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Media Matters Flings Fact-Free Salvo At TheDCNF In Defense Of Clinton Foundation

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Mark Tapscott Executive Editor, Chief of Investigative Group
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A liberal advocacy group run by one of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s closest allies launched an attack against The Daily Caller News Foundation’s reporting on the Clinton Foundation’s long history of abusing federal and state charitable tax laws and regulations.

Media Matters for America (MMA) claimed in a Friday post that TheDCNF’s July 18 story detailing the Clinton Foundation’s failure to use non-profit good governance rules and practices contained seven “crippling factual errors.” The group then offered readers “facts” to refute TheDCNF’s reporting.

MMA’s facts fell far short of giving readers the whole story. MMA criticized TheDCNF’s reporting that the Clinton Foundation’s “insular board of directors is unusually small, ranging from only two to no more than five members, all of whom are among President Bill and Hillary Clinton’s closest and richest friends.

“The ‘good governance’ movement in the nonprofit field has been gathering strength for two decades, but it clearly has yet to reach the Clinton Foundation. Most foundation boards have on average 15 members, according to a 2015 survey by Boardsource, a national organization working to strengthen nonprofit board leadership.”

In response, MMA claimed “the Clinton Foundation website lists 10 members of its board of directors: Bruce Lindsey, Chelsea Clinton, Bill Clinton, Frank Giustra, Rolando Gonzalez-Bunster, Eric Goosby, Hadeel Ibrahim, Lisa Jackson, Cheryl Mills, and Cheryl Saban.”

That’s true for 2013 and thereafter, but the Clinton Foundation was organized in 1997 and in the years since, the board of directors has averaged 3.6 members, according to the group’s Internal Revenue Service tax returns. There were only two board members in 1998, 2010 and 2011, and only three in 2006, 2008 and 2009. In no year prior to 2013 were there more than five board members.

It should be noted that inaccurate numbers on a website are a mistake. Inaccurate numbers on a non-profit tax return can be a serious violation of law and regulation.

MMA criticized TheDCNF’s report that “Clinton Foundation officials have ignored virtually all of the “best practices” urged by good governance organizations for public charities.”

In its attempted refutation, MMA said the “Charity accountability group CharityWatch gave the Clinton Foundation an ‘A’ rating and listed it as one of its ‘top-rated’ organizations in measures of transparency, governance, privacy and fiscal responsibility.”

That’s true, but MMA failed to note that Charity Watch’s ratings do not follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), or rules for reporting financial information on the IRS Form 990, according to multiple non-profit good governance experts.

MMA could also have told readers that Charity Navigator, one of CharityWatch’s non-profit rating competitors, had the Clinton Foundation on its watch list until December 2015, due to concerns about its financial reporting. Because Charity Navigator has yet to receive clean tax returns for the past four years, the Clinton Foundation remains “unrated.”

The group criticized TheDCNF’s reporting that “arms-length, independent boards also are considered the essential first step in good governance. The Independent Sector, a non-partisan good governance organization for nonprofits and foundations urge the creation of independent boards and said they should be in the majority.”

That’s wrong, according to MMA, because the Clinton Foundation’s 2014 federal tax return claims “that 10 of 12 voting members — more than 80 percent — are independent.”

Relying on one year of Clinton Foundation tax returns misleads readers about all the other years of the non-profit’s history. Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, for example, was one of the original two members of the Clinton Foundation board of directors in 1998. He was on the board for 14 of its 19 years, or 74 percent of its history.

The reason for McAuliffe’s longevity on the Clinton Foundation board may have something to do with the $1.35 million he put up in 1999 to guarantee a mortgage so the Clintons could buy the house in Chappagua, N.Y., they have owned ever since. The New York home is where Clinton’s private email server was located for much of her tenure as secretary of state.

The deal was not illegal, but many government ethics and transparency advocates were outraged. “It’s just plain wrong. It’s dangerous. It’s inappropriate. This is a financial favor worth over a million dollars to the president,” Democracy 21’s Fred Wertheimer told The Washington Post.

Media Matters for America was founded by David Brock, one of Clinton’s most devoted fans, in 2004 for the purpose of “comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media,” according to MMA’s website.

Brock and his MMA workers are frequent media combatants on Clinton’s behalf. He founded the American Bridge Super PAC and was a director of the Priorities USA Super PAC that devotes its resources to independent campaigns on behalf of Clinton. Brock was also among the prime movers in the creation of the Democracy Alliance dark money fundraising operation for liberal advocacy groups.

Brock’s intense advocacy for Clinton became so extreme, The Hill reported earlier this year, that “Clinton donors, fundraisers and operatives have told The Hill that the concerns about Brock’s comments, particularly some of his attacks on Bernie Sanders, stretch all the way to the top of Clinton’s political machinery.”

At one point, Clinton campaign chief John Podesta even tweeted to Brock telling him to “chill out.”

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