Bill Clinton Cashes in on Nonprofit Hospital

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

Bill Clinton Cashes in on Nonprofit Hospital


Byline: Jim McElhatton, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Bill Clinton accepted a $225,000 speaking fee from the nonprofit Washington Hospital Center smack in the middle of two big rounds of layoffs in 2012 -- one of a number of tax-exempt organizations that have paid big money to hear the former president talk.

The $225,000 payment wasn't made public by the hospital on its annual Internal Revenue Service forms, but rather appeared among dozens of lucrative speeches by Mr. Clinton reported on his wife's final ethics filing as secretary of state.

"No disrespect to Bill Clinton, but that money could've gone a long way and been put to better use," said Dan Fields Jr., president of the Service Employees International Union Local 722 representing hospital workers.

"Our contract expires on June 30, and I'm pretty sure they're going to come to the table and talk about how they're losing money, so this concerns me greatly."

Analysts say it's not unusual for nonprofit organizations to hire big-name celebrities for conferences or fundraising efforts, but the fees are rarely disclosed in the annual IRS filings where organizations provide detailed reports on their profits, losses, executive salaries and other expenditures.

Former President George W. Bush was a keynote speaker at the same conference this year, but a hospital spokeswoman said she could not disclose a fee because of a contractual arrangement with his speakers bureau.

The hospital's payment to Mr. Clinton would have gone unnoticed had it not come to light in Hillary Rodham Clinton's latest financial disclosure form, which reported the dates and amounts of dozens of speeches by Mr. Clinton in 2012.

"There's enough ambiguity in how these things are reported that it could be reported in places where there's no requirement for a breakout," said Marcus Owens, former director of the IRS exempt organization division. He said nonprofit groups could classify big speaking fees and fundraising or educational expenses.

"It's not unusual for charities to pay speakers. It may not be common to pay that much, but it would depend on the context," said tax analyst John Colombo, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law.

The hospital is hardly the only 501(c)(3) organization to shell out big money to hear Mr. Clinton speak. The Naples Philharmonic Center in Florida paid Mr. Clinton $200,000. Later, the nonprofit filed IRS forms showing that it lost $338,000 in overall revenue of about $24 million that same year. …

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