Charity watchdog compares Clinton, Trump foundations

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton., which posts and reviews charities' annual reports, has compared the Clinton and Trump family foundations and linked their posted documents. Read Guidestar's comparison and links here. High points:

Comparing the  Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and the Donald J. Trump Foundation: "GuideStar takes no position on elections ...  We have, however, been repeatedly asked about the Trump and Clinton Foundations. Accordingly, we would like to offer a few notes of analysis on their structure, size, strategy, and transparency ...

"Both organizations are, in a (non-legal) sense, 'celebrity foundations.' They are seeded by money donated by their founders and also serve as a vehicle for members of the public to demonstrate their support of a prominent person ...

"The Trump Foundation and the Clinton Foundation are filed under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. tax code, meaning they legally cannot engage in electoral activity ...

"One exception, though. The Trump Foundation made one donation to a political action committee associated with Florida Attorney General Bondi. It is not legal for a foundation to make a donation to a PAC; the Trump Foundation has paid a $2,500 IRS fine for this infraction. The Trump Foundation characterized this as a clerical error although others have described it as a case of 'pay-to-play' ...

"The Clinton Foundation is far larger than the Trump Foundation. The latest comparable data from December 31st, 2014 shows the Clinton Foundation with assets of $354 million, compared with the Trump Foundation’s $1 million.

"The Clinton Foundation had total expenses of $91,281,145, versus $596,450 for the Trump Foundation. The Clinton Foundation had 486 staff compared to zero staff at the Trump Foundation.

"The Clinton family’s tax returns suggest that the majority of its charitable giving has been through the Clinton Foundation. Without access to Mr. Trump’s tax forms it is difficult to know the scale of his charitable activities outside the Trump Foundation. But it does appear that the dollars have not matched the pledges.

"An investigation by the Washington Post has not been able to validate that Trump has actually donated the money he pledged, instead finding, 'Trump promised millions to charity. We found less than $10,000 over 7 years.' ... The last donation to the Trump Foundation by any of its trustees — family or otherwise—was in 2008 ...  

"The Clinton family has — at least over the last several years — donated more money (and at a far higher proportion of their wealth) than the Trump family ... The Clintons have out-raised Trump. The Clintons’ fundraising for their foundation is one aspect of a broader fundraising portfolio totaling $3 billion over the last four decades ... They are not alone operating at this level: the Bush family raised $2.4 billion over a similar period.

"Trump has certainly helped raise money for both charitable and electoral efforts, but the total is undoubtedly less than the Clintons’...

"The Clintons, the Bushes, and the Trumps must navigate a tangle of relationships with wealthy individuals. These relationships have caused some to claim that fundraising for the Clinton Foundation compromised Clinton’s role as Secretary of State."

Guidestar says it found "little evidence to support this claim. The Clinton Foundation signed [a Memorandum of Understanding] in 2008 clarifying that Hillary Clinton would not have a role with the Foundation during her tenure at the State Department. ... Funding for the Clinton Foundation decreased significantly during that period (2009-2013) ... The Clinton Foundation should have been more aggressive in dealing with the perception of potential conflict."

In their yearly federal Form 990 filings, "some 34,997 organizations have provided enough [information] to get one of GuideStar’s four 'transparency seals' ...  1,061 have earned the highest level, Platinum. The Clinton Foundation is one of them." For example, the Clintons provide details of programs they say helped teach more than 100,000 women and girls job skills in developing countries.

"The Trump Foundation has provided no additional information and so has not earned a transparency seal." It does show Trump has been "sprinkling" local grants "to the Orthopaedic Foundation, the Palm Beach Opera, the Police Athletic League, Protect our Winters, and the Ronald McDonald House of New York."  

"Later this year voters will decide which approach they prefer for their leadership."

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