The Federalist points out in the article, ‘Clinton Foundation Only Spent 10 Percent Of Its Budget On Charitable Grants‘ that the foundation spends more on office supplies than it does on Charitable Grants.
The Clinton Foundation fought back with a treat that looks like it gives 88% of its income to charity. Its a twist of statistics and reminds us of the book, ‘Damned Lies and Statistics‘ which shows how politicians, media and activists twist and spin data to say what they wish it to say.
Seems like The Federalist has caught the Clinton’s media machine in the act and makes sense of what the Clinton Foundation really does with the money they raise. A non-profit that pays out 33% of its income in salaries should give one a head wag or two, but it doesn’t stop there.
— Clinton Foundation (@ClintonFdn) April 25, 2015
There’s only one problem: that claim is demonstrably false. And it is false not according to some partisan spin on the numbers, but because the organization’s own tax filings contradict the claim.
Clinton Foundation Breakdown
In order for the 88 percent claim to be even remotely close to the truth, the words “directly” and “life-changing” have to mean something other than “directly” and “life-changing.” For example, the Clinton Foundation spent nearly $8.5 million–10 percent of all 2013 expenditures–on travel. Do plane tickets and hotel accommodations directly change lives? Nearly $4.8 million–5.6 percent of all expenditures–was spent on office supplies. Are ink cartridges and staplers “life-changing” commodities?
Those two categories alone comprise over 15 percent of all Clinton Foundation expenses in 2013, and we haven’t even examined other spending categories like employee fringe benefits ($3.7 million), IT costs ($2.1 million), rent ($4 million) or conferences and conventions ($9.2 million). Yet, the tax-exempt organization claimed in its tweet that no more than 12 percent of its expenditures went to these overhead expenses.
How can both claims be true? Easy: they’re not. The claim from the Clinton Foundation that 88 percent of all expenditures go directly to life-changing work is demonstrably false. Office chairs do not directly save lives. The internet connection for the group’s headquarters does not directly change lives.
But what if those employees and those IT costs and those travel expenses indirectly save lives, you might ask. Sure, it’s overhead, but what if it’s overhead in the service of a larger mission? Fair question. Even using the broadest definition of “program expenses” possible, however, the 88 percent claim is still false. How do we know? Because the IRS 990 forms submitted by the Clinton Foundation include a specific and detailed accounting of these programmatic expenses. And even using extremely broad definitions–definitions that allow office supply, rent, travel, and IT costs to be counted as programmatic costs–the Clinton Foundation fails its own test.
According to 2013 tax forms filed by the Clinton Foundation, a mere 80 percent of the organization’s expenditures were characterized as functional programmatic expenses. That’s a far cry from the 88 percent claimed by the organization just last week.
More at the Federalist