Bill Clinton to Happy Hearts charity: You can give me an achievement award if you pay my foundation $500k

When Bill Clinton received a lifetime achievement award at a June 2014 charity event, the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation also received a check for half a million dollars.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Petra Nemcova, who personally experienced the disaster, held a glitzy fundraiser for her school-building nonprofit, Happy Hearts Fund.

According to the New York Times, the gala – featuring cocktails, specialty made jewelry, and a 20 minute performance by Sheryl Crow – cost more than $363,000. But that’s nothing compared to the $500,000 donation Happy Hearts Fund made to the Clinton Foundation in exchange for Bill agreeing to receive his lifetime achievement award at the event.

The donation amounted to almost a quarter of the evening’s net proceeds – enough to build 10 preschools in Indonesia, The Times reported.

Doug White, who directs the master’s program in fundraising management at Columbia University, said this is standard operating procedure for the former President and First Lady. “This is primarily a small but telling example of the way the Clintons operate,” he told The Times.

“[Ms. Nemcova] paid a high price for a feel ­good moment with Bill Clinton.” He said. “But he was riding the back of this small charity for what? A half ­million bucks? I find it – what would be the word? – distasteful.”

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Happy Hearts Fund had been trying to get Mr. Clinton to attend a gala as their honoree since 2011. Ms. Nemcova eventually met with officers at the Clinton Foundation and was told, in thinly veiled terms, that the he would only be receptive to her invitation if a sizeable donation was made. The Times reported that Nemcova was told the foundation wouldn’t even consider an appearance “unless money is offered, and it has to be $500,000.”

Further concessions also had to be made, including shifting the focus of the evening to the Clinton led recovery effort in Haiti, as opposed to building pre-schools in Indonesia, and conforming the event to fit Bill Clinton’s schedule.

In light of the revelations that have been made about the operating procedure for the Clinton Foundation, Ms. Nemcova’s $500,000 donation is raising new questions. After all, at a charity event celebrating the construction of schools, it seems a little excessive for the Clintons to demand such a large “donation” in exchange for their presence.

The gala was already extravagant, with custom made jewelry on display (and for purchase), as well as cocktails served on silver trays, guests rubbing shoulders with high profile celebrities, and more. The apparently coerced donation to the Clintons underscores the absurdity of social gatherings that try to masquerade as charity.

The Clinton’s apparent comfort with demanding such exorbitant fees in exchange for their humble appearance demonstrates a disconnect between their stated mission, and their personal ambitions. It takes a certain kind of person to demand half a million dollars (from a non-profit that builds preschools) in exchange for showing up to receive an award.

But, I guess Bill is one of a kind.

Michael Schaus

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