Hillary Clinton's foundation broke a deal with the White House to take a foreign donation
On Wednesday evening, the Washington Post reported the Clinton Foundation received $500,000 from Algeria in 2010, an apparent violation of an agreement Clinton made with aides to President Barack Obama before she was nominated to be secretary of state in late 2008. The deal was designed to address concerns foreign governments could attempt to influence the State Department by giving money to the foundation, which is now headed by Clinton, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea.
Clinton's finances, including her speaking fees and donations to the foundation, have already emerged as a potential campaign issue. Her Republican rivals clearly see this latest story as potential ammunition against her. An aide for one of the likely 2016 GOP candidates emailed Business Insider shortly after the Post story was published and described the Algerian donation as indicative of a pattern of unethical behavior from Clinton and her family.
"How much sleazier does it get than taking money from foreign governments when you are the lead envoy to those governments?" the aide asked, adding, "Only the Clintons ..."
The Post story said the 2008 agreement was signed by the Clinton Foundation's chief executive and Valerie Jarrett, who helped head Obama's presidential transition team. Clinton pointed to the deal when concerns about the foundation's finances were raised at her confirmation hearings in early 2009. The agreement reportedly stipulated the foundation would only take donations from foreign governments that had previously given it money while Clinton led the State Department.
According to the Post, Algeria did not donate to the Clinton Foundation prior to the 2010 gift and foundation officials admitted they should have obtained approval from the State Department's ethics office before taking it.
In a statement sent to Business Insider, the foundation said the money from Algeria was intended to help fund relief efforts following the earthquake in Haiti that year. The foundation's statement admitted the State Department should have been "formally informed" about the donation.
"Immediately following the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, the Embassy of Algeria made an unsolicited donation of $500K to Clinton Foundation Haiti Relief fund. As the Clinton Foundation did with all donations it received for earthquake relief, the entire amount of Algeria's contribution was distributed as aid in Haiti," the statement said. "This donation was disclosed publicly on our website, however, the State Department should have also been formally informed. This was a one-time, specific donation to help Haiti and Algeria had not donated to the Clinton Foundation before and has not since."
The Post noted Algeria's donation "coincided with a spike" in the country's efforts to lobby the State Department. During Clinton's time at the State Department, the agency was interested in Algeria due to reported human rights issues. The Post pointed out Clinton discussed the country in her 2014 memoir "Hard Choices" where she wrote that Algeria had a "poor human rights record," but was an ally in US efforts to fight terrorism.
Along with the $500,000 from Algeria, the Post article said the Clinton Foundation took "millions of dollars from seven foreign governments" during her time as secretary of state. The other foreign donations reportedly did not violate the agreement with the Obama administration as they came from countries that gave to the foundation before Clinton headed the State Department. However, the Post also revealed "some of the donations came from countries with complicated diplomatic, military and financial relationships with the U.S. government, including Kuwait, Qatar and Oman."
Overall, the Post article said the Clinton Foundation has "raised nearly $2 billion" since it was launched in 2001 and "foreign sources" represent approximately one third of the donors that have given it more than $1 million. On February 18, the Wall Street Journal reported the foundation resumed taking money from foreign donors after Clinton left the State Department in 2013.
Foreign governments and individuals are barred from giving money directly to presidential candidates. This has caused some observers to suggest Clinton's family's relationship with the organization is inappropriate as she embarks on a probable White House bid.
Spokespeople for Clinton, the State Department, and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story from Business Insider.
This post was updated at 11:37 p.m. with the statement from the Clinton Foundation.