Alec MacGillis' epic 9,000-word investigation into the inner workings of the Clinton Global Foundation (now the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation) posted Sunday in the New Republic is only the latest probe into the more questionable associations of the multi-billion-dollar international charity.
Now that the foundation has become former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's perch as she prepares for what appears to be a likely 2016 presidential run, some corners of the mainstream media are shining a harsher spotlight on it. Here's a brief primer on what is likely to be a continuing issue in the days ahead.
MacGillis' piece examines how a once-lowly professional "body man" (i.e., valet/gofer) for President Clinton -- Doug Band -- was able to parlay that association into becoming a top official at the foundation and creating an extremely lucrative private business as a political consultant. Basically, Band sold access to Clinton for a hefty fee, including to some pretty sketchy characters.
One of those, an Italian swindler named Raffaello Follieri, was able to worm his way into the foundation's inner circle by cozying up to Band. Follieri then scammed other Clinton foundation donors into investing in his real estate projects — one gave $100 million — money that was used to finance his high-rolling lifestyle.
Follieri later pleaded guilty to fraud, conspiracy and money-laundering charges and served time in a federal prison. More detailed versions of this particular story can be found in the Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair.
There were other, similar cases of people using the foundation to connect with wealthy individuals as part of financial schemes. MacGillis' piece relates how London businessman and foundation donor Victor Dahdaleh was charged by British authorities with bribery involving a Bahraini company to the tune of $9.5 million. (The case is still pending.)
The New York Times published a lengthy investigation into Band's role at the Clinton foundation in August. The Times noted that, despite having raised billions of dollars in donations, the foundation has nevertheless experienced "financial problems." In 2007-08, for example, it ran $40 million deficit. Last year's deficit was $8 million.
The Times also noted that MF Global, the international brokerage firm that collapsed in 2011, costing its customers an estimated $1.2 billion, was an early client of Band's consulting firm, Teneo, paying it $125,000 a month. Bill Clinton was an official Teneo adviser but left after MF Global's collapse, reportedly upset over the negative publicity.
Bill Clinton nevertheless praised Band in a letter announcing he was leaving Teneo. "I couldn't have accomplished half of what I have in my post-presidency without Doug Band," he said. Reportedly, Band edited the letter.
In an open letter on the foundation's website, the former president rebutted the Times article on various points.
A 2008 New York Times story recounted how Canadian businessman Frank Giustra, a generous foundation donor, was able to get Bill Clinton's personal assistance in obtaining a deal with Khazakstan that turned him into the world's largest uranium producer. After Giustra got the deal, he pledged $131 million to the foundation.
Other stories have noted that many of the foundation's officials live awfully well. The New York Post reported in August that the foundation has spent $50 million on travel expenses since 2003, including $12.1 million in 2011 alone.