What Happened to Millions Raised by Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund Without Approval?

Federal and many state laws bar solicitations before being certified, but that didn't stop two former presidents from raking in the bucks

Bill Clinton and the charity known today as the “Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation” (the Clinton Foundation) engaged in extensive illegal solicitation to raise money for the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund (BCKF) starting by Sept. 1, 2005.

Unfortunately, BCKF did not even exist as a legal entity until Oct. 4, 2005, when it was organized in Delaware as a nonprofit corporation. Under U.S. law, a charity must be organized formally as a nonprofit corporation, association, or trust — it cannot be a “formless aggregation” of individuals or entities.

Nevertheless, Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation solicited tens of millions of dollars before Oct. 4, 2005, without registering BCKF or the Clinton Foundation validly in numerous U.S. states where registration is required before initiating solicitations.

Bill Clinton was not named as an officer, director, or trustee of the Clinton Foundation or BCKF. He does not appear to have registered as a professional fundraiser. So it is unclear how he acquired lawful authority to solicit funds for Katrina victims in the name of either charity.

The William J. Clinton Foundation — the true legal name of the Clinton Foundation from April 25, 2005 until June 30, 2008 — did not lawfully amend its articles of incorporation to pursue disaster relief efforts, and it did not register lawfully during 2005 to pursue that expanded set of purposes anywhere.

What public records reveal so far. Ongoing review confirms that illegal fundraising efforts were extensive and bold, with numerous parties using the internet, telephone, U.S. mail, and other means to raise funds across state lines and national boundaries before all federal and state registration requirements were satisfied.

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By Sept. 1, 2005, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush were appearing in televised public service announcements (see here and here), urging the public to send cash to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Related: Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund Given Millions of Dollars That Have Gone Missing

According to a Clinton Foundation news release issued in Houston, Texas, former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton organized BCKF by Sept. 5, 2005: “The Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund is a 501(c)(3) charitable fund established in coordination with the governors of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The fund will serve as an umbrella for the three special funds established by Governors Blanco, Barbour and Riley to assist their states and will largely focus on collecting donations to assist in the long-term recovery plan for the affected states.”

The press release claimed more than 30 pledges had previously been obtained from prominent donors, including Walmart, Microsoft, Nike, the PGA, the Trump Group, and the presidential foundations of George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, William J. Clinton, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Harry S. Truman.

From New York one day later, the Clinton Foundation was quick to tout success and provide granular specifics of its supposed online fundraising efforts:

“The Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, established to benefit the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, has raised over $1 million in online donations in approximately 24 hours … Over 5,000 individuals have made donations online, with an average gift of $188.00.”

The initial announcement was quickly followed by an update that claimed increased momentum in support of BCKF relief efforts:

“The Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund announced that it has raised over $2 million in online donations. This announcement comes less than six hours after the fund announced that it had raised $1 million online in approximately 24 hours … The fund estimates that over 10,000 people have made their donations on their website www.BushClintonKatrinaFund.org.”

Related: Meet Two Witnesses the FBI Must Grill in a Real Probe of the Clinton Foundation

By Sept. 9, 2005, BCKF claimed that it had hired a firm known as Kintera Inc. to assist in soliciting and processing online donations. In this announcement, an individual purporting to work for BCKF encouraged the public to continue supporting the relief effort for Katrina victims:

“We are very pleased with the speed and efficiency in which Kintera enabled us to begin fundraising for the victims of Hurricane Katrina,” said John Normoyle of the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund. “The initial donor support we have seen has been encouraging. We urge people to continue to donate in the weeks and months ahead.”

By Sept. 20, 2005, the torrid pace of online fundraising for BCKF appears to have cooled somewhat. Instead of raising an average of $66,667 per hour during the first 30 hours from 10,000 donors, BCKF raised just $11,905 per hour from 27,000 incremental donors during the 14-day period from Sept. 7, 2005, through Sept. 20, 2005, and this with the help of Kintera:

“The Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund announced that it has raised more than $6 million in online donations. These donations are in addition to the more than $90 million in corporate contributions and large gifts from individuals. This announcement comes shortly after the NFL pledged the proceeds from this past week’s Monday Night Football to Hurricane Katrina relief. The $6 million comes from donations from over 37,000 people who have made their donations on their website, www.BushClintonKatrinaFund.org.”

Were any of these disqualifying “preformation” activities disclosed to Lois Lerner’s Department of the IRS before Dec. 13, 2005, when BCKF somehow secured exemption from federal taxes?

The public does not know yet because the BCKF application (on Form 1023), which should be freely available, is nowhere to be found.

To be continued.

Charles Ortel, a retired investment banker, concentrates on exposing complex frauds in his new career as an investigator, writer and commentator. Since August 2017, he has been hosting the “Sunday with Charles” podcast and covering the Clinton Foundation case in depth, using publicly available source materials.​ To view his previous LifeZette contributions, go here.​

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