Beat the System: If Hannity and Sessions want to investigate the Clinton Foundation, this is what they’ll find
Bill and Hillary Clinton’s known charitable donations have cost them at least $ 29 million in lost personal wealth.
That’s based on how much the couple has given to charity since 2001, the value of the tax deductions on charitable giving, and how much they could have made if they’d kept their money, paid the tax and invested it in a stock-market index fund instead.
I calculated this number using published and publicly available data. And it poses a challenge to those who, once again, are claiming the Clintons have run their charitable work as a massive criminal enterprise to enrich themselves.
Yes, the Clinton Foundation should be old news, but conservative critics of the couple have revived the issue yet again in recent weeks, in response to the probe into links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Sean Hannity made the alleged fraud and crime of the Clinton’s charitable work a major feature of his nightly show on Fox News last week. Hannity has the most-watched prime-time political program on cable TV.
Here’s what we know about the Clintons’ personal charitable giving.
They’ve published all of their federal tax returns since leaving the White House in 2001. Those returns can be found here.
The tax returns show that from 2001 through 2015, the Clintons made $ 23.2 million in total deductible donations to charity. In 11 of those 15 years, their donations exceeded $ 1 million.
Net of the tax write-off, those donations cost the Clintons around $ 13.5 million, tax data suggest. That’s based on the top rates of federal income tax for each year, which varied from 35% to 39.6%, and New York state income tax, at 8.82%. The top federal income-tax rate for each year can be found here.
Had the Clintons kept that money and just invested it instead in the S&P 500 SPX, +0.13% at the end of each year (find annual returns for the S&P here), today they would have an extra $ 28.9 million.
For example, in 2001 the Clintons donated $ 807,585, their tax return shows. If they hadn’t donated the money, they would have pocketed about $ 444,000 after tax. And had they then invested that money in the S&P 500 at the end of the year, it would be worth about $ 1.34 million today.
In 2004 they donated $ 2.53 million. In after-tax terms that cost them $ 1.52 million. If they had instead invested that money in the S&P 500, today they’d have $ 4.1 million. And so on.
Most of their donations were to the Clinton Family Foundation, a separate charity from the Clinton Foundation, although the Family Foundation has then made donations to the better-known charity.
As every investor knows, “profit” equals “money in” minus “money out.”
So if the Clintons ran their charitable giving for profit, they needed to get back at least the $ 28.9 million they effectively paid out.
Actually, they needed to get back a heckuva lot more to account for costs, risks and taxes.
Where is it?
Critics of the Clinton Foundation repeatedly equate the Foundation with the Clintons personally. They show money going into the Foundation — from dubious governments or major corporations — and argue that this money therefore goes to the Clintons.
But for the Clintons to benefit, it’s not enough for money to go into the Foundation, which is a public charity regulated by law.
As every investor knows, ‘profit’ equals ‘money in’ minus ‘money out.’
The Clintons would need to get that money out, and into their own pockets. This is the key step in any fraud or theft. There’s no point holding up a bank if you don’t drive off with the loot.
And it’s a lot harder than some people seem to think. Stealing from a public charity is a massive crime. You’re not allowed to self-deal.
The Clintons don’t draw a salary for their work for the Foundation, filings show. Clinton critics say the Clintons get “free flights” from the Foundation. They say it gave Bill something to talk about when he gave his highly paid speeches. They say it gave Bill something to write about in one of his books, for which he was reportedly paid an advance of $ 5 million (before tax).
Some Clinton associates, mainly former White House aides, have been paid several hundred thousand dollars a year to work for the Foundation full-time. But that doesn’t line the Clintons’ own pockets.
Does all this add up to many tens of millions of dollars in illicit benefits?
Hannity and others are now calling for hearings into the Clinton Foundation. I’m on their side. This sounds like one of the greatest financial mysteries of our time.