“After being the subject of a spate of negative newspaper accounts about potential conflicts of interest and management dysfunction this winter — long before Clinton Cash — the Clinton Foundation wound up on a “watch list” maintained by the Charity Navigator, the New Jersey–based nonprofit watchdog. The Navigator, dubbed the “most prominent” nonprofit watchdog by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, is a powerful and feared player in the nonprofit world. Founded in 2002, it ranks more than 8,000 charities and is known for its independence. For a while, the Clinton Foundation was happy to promote Charity Navigator’s work (back when they were awarded its highest ranking). In September 2014, in fact, the Navigator’s then-CEO, Ken Berger, was invited to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative. Of course that was before the Foundation was placed on a list with scandal-plagued charities like Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and the Red Cross.
Since March, the Foundation has embarked on an aggressive behind-the-scenes campaign to get removed from the list. Clinton Foundation officials accuse the Navigator of unfairly targeting them, lacking credible evidence of wrongdoing, and blowing off numerous requests for a meeting to present their case. “They’re not only punishing us for being transparent but are not being transparent themselves,” Maura Pally, the Foundation’s acting CEO, told me by phone from Morocco last week. “Charity Navigator doesn’t disclose its donors, but we do and yet that means we’re suffering the consequences.”
Navigator executives counter that the Foundation has demanded they extend the Clintons special treatment. They also allege the Foundation attempted to strong-arm them by calling a Navigator board member. “They felt they were of such importance that we should deviate from our normal process. They were irritated by that,” says Berger.
The feud is a microcosm of all that is exhausting about the Clintons’ endless public battles. Generally, it goes like this: bad press about their lack of transparency sparks some real-world consequence or censure, the Clintons complain that they’re being held to an unfair standard while their critics contend that they expect to be able to write their own rules, and the resulting flare-up leads to more bad press.” (Read more: NYMag 5/10/2015)