Candidates’ Foundations Draw Scrutiny as Polls Tighten Between Clinton and Trump

Posted on: September 15, 2016, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: September 15, 2016, 11:53h.

candidates' foundations Clinton Trump Foundation
The candidates’ foundations are being questioned on whether they are meant to serve their charitable recipients, or the foundations’ namesakes. (Image: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The presidential candidates’ foundations are quickly becoming an imperative factor in the 2016 election.

The Clinton Foundation and the Donald J. Trump Foundation have both come under fire in recent weeks, and opponents on both sides of the aisle are trying to make the claim that the nonprofit’s have been used for either political or business gain.

Founded in 1997 as the William J. Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Foundation is estimated to have raised $2 billion from US corporations since its inception. Trump believes the Clintons have used the foundation as a “pay to play” shield.

Trump says the Clinton Foundation provided certain high-level donors access to Hillary while she served as US secretary of state between 2009 and 2013.

Meanwhile, the Trump Foundation is being attacked for gifting $25,000 in 2013 to a campaign group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. At the time of the donation, Bondi was considering pursuing charges against Trump University.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced this week he’s opening a formal investigation into Trump’s Bondi contribution.

Schneiderman made headlines in the gambling community last fall for his assault on daily fantasy sports (DFS). After months of legal banter, DraftKings and FanDuel were permitted back in New York in August.

The latest Real Clear Politics average has Clinton at 45.8 to Trump at 44.0.

Pay to Look the Other Way

Schneiderman says his office will try and determine if Trump’s donation to the group supporting Bondi was to sway her away from pursuing charges against his now-defunct university. “We have been concerned that the Trump Foundation may have engaged in some improprieties,” Schneiderman told CNN.

Trump’s camp says Schneiderman’s investigation is driven purely by politics.

“Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is a partisan hack who has turned a blind eye to the Clinton Foundation for years and has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president,” Trump aide Jason Miller said.

Trump and Schneiderman haven’t always been foes. In 2010, the billionaire real estate developer committed $12,500 to Schneiderman’s campaign.

Pay to Be Paid

On the other side of the divisive political landscape, the much larger and more complicated Clinton Foundation is also coming under attack.

Republicans say Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien is one example of people “paying to play” in the Clinton Foundation.

O’Brien and his mobile company Digicel have reportedly donated between $10 and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation since it was formed. The Clinton Foundation reveals donors under categories, and O’Brien’s interests are listed on the “$10 million to $25 million” level.

Following the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Hillary Clinton’s State Department granted Digicel millions of dollars from the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative to provide free cell phones to Haitians.

Two years later, O’Brien’s Digicel Network acquired Voila, the largest mobile operator in Haiti, and quickly closed the company. That forced all mobile users to move to Digicel phones and its network.

Today, Haiti’s national lottery can be played directly on Digicel phones.

The Clintons say their foundation has never done anything wrong. “The most important thing is, this is a magnificent foundation that has reinvented philanthropy,” Clinton Foundation President Donna Shalala told CNN.