When she did, Clinton attended Nemcova's 2014 gala in Manhattan.
Doug White, director of Columbia University's fundraising management program, told The Times that the arrangement was strange because Clinton's foundation is so much bigger. The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation has reportedly raised $2 billion.
"This is primarily a small but telling example of the way the Clintons operate," White said. "The model has responsibility; she paid a high price for a feel-good moment with Bill Clinton. But he was riding the back of this small charity for what? A half-million bucks? I find it — what would be the word? — distasteful."
Sue Veres Royal, the former executive director of Nemcova's charity, Happy Hearts Fund, further told the paper that the payment offer to the Clinton Foundation was a "quid pro quo." Happy Hearts is a charity that helps rebuild schools after natural disasters. It was created after Nemcova survived the 2004 tsunami that devastated Indonesia and parts of Thailand.
"The Clinton Foundation had rejected the Happy Hearts Fund invitation more than once, until there was a thinly veiled solicitation and then the offer of an honorarium," she said. Veres Royal was also quoted saying, "Petra called me and said we have to include an honorarium for him — that they don’t look at these things unless money is offered, and it has to be $500,000."
The Times story, written by investigative reporter Deborah Sontag, described the charity-to-charity payment model as "extremely rare" for a fundraising event.
"When charities select an honoree for their fund-raising events, they generally expect that the award recipient will help them raise money by attracting new donors. But the Happy Hearts Fund raised less money at the gala featuring Mr. Clinton than it did at its previous one," Sontag wrote. "Further, it is extremely rare for honorees, or their foundations, to be paid from a gala’s proceeds, charity experts said — as it is for the proceeds to be diverted to a different cause. "
For its part, a Happy Hearts foundation spokeswoman told The Times that they paid the Clinton Foundation because the two organizations "have a shared goal of providing meaningful help to Haiti."
The Clinton Foundation is facing increased scrutiny as Clinton's wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is mounting her own campaign for president in 2016. Conservative critics in particular have sought to link the foundation's contributions to alleged favors doled out by Clinton's State Department. The Clintons have fiercely denied any such exchange took place.