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In the Clinton Foundation is planning to spin off all its international programs if Hillary Clinton is elected president. The foundation has come under heavy criticism for taking large contributions from corporate and foreign donors and for helping donors seek favors in Washington. NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: The changes would disentangle Bill and Hillary Clinton from the fundraising and donor connections that currently ensnare the foundation. Foundation president Donna Shalala said plans are underway to move the foundations many international programs to other non-governmental organizations.
DONNA SHALALA: We're going to spin off or find partners for many of our programs.
OVERBY: The moves would break the ties between the programs which have sometimes proved controversial and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
SHALALA: We're not assuming that she's going to get elected, but we have to be prepared.
OVERBY: Shalala told NPR the planning began a year ago. One example - the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership. Since 2007, it's run anti-poverty programs in Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia. Frank Giustra is a Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist. He and Clinton made a promo video for the partnership.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BILL CLINTON: He doesn't want to waste his money, and he doesn't want to waste his time.
FRANK GIUSTRA: So a lot of the stuff that we don in the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership is about just creating the opportunity where it didn't exist and let them just do what they would normally do if they had the opportunity.
OVERBY: Now Shalala said the partnership will end.
SHALALA: That will spin off into a separate non-governmental organization on its own. The president's name will come off of that.
OVERBY: What will remain are the Clinton Presidential Library and Center in Little Rock, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and some other domestic programs. The foundation has played a prominent role in the lives of the Clintons since 1997 when then President Bill Clinton founded it.
When Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, some of the biggest foundation donors, Middle Eastern governments and U.S. defense contractors, had business with the State Department. On a smaller scale, the Associated Press reported today that as secretary, Clinton met or had phone conversations with 154 private citizens. More than half of those people were donors or were connected to entities that gave money to the foundation or its projects. The foundation announced last week that Bill Clinton will stop raising money for it.
SHALALA: He's coming off the board of the foundation, but he's also coming off any relationship with any of the spinoffs or these new partner organizations.
OVERBY: Leslie Lenkowsky is with the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. He said the Clintons could have avoided conflicts by letting an independent board of directors oversee decisions.
LESLIE LENKOWSKY: Think of it a little bit as the kind of nonprofit equivalent of putting your assets in a blind trust. And they could have done that.
OVERBY: But Lenkowsky also said he's seen no clear evidence that foundation donors got more than small favors from Hillary Clinton's State Department.
LENKOWSKY: Unless it really gets to, you know, affecting public businesses, it's not nice to look at and probably shouldn't be done. A good donor shouldn't do it. But you know, it happens all the time.
OVERBY: Chelsea Clinton will remain onboard. The changes that Shalala laid out today were not forced by the criticism, she said.
SHALALA: We were already ahead of it. We knew that we had to think through what the role of the foundation was going to be months ago if she got elected.
OVERBY: But Republicans have begun calling for a special prosecutor to investigate what they say has already happened at the foundation. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.