WASHINGTON - In spite of criticism over accepting money from foreign governments, the Clinton Foundation has decided to continue to look abroad for millions of dollars while limiting donor nations to a select group of six. The change in policy comes as former board member Hillary Rodham Clinton undertakes her presidential campaign.
The foundation's reliance on funding from several Mideast governments that suppress dissent and women's rights, concerns that the State Department focused on during her stint as secretary of state, sparked criticism and gave the Republican Party a new offensive against the leading Democrat. Clinton resigned from the foundation's board last week.
The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation's board said Wednesday night that future donations will only be allowed from the governments of Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom, all nations that previously supported the charity's health, poverty and climate change programs. Longtime U.S. allies, the six maintain relatively uncontroversial ties to the U.S.
While direct contributions from other governments would be halted, those nations could continue participating in the Clinton Global Initiative, a subsidiary program that encourages donors to match contributions from others to tackle international problems without direct donations to the charity. However, the foundation will stop holding CGI meetings abroad, a final session is scheduled for Morocco in May, and most foreign governments will no longer be allowed to sponsor programs.
An Associated Press analysis of Clinton Foundation donations between 2001 and 2015 showed governments and agencies from 16 nations previously gave direct grants of between $55 million and $130 million. In addition to the six nations that will be allowed to continue donating, the others were Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Kuwait, Italy, Brunei, Taiwan and the Dominican Republic.
The foundation also will begin disclosing its donors every quarter instead of annually, an answer to long-standing criticism that the foundation's once-a-year lists made it difficult to view shifts and trends in the charity's funding. Former President Bill Clinton and other foundation officials have long defended the charity's transparency, but the new move signaled sensitivity to those concerns, particularly as his wife begins her race for the White House.
Hillary Clinton's campaign referred questions about the board's action to the foundation. Last month, while she was still a board member, Clinton defended the family charity to questions about its reliance on donations from foreign governments, saying the foundation had "hundreds of thousands of donors.''
Foundation spokesman Craig Minassian said that under the new disclosure policy, "the Clinton Foundation is reinforcing its commitment to accountability while protecting programs that are improving the lives of millions of people around the world.'' But he also insisted that the old annual disclosure policy went "above and beyond what's required by voluntarily disclosing our more than 300,000 donors on our website for anyone to see.''
Hillary Clinton had previously agreed with the Obama administration to limit new foreign donations to the foundation while she served as secretary of state, but at least six nations that previously contributed still donated to the charity during her four-year stint. In one case, the foundation failed to notify the State Department about a donation from the government of Algeria.
Clinton Foundation officials had hinted in recent weeks that the organization was considering new limits on foreign government donations after several media accounts this year raised questions about the foundation's reliance on those practices. The foundation's board began discussions over the past two days about altering some of the charity's procedures in an effort that officials said was aimed at improving transparency without harming fundraising for critical programs.
Potential problems may exist among some of the six governments that will be allowed to continue providing direct donations to the foundation. For examples, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, which has already given the foundation between $250,000 and $500,000, has pushed for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The project is a domestic flashpoint in the climate change debate as well as a contentious issue regarding its impact on jobs and oil supplies. President Barack Obama has yet to decide whether to approve the pipeline, which would span several U.S. states, but he has already vetoed one bill aimed at swiftly approving the plan.
Foundation officials said the charity is not involved in the Keystone XL issue and has a "strong program'' aimed at curbing reducing carbon emissions.