Clinton Foundation ‘More Like a Political Operation’ Than Charity
Harsh internal review, leaked by WikiLeaks, faults management, structural deficiencies of foundation
The Clinton Foundation operated “more like a political operation” than a traditional charity, a lawyer warned in a memo marked “confidential” in 2008.
Bruce Lindsey, chairman of the foundation’s board of directors, sent the memo — an earlier draft of the final report — to Clinton family consiglieri Cheryl Mills in 2011. WikiLeaks released that email Saturday in its latest batch of communications hacked from the Gmail account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
“The challenges and deficiencies plaguing the Foundation cannot be over-stated: They are real and undermine the organization’s effectiveness, immediately and more long term.”
Kumiki Gibson, who formerly served as then-Vice President Al Gore’s legal counsel, reviewed the foundation and found “fundamental organizational challenges and deficiencies that undermine its effectiveness, expose it to significant risk, and, ultimately, threaten its long-term survival.”
Gibson stated the issue in stark terms: “The challenges and deficiencies plaguing the Foundation cannot be over-stated: They are real and undermine the organization’s effectiveness, immediately and more long term.”
Gibson cited an “anti-compliance attitude of a couple of key managers,” adding that “several staff members virtually begged fro [sic] a stronger whistleblower policy and process.”
Former President Bill Clinton had not made it clear whether he intended for the foundation to continue beyond his personal involvement. But if he did, she wrote, that goal was threatened by the fact that he and his family were so closely intertwined with the leadership. She recommended hiring a CEO and making several organizational changes. She also wrote that the former president should consider physically separating the foundation from his other operations.
Gibson wrote that the foundation was not good at planning and that several managers lacked managerial experience and skills. She added that she did not know if managers did not know how to operate in an environment of rules and structure or if they simply preferred working without accountability or oversight.
"No matter what the cause, this disdain has resulted in a culture that under-values structure, controls, and compliance," she wrote.
Gibson cited confusion about priorities and noted that employees complained that those priorities constantly shifted. Employees even in senior positions could not articulate the foundation’s strategy for achieving its goals, according to the memo. This resulted in missed opportunities, Gibson added.
Without changes, Gibson warned, the foundation risked "reputational and legal challenges, and with confusion, inefficiencies, and waste."
She described an organization that operated almost on a cult of personality, with confusion arising from the fact that the work of the foundation and Clinton were intertwined. She wrote that the organization was made up of "free agents." That may have been appropriate in the early years of the foundation but was inappropriate for $90 million organization with 500 employees, Gibson warned.
Gibson called out the head of the Harlem office for hiring and/or promoting interns despite the fact they they had no title or experience outside the organization. He wrote that least two senior managers tend to micromanage.
"This can lead to and has led to inconsistent and sometimes negative results," he wrote.
The end result of the dysfunction was that the Clinton Foundation was losing talented employees.
"Finally, morale is low among the current staff," she wrote. "Moreover, according to several members of the staff, the Foundation has lost some employees because of some of the issues identified in this report, including, specifically, the lack of clear priorities and of good managers."