Joe Conason: It's Deja Vu All Over Again
April 27, 2015

This is a piece Joe Conason wrote in 2013 called "Why Reporters Ignore The Real Story of the Clinton Foundation," in which his comments could be just as easily applied today:

Worse than the reliance on backstairs gossip, however, were the factual errors featured in the Times story, particularly concerning the Clinton Foundation's finances. As President Clinton himself noted in an open letter posted on the foundation website, the article incorrectly described the foundation's financial condition and history — because the reporters didn't understand how nonprofits are required to report their cash flows on IRS documents.

In his letter, which will interest anyone who wants to understand what he has been doing for the past decade, the former president explained: "When someone makes a multiyear commitment to the foundation, we have to report it all in the year it was made. In 2005 and 2006 as a result of multiyear commitments, the foundation reported a surplus of $102.8 million though we collected nowhere near that. In later years, as the money came in to cover our budgets, we were required to report the spending but not the cash inflow. Also, if someone makes a commitment that he or she later has to withdraw, we are required to report that as a loss, though we never had the money in the first place and didn't need it to meet our budget."

So the foundation budget deficits reported by the Times in 2007 and 2008 were at least partially offset by earlier commitments. Moreover, as President Clinton also notes, he had set aside substantial cash reserves that hedged against the financial crash and recession — leaving him able to maintain the foundation's service to HIV/AIDS patients, mothers and children and other vulnerable groups despite an economic slowdown that proved devastating to many charities and businesses.

Such facts scarcely concern Dowd, whose habitual tic is to exaggerate any canard against the Clintons. Inspired by the Times probe, her latest column spilled forth one bizarre assertion after another. "If Americans are worried about money in politics, there is no larger concern than the Clintons," she wrote, as if entirely ignorant of theKoch brothers, the Karl Rove dark-money machine and Sheldon Adelson'soutpourings of casino cash. Band's firm is "an egregious nest of conflicts," she exclaimed excitedly, without naming any actual conflict. "We are supposed to believe that every dollar given to a Clinton is a dollar that improves the world," she sneered.

Perhaps not every dollar: Some of the money earned by the Clintons has paid their personal expenses, some has paid off millions of dollars in old legal debts incurred during those earlier fake scandals and some has gone toward political campaigns, including Hillary's presidential race. But if Dowd and her Times colleagues were honestly interested in what the Clinton Foundation does with its funds, including the millions raised annually by President Clinton himself, all they would have to do is get off their butts and go look at its projects, which can be found all over the world. (Disclosure: This topic interests me so much that I recently visited Clinton Foundation projects in Africa with the former president and his daughter, Chelsea.)

That they never bother to do so, because reporting those stories would ruin their preferred narrative, tells but everything we need to know — not about the Clintons, of course, but about themselves.

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