Community Development Field

Foundations Shrugged

Editor's Note: Ruth Loess (her pen name) is our newest blog contributor who will bring something different to our usual offerings … satire. Ruth has over 30 years in the […]

Editor's Note: Ruth Loess (her pen name) is our newest blog contributor who will bring something different to our usual offerings … satire. Ruth has over 30 years in the nonprofit and philanthropic worlds, and starting today, she’ll be challenging some sacred cows of the field, as well as stating the obvious, yet funny flaws of a system we live and work in. Like all the other Shelterforce bloggers we so deeply value and appreciate, Ruth’s opinions are all her own. We hope you enjoy her writing. 


Foundation leaders from across the country issued a collective shrug last week in response to claims of improprieties at the Clinton Foundation. The allegations stem from the release of State Department emails that, according to the Trump campaign, seemingly indicate that foundation officials used their connection to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to procure favors for donors.

The special treatment afforded to these individuals is said to have included responding to email messages in a timely manner, facilitating introductions beyond those generally associated with elite D.C. cocktail parties, and seeking employment for friends (and, occasionally, ne’er-do-well relatives) associated with the Clinton Foundation.  

Ethics experts were quick to point out that there is some ambiguity as to who should be held accountable for any possible wrong doing: the staff of the Clinton Foundation for asking, or employees of the State Department for responding?

The CEO and president of one large community-based foundation commented that donors are known to ask for all kinds of favors. This person cited one specific example stating, “If we had a dollar for every time a conservative donor asked us not to fund Planned Parenthood, we could double our assets.” Coincidentally, this individual oversees an endowment that has increased in value from $150 million to $300 million over the past 10 years.

State Department officials, on the other hand, justified their actions by stating that the responses received by persons associated with the Clinton Foundation are typical of those that anyone might receive when reaching out to a large governmental bureaucracy.

According to another State Department source (who wished to remain anonymous), “It doesn’t matter who contacts us, our levels of efficiency and responsiveness are the same and I would compare them to any department within the U.S. government … except for when someone in Congress gets a call from the NRA. They respond crazy fast to them because they have a direct line staffed 24/7 to answer those calls.”

It remains to be seen how the reported transgressions will be viewed by the general public (a small percentage of which might actually vote in the upcoming presidential election).

A recent person-on-the-street survey revealed only mild concerns given that the source of the allegations was the Trump campaign. When reminded that Hillary Clinton was the target of the complaints, a majority of respondents replied by saying, “same sh-t [sic], different day.” 

However, one senior citizen who was interviewed did express interest in making a $50 contribution to the Clinton Foundation, provided that they would assist her in resolving a disputed Medicare claim.

(Photo credit: F. Tronchin, via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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