Investigative Group

EXCLUSIVE: Here’s The Clinton Foundation Conflict Of Interest Politifact Hides

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Mark Tapscott Executive Editor, Chief of Investigative Group
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Aaron Sharockman insisted Politifact had no financial ties whatsoever to the Clinton Foundation after publishing an error-laden critique of The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Sept. 19 report on “watered down” HIV/AIDS drugs given to millions of people in Africa by the former president’s controversial nonprofit.

“We have never received funding from the Omidyar Network, and we have no connection or relationship to the Clinton Foundation other than covering it,” Sharockman, who is Politifact’s executive director, told TheDCNF.

The reality is that Politifact shares a mega-donor with the Clinton Foundation. Here’s how:

The Omidyar Network was created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. So was the Democracy Fund. Both Omidyar groups fund various projects of the Poynter Institute, which owns the Tampa Bay Times, Politifact’s home base.

One of those projects — a partnership between Politifact and another group “to fact-check claims about global health and development” — was funded with $225,000 from the Omidyar Network. Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pamela, gave $1 million to the Clinton Foundation’s HIV/AIDS drug distribution program.

It was that Omidyar-funded Clinton Foundation program that was the prime focus of TheDCNF’s report, which was inaccurately attacked by Politifact’s Jon Greenberg, a former NPR reporter. That may also explain why Greenberg lauded the Clinton Foundation for becoming “a key player in the worldwide supply chain of the antiretroviral drugs used to fight HIV/AIDS” and helping drive down the costs of drugs used by an estimated 11 million people.

The claim about driving down the costs of the drugs is made repeatedly by Clinton Foundation officials and advocates. But crediting the Clinton Foundation with driving prices down was just one of the nine factual errors in Greenberg’s critique of TheDCNF.

The price of antiretroviral drugs from originating drug makers in June 2000 was $10,439 per person per year, according to Medecins Sans Frontiere. By September 2001, the price had dropped to $549, a 95 percent decrease. The same pattern occurred with generic antiretroviral drugs.

But the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Health Access Initiative wasn’t started until 2002.

Politifact acknowledges on its web site that it regularly receives funding “from foundations that seek to improve news coverage or civic discourse,” including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Democracy Fund.

Politifact says nothing about Omidyar Network funding and it says nothing about the fact Omidyar established the Democracy Fund. None of these facts were disclosed in Greenberg’s critique, either.

Omidyar made a fortune with eBay, but he’s been less successful seeking to become a digital news media entrepreneur. He vowed in 2013 to invest $250 million in First Look News, “a new-model media company devoted to supporting independent voices, from fearless investigative journalism and documentary filmmaking to smart, provocative entertainment.”

The effort has had some notable successes on the entertainment side — the 2015 movie “Spotlight” provided a widely praised look inside the Boston Globe’s landmark investigation of pedophiles in the Catholic Church — but has met with little success on the news side.

Between them, Pierre and Pam Omidyar have given more than $500,000 to Democratic candidates and campaign committees in recent years, including large sums to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to Federal Election Commission documents.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect the Tampa Bay Times is owned by the Poynter Institute.

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