Reality Check: Pence exaggerates Clinton meetings with foundation donors

Story highlights

  • Pence is basing his claim on an August Associated Press story
  • The AP's analysis only accounts for a fraction of Clinton's meetings

Washington (CNN)Mike Pence highlighted at Tuesday's presidential debate what he considered evidence that donors to the Clinton Foundation had outsized influence in Hillary Clinton's State Department.

"We found, thanks to the good work of The Associated Press, that more than half her private meetings when she was secretary of state were given to major donors of the Clinton Foundation," Pence said.
    Close -- but no cigar.
    Pence is basing his claim on an August AP story that some media watchers have roundly criticized as somewhat misleading. The story said that 85 of 154 private citizens whom Clinton met or had scheduled telephone calls with during her tenure as secretary of state had donated to the Clinton Foundation or "pledged commitments to its international programs," either personally or through groups or companies.
    But the story did not say they were all "major donors," as Pence claimed, though many clearly were.
    The AP reported that 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 pledged more than $1 million. The story was also not based on all of Clinton's calendars during her tenure, but only on the more detailed schedules and phone calls from the first half of her time in that office, since that was all the news organization had access to.
    Finally, the 154 meetings is dwarfed by the thousands of meetings she held with US officials, diplomats and other representatives of foreign governments, which were not part of AP's reporting.
    So Pence is correct in his basic premise -- that Clinton met with people who donated to her family's foundation while she was secretary of state. While the AP never labeled them as major donors, clearly many were.
    However, the AP's analysis only accounts for a fraction of Clinton's meetings, so it's misleading for Pence to say that more than half of her private meetings were granted to major donors.
    For these reasons, we have to say his claim is true, but misleading.