Former president Bill Clinton is under fire after reports surfaced he accepted a lifetime achievement award last June only after event organizers agreed to make a $500,000 contribution to his foundation.
Model and philanthropist Petra Nemcova hosted a fundraiser for her nonprofit, the Happy Hearts Fund in June 2014, where Clinton was honored for his humanitarian work.
“The Clinton Foundation had rejected the Happy Hearts Fund invitation more than once, until there was a thinly veiled solicitation and then the offer of an honorarium,” said former executive director, Sue Veres Royal, who was with the organization at the time of the gala. She was later fired after conflicts arose over the gala.
The foundation did not solicit the donation, a representative for Nemcova said. The money will be used for “undetermined” projects in Haiti.
We have a “shared goal of providing meaningful help to Haiti,” a spokeswoman for the Happy Hearts Fund said. “We believe that we can create the most impactful change by working together.”
“This is primarily a small but telling example of the way the Clintons operate,” said Doug White to the New York Times. White runs the master’s program in fund-raising management at Columbia University. “The model has responsibility; she paid a high price for a feel-good moment with Bill Clinton. 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.”
Nemcova said the invitation to be honored was a sign of her appreciation for Clinton’s “inspirational leadership” after natural disasters like Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.
After the earthquake, Nemcova focused her foundations efforts on Haiti, where the Clinton played integral parts of the rebuilding process. In 2011 she signed a memorandum of understanding with the president of the Inter-American Development Bank to build schools in Haiti at a Clinton foundation membership meeting. The development bank is one of the Clinton foundations donors, and partnered with then secretary of state, Hilary Clinton to build Caracol Park in northern Haiti.
Since then, Happy Hearts has partnered with other Clinton supporters, such as Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien, founder of Digicel, to build schools in Haiti.
Happy Hearts first asked Clinton to attend the gala in 2011 and again in 2013. In both instances, Clinton’s scheduler respectfully rejected the invitation, citing scheduling conflicts. After a later meeting with Clinton foundation officers, Nemcova reportedly called then executive director Royal and said “we have to include an honorarium for him — that they don’t look at these things unless money is offered, and it has to be $500,000.”
After a revision with the inclusion of the donation and a shifted focus to Haiti, the invitation was sent again in August 2013.
“Understanding the need and commitment to ‘rebuilding better,’ Happy Hearts Fund would like to also share the proceeds of the event with the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, committing at least $500,000 in partnership on a joint educational project in Haiti, of your selection,” Nemcova wrote in the invitation letter.
“Petra did not have to devote 10 years of her life to building these schools,” Clinton said at the gala, “but what she has done is a symbol of what I think we all have to do.”