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Steve Contorno
By Steve Contorno February 26, 2015

Conservative group claims Hillary Clinton's foundation took millions from foreign governments

A group founded by Karl Rove launched one of the first salvos of the 2016 presidential election cycle with a Web video attacking presumed Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

American Crossroads released a video Feb. 23 that features audio of a speech from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat from the party’s progressive wing, warning that "powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor." The video shows photos of Clinton meeting with various foreign delegates and leaders.

Text on the screen alleges that "the Clintons' foundation took millions from foreign governments" including "up to $5 million" from the United Arab Emirates and "up to $25 million" from Saudi Arabia.

We should note off the bat that Warren's remarks were ripped from two separate speeches aimed at limiting money from corporations and Super PACs in politics, and they were merged together and cut in such a way to eliminate those references. They certainly weren't about Clinton or foundations or foreign governments.

Still, we wanted to check whether Bill and Hillary Clinton's foundation has indeed received large sums of money from foreign governments.

Former President Bill Clinton started the William J. Clinton Foundation in 2001 as a nonprofit philanthropy for global development. The organization partners with government, non-government organizations and businesses to tackle quality-of-life issues, such as AIDS, poverty and climate change.

When Hillary Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, the foundation agreed to disclose its donors at the request of the White House. According to a memorandum of understanding, the foundation could continue to collect donations from countries with which it had existing relationships or running grant programs. If contributions from those countries increased significantly or a new foreign government wanted to make a donation, the State Department would have to first approve (more on that in a bit).

We should emphasize there is nothing illegal about the contributions. Candidates for office are prohibited by law from accepting campaign contributions from foreign governments, but foundations have no such restriction. The main issue is that the foundation presented ethical quandaries when Clinton was a candidate for president in 2008 and when she was Secretary of State. But at this time, the foundation was her husband’s project, not hers.

That changed when Clinton left the State Department. In 2013, the foundation became the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton foundation, with Hillary Clinton taking an active role in fundraising.

Throughout the years, donors have included celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz, businesses like eBay and Pepsi, and other nonprofits, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And, yes, some governments.

So which countries and foreign governments have donated to her organization? Not just Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, it turns out.

We pulled the information from the Clinton Foundation website, which tracks donors by contribution range. As it is, we don’t have exact amount for each donation, nor do we know when the contribution was made — except donations made in 2014, which were marked on the site.

Here’s what we found. Due to search constraints on the Clinton Foundation’s website and the vast number of small donations, we’re only including contributions larger than $25,000.

Foreign government


Tenerife Island government

$25,000 to $50,000

Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah

$25,000 to $50,000

Government of Jamaica

$50,000 to $100,000

Kingdom of Bahrain

$50,000 to $100,000

Federal Republic of Germany

$100,000 to $250,000

Embassy of Algeria

$250,000 to $500,000

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

$250,000 to $500,000

Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office

$500,000 to $1,000,000

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State of Qatar

$1,000,000 to $5,000,000

Government of Brunei Darussalam

$1,000,000 to $5,000,000

Sultanate of Oman

$1,000,000 to $5,000,000

United Arab Emirates

$1,000,000 to $5,000,000

UK Department for International Development

$1,000,000 to $5,000,000

Commonwealth of Australia

$5,000,000 to $10,000,000

Government of the Netherlands

$5,000,000 to $10,000,000

State of Kuwait

$5,000,000 to $10,000,000

Australian Agency for International Development

$10,000,000 to $25,000,000

Government of Norway

$10,000,000 to $25,000,000

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

$10,000,000 to $25,000,000


Of the 25 donors that have contributed more than $5 million to the Clinton Foundation throughout the years, six are foreign governments.

Six of the 19 countries listed above made donations to the Clinton Foundation in 2014: Germany, Canada, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Australia and Saudi Arabia. It’s not clear whether those governments had donated previously, and if so, how much of their donation came last year.

So the assertion at the center of the ad is accurate: the Clinton Foundation did, in fact, take millions from foreign governments. Additionally, the ad singled out two countries — the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — that have donated to the foundation since Hillary Clinton officially joined her family’s foundation.

Clinton Foundation spokesman Craig Minassian said most of the money from foreign countries is earmarked for specific projects and grants, like AIDS relief. Minassian said that the ad implied nefarious dealings, and that isn’t the case.

"I just have a problem with the premise of the ad," Minassian said. "It’s the same premise when people say we’re the same as a Super PAC. We’re not; we’re philanthropy. This is what NGOs do."

Readers can decide for themselves how they feel about the charge. We’re just checking the fact behind the ad. American Crossroads did not respond to a voicemail and emails.

We should note that since the ad came out, and while we were reporting this story, the Washington Post reported that the contribution from Algeria, that had never donated previously, came while Clinton was Secretary of State and was not approved by the State Department.

Minassian said the donation from Algeria was related to Haiti relief efforts, and that, per the agreement with the White House, "the State Department should have been formally informed."

"As the Clinton Foundation did with all donations it received for earthquake relief, the entire amount of Algeria's contribution was distributed as aid in Haiti," Minassian said. "This was a one-time, specific donation to help Haiti and Algeria had not donated to the Clinton Foundation before and has not since."

Our ruling

An American Crossroads web ad claimed, "the Clintons' foundation took millions from foreign governments" including "up to $5 million" from the United Arab Emirates and "up to $25 million" from Saudi Arabia.

As we noted, it doesn’t violate campaign rules for a nonprofit philanthropy to accept donations from foreign governments. Over the years, the Clinton Foundation has taken millions of dollars from foreign governments. This includes between $1 million and $5 million from the United Arab Emirates and between $10 million and $25 million from Saudi Arabia. At least a portion of those donations came in 2014, after Clinton left the State Department and formally joined the family’s foundation that had previously been in her husband’s name alone.

We rate the statement True.

Our Sources

American Crossroads, "Rigged," Feb. 23, 2015

Wall Street Journal, "Foreign Government Gifts to Clinton Foundation on the Rise," Feb. 17, 2015

Wall Street Journal, "Clinton Foundation Rethinking Foreign Donations," Feb. 19, 2015

Washington Post, "Foreign governments gave millions to foundation while Clinton was at State Dept.," Feb. 25, 2016

Clinton Foundation, Contributor Information, accessed Feb. 25, 2015

Phone and email interview with Craig Minassian, spokesman for the Clinton Foundation, Feb. 24-26


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