Does This Charity Shakedown By Bill Clinton Look Disturbingly Familiar?

The Happy Hearts Fund sounds almost like something George Costanza and Kramer would concoct right out of a bad Seinfeld episode; but in fact it’s actually a legitimate charity founded by Petra Nemcova that builds schools in poor neighborhoods here in the US, in post-2004 tsunami Indonesia; and recently, in post-earthquake Haiti.

Hillary Clinton charged Petra Nemcova a cool $500 grand to hang out with Bill. Gee, we wonder why?

Hillary Clinton charged Petra Nemcova a cool $500 grand to hang out with Bill. Gee, we wonder why?

The group’s annual gala is a major part of its fundraising effort, and in 2013, the glamorous supermodel decided to try again, after being turned down two years earlier, to get Bill Clinton to attend as the event’s “honoree.”

This is a pretty standard technique in fundraising: You “honor” someone with connections and rich friends; and then you market the hell out of this event to those people. What’s more, you couldn’t do much better than a former president of the United States as the rainmaker. Somewhat surprisingly, it turned out Bill was a bit “too busy” that night, even for a gorgeous supermodel. Unless, of course you’re willing to shell out a half-million dollars for Hillary’s campaign…

We’ll let the charity’s former executive director Sue Veres Royal lay it all out for you1 in last Friday’s New York Times:

Happy Hearts Fund first asked Mr. Clinton to be its honoree in 2011. Trying again in 2013, Ms. Nemcova sent her first formal letter of invitation in July, asking Mr. Clinton to be the primary award recipient at a Happy Hearts gala on Nov. 4, 2013, celebrating Indonesia.

Mr. Clinton’s scheduler replied with a cordial rejection — “Regrettably, he is committed to another event out of town that same evening” — in an email copied to Frank Giustra, the Canadian mining financier who is one of the Clinton Foundation’s largest donors and also a supporter of Ms. Nemcova.

Ms. Nemcova subsequently met with officers at the Clinton Foundation, Ms. Veres Royal said. Afterward, she said, “Petra called me 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.”

The invitation letter was revised and sent again at the end of August. It moved the gala to 2014, offered to work around Mr. Clinton’s availability, dropped the focus on Indonesia and shifted it to Haiti, and proposed the donation.

“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,” Ms. Nemcova wrote, ending with her customary signoff, “Lots of Love, Light and Laughter.”

When charities select an honoree for their fund-raising events, they generally expect that the award recipient will help them raise money by attracting new donors. But the Happy Hearts Fund raised less money at the gala featuring Mr. Clinton than it did at its previous one.

Further, it is extremely rare for honorees, or their foundations, to be paid from a gala’s proceeds, charity experts said — as it is for the proceeds to be diverted to a different cause.

How common is it for fundraisers like this to pay honoraria to featured guests? It’s unusual on this scale, especially for someone supposedly acting on behalf of another charity, says an Ivy League expert contacted by [NY Times journalist Deborah] Sontag.1 In fact, he considers the Happy Hearts Fund transaction “distasteful:”

“This is primarily a small but telling example of the way the Clintons operate,” said Doug White, who directs 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.”

Why this is in The Hearing Blog:

We’ll simply let the photos tell the rest of the story, and then you can draw your own conclusions. Note the links to the sources in the captions of the 2013 Gala (red background)4 and 2014 Gala5 (last) images…

 

Bill Austin, founder, Starkey Hearing Foundation (right) introduces evening honoree President Bill Clinton (left) at the Foundation's 11th annual So The World May Hear Gala in Saint Paul, Minnesota. (PRNewsFoto/Starkey Hearing Foundation)

Bill Austin, founder, Starkey Hearing Foundation (right) introduces evening honoree President Bill Clinton (left) at the Foundation’s 11th annual So The World May Hear Gala in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
(PRNewsFoto/Starkey Hearing Foundation) (no link)

 

2012 Starkey Hearing Expo,  January 7, 2012 Source::Starkey Hearing Foundation (Facebook) (no link)

2012 Starkey Hearing Expo, January 7, 2012
Source:: Starkey Hearing Foundation
(Facebook) (no link)

 

President Bill Clinton at the Starkey Foundation Gala at the St. Paul Rivercenter, 2012

President Bill Clinton at the Starkey Foundation Gala at the St. Paul Rivercenter, 2012
(Source: Photoshelter.com) (no link)

 

Bill Clinton wagging his finger at the Starkey Foundation’s 2013 “So the World May Hear” Awards Gala audience, on Sunday, July 28, 2013 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Source: A ‘Night Out’ With Hillary Clinton is Reportedly Not Cheap.4 The Blaze, by Oliver Darcy, August 25th, 2013
(Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Starkey Hearing Foundation/AP Images)

 

Bill Clinton at 2014 Starkey Expo

Bill Clinton at 2014 Starkey Expo
Source: @daudignt on Twitter (no link)

 

Here is Bill Clinton addressing the 2014 Starkey Expo Click image to go to source in new window

Bill Clinton scolding the 3,400 attendees at the 2014 Starkey Expo (no link)

 

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the Starkey Hearing Foundation's 'So the World May Hear' Awards Gala on Sunday, July 20th, 2014, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Clinton gave this speech on behalf of the Clinton Global Initiative, of which Starkey is a member.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the Starkey Hearing Foundation’s ‘So the World May Hear’ Awards Gala on Sunday, July 20th, 2014, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Clinton gave this speech on behalf of the Clinton Global Initiative, of which Starkey is a member.
Source: “Hillary Clinton has made $12 million since leaving the State Department.5 The Daily Mail (London), by Francesca Chambers, July 21st, 2014.

 

Hearing Charities We Like:

There are a number of excellent hearing charities worthy of your financial support, and also welcome donations of  hearing aids. Here are a few of our favorites:

Also, for adults as well as children who would not otherwise qualify for assistance for hearing aids, we recommend the Miracle-Ear Foundation.  Here is their eligibility criteria and application download (Tip: It’s a 14 page color form, so when printing it out select “Greyscale Printing” to save ink.)

References:

  1. An Award for Bill Clinton Came With $500,000 for His Foundation. New York Times, by Deborah Sontag, May 29, 2015;
  2. Charity begins at home: Bill Clinton shakes down school-building fund for $500K. Hot Air, by Ed Morrissey, May 29, 2015;
  3. Hillary Clinton’s husband shook down a small school-building charity for $500,000. Cain TV, by Dan Calabrese, May 29, 2015;
  4. A ‘Night Out’ With Hillary Clinton is Reportedly Not Cheap. The Blaze, by Oliver Darcy, August 25th, 2013
  5. Hillary Clinton has made $12 million since leaving the State Department. The Daily Mail (London), by Francesca Chambers, July 21st, 2014.

Bootnotes:

Here is the GuideStar page for Starkey Hearing Foundation. Note the 1½ star ratings and comments here, and draw your own conclusions…
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About the author

Dan Schwartz

Electrical Engineer, via Georgia Tech

2 Comments

  1. Scot Frink
    June 3, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    If, for one of Starkey’s Expos, the Clintons want to charge a hefty fee, I’m fine with that, but I find it most distasteful that the Clintons would charge a charity so much for a speaking engagement (especially when Hillary complains about how poor they are). It may have been a poor choice on the part of Happy Hearts, hopefully one they will learn from, but this doesn’t mean that Happy Hearts is a bad program overall.

    When evaluating charities, consider checking http://www.CharityNavigator.com. It rates the efficiency of the charity and lets you know how much of what you donate actually reaches the people the charity is supposed to be helping. A quick check on Happy Hearts Fund (http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=15176#.VW-c-s9VhBc) indicated a fairly decent rating of over 90.31–a four star rating. By comparison, the American Red Cross is on Charity Navigator’s watch list with an overall rating of only 80.5–a three star rating.

    While the Clinton situation with Happy Hearts is for sure distasteful, reflecting the selfishness of politicians, the organization itself does good deeds.

    And, by the way, the “Clinton Global Initiative’–Bill’s own personal charity–doesn’t even rate in the system. BIG RED FLAG.


    • Dan Schwartz
      June 3, 2015 at 11:04 pm

      @Scot: First, I feel sorry for Happy Hearts getting ripped off by the Clintons. What’s more, Petra Nemcova’s charity got somewhat hijacked, as it was created by her to build schools in Indonesia, not Haiti, which is a fave of the Clintons. [She was trapped and badly injured in the 2004 tsunami; and her fiancé was killed.]

      Both CharityNavigator and GuideStar are good ratings services; and in fact at the bottom of the article you’ll see I included links to the GuideStar ratings for the three domestic charities (they don’t rate overseas charities).

      In any case, I don’t give a crap if Bill Austin wants to pay Bill Clinton to appear at his biennial Starkey Expo; but it appears that’s the quid pro quo for Clinton to appear at the annual Starkey Hearing Foundation charity ball… And slimy deals like these make the whole industry look bad; though it wouldn’t be Austin’s first time.


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