People do the strangest things, yet purchasing wildly overpriced tickets for Thursday’s fundraising event — in theory benefiting the beleaguered Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation — is super-difficult to explain.
Patrons certainly are not purchasing influence in any future Clinton presidency, as that likely will never happen before 2024, if ever, though hope springs eternal on Hillary Clinton’s website. Even worse, anyone dumb enough to support the Clinton Foundation now, particularly with a large donation, is sure to be drawn into a raft of maturing government inquiries.
We know, for example, that the IRS has been investigating the Clinton Foundation since July 2016. And we shall soon learn just how assiduously the IRS and the FBI may have done so, once Department of Justice Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz releases his long-awaited second report.
Worse, claiming deductions to a supposed charity is risky business for the donor when it seems obvious that the charity in question is not organized and has not been operated lawfully to be tax-exempt anywhere.
Even worse, Clinton allies do not currently have the same type of protective cover they have enjoyed since 1999, when Eliot Spitzer, then Andrew Cuomo, and finally Eric Schneiderman served as attorney general in New York, the effective headquarters base for the Clinton Foundation.
What kinds of exposures do potential donors face? Well, there’s income tax jeopardy. Perhaps Eric Schneiderman’s replacement as New York’s attorney general will continue playing the same old game of letting political allies take tax deductions for alleged contributions to “charities” that are disguised political organizations, personal slush funds, or both.
I would not bet on business as usual, however, because under Republicans and Democrats, New York today might better be known as the “Failing Empire State.”
Our fairly marked state government debts are monstrous, our truly calibrated annual state government budget deficits are yawning, and our ability to retain high-paying private sector jobs is suspect given realities in the newly revised federal tax code, which limits deductions for state, local and property taxes.
In fact, New York’s charity laws and regulations are strict. The trouble is that Spitzer, Cuomo and Schneiderman apparently decided not to enforce them or even to notice obvious violations of the Clinton Foundation.
For example, New York, unlike many other states, requires charities as large as the Clinton Foundation to obtain real and tough audits of their financial results and to make these available to the public so that donors can make informed giving decisions.
This extremely important requirement is spelled out in detail in New York law at §172-b of Executive Law, Article 7-A Solicitation and Collection of Funds for Charitable Purposes:
The annual financial report shall be accompanied by an annual financial statement, which includes an independent certified public accountant’s audit report containing an opinion that the financial statements are prepared fairly in all material respects and in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles, including compliance with all pronouncements of the financial accounting standards board and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants [AICPA] that establish accounting principles relevant to not-for-profit organizations.
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On the main portal for the New York state attorney general charities bureau, there are no audits at all for the years 1998 through 2004, inclusive. And audits for the years 2005 through 2009 do not appear to comply with numerous AICPA standards. (Legal existence, consolidation, consistency, tax uncertainties, and footnote disclosures are just five areas worthy of consideration.)
Audits for the years 2010 through 2016 do not correctly explain the myriad attempted reorganizations of constituent elements within the original Clinton Foundation. Federal income tax filings for each year do not reconcile substantial differences in key financial disclosures with figures reported in the audits.
Go here to see for yourself. Enter the Employer Identification Number (EIN) for the Clinton Foundation (31-1580204) and then look through the annual reports and other information found in the search results.
Better still, ask a friend who understands accounting to explain just how far away information is from being compliant that the Clinton Foundation, its trustees, its executives, and its professional advisers have been disseminating in numerous public filings.
And, if you know a lawyer familiar with New York’s requirements, ask about some of the specifically prohibited activities set forth in §172-d of the Executive Law mentioned above. There are quite a few, but worthy of special note are these:
- “[Making] any material statement which is untrue …
- [Engaging] in any fraudulent or illegal act, device, scheme, artifice to defraud …
- [Using], or [intending] to use false or materially misleading advertising or promotional material.”
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If you still want to purchase a gala ticket, then, as Dirty Harry said, do you feel lucky today? Well, do you? Here’s what may happen if you do:
The Clintons are nothing if not stubborn. They will have their fundraiser. They may even welcome the “lucky” winner and guest of the sweepstakes they announced several weeks ago, who may receive tickets and transportation with an approximate value of $3,000 for free.
For anyone else thinking of paying hard cash for gala tickets, hold your breath, save your money and wait until the Clinton Foundation files its annual report to the IRS and to various state governments — before you risk making any donations.
Better safe than sorry.
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.