Tough times at the Clinton Foundation? [UPDATED]

My friend Jim Scanlan informed me that Bill Clinton has promised to “personally triple” donations to the Clinton Foundation. Sure enough, here’s the pop-up on the Foundation’s website in which Clinton does so.

If you follow the links that lead towards donating, you learn that Clinton will “triple” donations “up to [the Foundation’s] goal of $200,000.” According to this report, Clinton Foundation chairman Bruce Lindsey also announced in an email to donors last week that Dollar Bill would personally match donations up to $200,000 before the end of the year.

I don’t know whether Clinton has promised to triple (or match) donations in the past. However, I can’t help but wonder whether he’s doing so now because foreign potentates aren’t quite so willing to donate to the Foundation now that neither Clinton has any realistic prospect of holding power.

Jim notes an ambiguity in Bill’s promise. Is he promising to contribute $3 for each $1 donated? Or is he promising to turn a $1 dollar donation into $3 by adding $2 of his own.

It depends upon what the meaning of the word “triple” is.

How does Clinton’s pledge work in practice? If, say, the campaign brings in $1 million (or any other amount that reaches the $200,000 threshold), Bill contributes either $150,000 or $133,000 (depending on what “triple” means) of the first $200,000.

Maybe this is standard in the fundraising business, but it seems like a clever technique for someone of Bill Clinton’s means to employ.

If we find out how this campaign did, we’ll let you know.

UPDATE: A reader writes: “I think you forgot one (to me) important aspect of Bill’s pledge: he will get a tax deduction for giving money to himself. I exaggerate only a little, I think: he and his family seem to have used the Foundation as a slush fund, so his dollars can be spent on things like airfare and lodging on those important overseas missions to wherever he wants.”