(Reuters) - Since announcing her presidential bid last year, Hillary Clinton has had to field questions about the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, her family’s global philanthropy.
The non-profit group has been praised by health experts for helping to negotiate lower prices for HIV medicine in the developing world. But ethics experts and Clinton’s Republican opponents say its reliance on millions of dollars from foreign governments and powerful businesses makes her vulnerable to charges her donors could expect favorable treatment from the White House, which her campaign says is unfounded.
* THE FOUNDATION’S HISTORYBill Clinton established the Clinton Foundation in 1997 to raise funds for his presidential archive in Little Rock, Arkansas, as he prepared to leave the White House. It has since grown into a complex global philanthropic organization, working to improve health and prospects in dozens of countries and to fight climate change.
After leaving her job as U.S. secretary the state in 2013, Hillary Clinton joined the foundation’s board, and the organization was renamed the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
Later in 2015, Hillary Clinton left the foundation to run for president and in the August 2016 her husband said he will step down from the board if she wins. Their plans to remain with the foundation.* THE FOUNDATION’S WORK
The foundation typically raises more than a quarter of a billion dollars each year in grants and donations. It spends about $200 million each year on programs and other expenses.
The biggest program is the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which accounts for about two-thirds of the foundation’s annual expenses and focuses on reducing the cost and increasing the availability of medicine for HIV, malaria and other infections in developing countries.
The foundation also is involved in an array of other causes. It helps farmers in Africa increase yields and profits and tries to stop poachers from killing elephants there. It encourages American parents to read to their toddlers and schools to provide healthier environments for their students. It also helps Americans get access to loans to make their homes more energy efficient.
Under the name Clinton Global Initiative, the foundation throws regular glitzy multi-day gatherings where people from politics, corporations and non-profit organizations to discuss philanthropy projects. CGI will hold its last such meeting in September before ending.
In 2015, foundation officials admitted the charity breached an ethics agreement Clinton signed with the White House in order to become secretary of state. Under the agreement, she promised she would annually disclose the names of all donors to the charity and that it would seek State Department approval before accepting new money from foreign governments. The charities said not complying with the promises was a result of oversights.
The foundation also admitted it had wrongly completed half a dozen annual tax returns that gave misleading figures about the amount of support it got from foreign governments, among other errors. After Reuters discovered the errors, the foundation apologized and refiled the returns.
The foundation continued to accept money from foreigners, including foreign governments, and corporations while Clinton was secretary of state but has said it will introduce at least some limits on such donations if she becomes president.
Emails by Clinton and her staff released by the State Department show it was not unusual for foundation officials to help donors get access to Clinton, prompting experts in government ethics to raise concerns that the foundation gives rise to an appearance of a conflict of interest. Donald Trump, Clinton’s Republican rival for the presidency, has called for a special prosecutor to look into the foundation. Clinton’s campaign says any donor who expected special favors from Clinton in return would have been disappointed.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bill Trott