As the was preparing to celebrate its tenth anniversary, Bill Clinton hired the law firm of Simpson, Thatcher & Bartlett to assess the foundation's strengths and weaknesses. What the firm learned was unsettling: the foundation had had many successes over the years but along the way had become a sprawling concern with a rotating cast of Clinton loyalists who were vulnerable to distraction and potential conflicts of interest, the reports.
Chief among the concerns raised by the Simpson, Thatcher team was the fact that, despite its considerable revenues, the foundation had run multimillion-dollar deficits for several years. There were also concerns, both inside and outside the organization, about Douglas J. Band, a onetime personal assistant to Bill Clinton who had started a lucrative corporate consulting firm — which Clinton joined as a paid adviser — while overseeing the , the foundation's annual gathering of business leaders, heads of state, NGO officials, and celebrities. The assessment eventually led to Chelsea Clinton, the former president's Stanford-educated daughter, taking on a new, more visible role at the foundation, and to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announcing that she and her staff would be moving into offices at the foundation in the fall. Amid much speculation about her 2016 presidential ambitions, Clinton has indicated that she'll be introducing major new initiatives focused on women, children, and jobs to what has been renamed the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
Worried that the foundation's operating revenues depend too heavily on Bill Clinton's nonstop fundraising, the three Clintons are looking to raise an endowment for the foundation of as much as $250 million, with events already scheduled in the Hamptons and London. And after years of relying on Bruce R. Lindsey, the former White House counsel whose friendship with Bill Clinton stretches back decades, to run the organization while living part-time in Arkansas, the family has hired a New York-based CEO with a background in management consulting.
Efforts to insulate the foundation from potential conflicts of interest have highlighted just how difficult it can be to disentangle the Clintons' charity work from the former president's money-making ventures and Hillary Clinton's political ambitions. In 2007 and 2008, for example, the foundation found itself competing against Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign for donors in the depths of a recession. Millions of dollars in contributions intended to seed an endowment were diverted to other programs, which led to tensions among longtime Clinton aides. The foundation also operated at a loss during those years, and while its finances have improved, it still ran an $8 million deficit last year.
At the same time, despite all the attention focused on Hillary Clinton's emerging role within the foundation, advisors to the family say it is Chelsea Clinton's growing involvement that could prove more critical in the years ahead. After years of pursuing other career paths, including working at McKinsey & Company and at a hedge fund, the younger Clinton has begun to assert herself as a force within the foundation, her perspective shaped far more than her parents' by her time in the world of business.
"We're trying to institutionalize the foundation so that it will be here long after the lives of any of us," Lindsey told the Times. "That's our challenge and that is what we are trying to address."