The Clinton Global Initiative, which arranges donations to help solve the world’s problems, set up a financial commitment that benefited a for-profit company part-owned by people with ties to the Clintons, including a current and a former Democratic official and a close friend of former President Bill Clinton.
The $2 million commitment was placed on the agenda for a September 2010 conference of the Clinton Global Initiative at Mr. Clinton’s urging, according to a document from the period and people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Clinton also personally endorsed the company, Energy Pioneer Solutions Inc., to then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu for a federal grant that year, said people with knowledge of the endorsement.
The company, whose business plan was to insulate people’s homes and let them pay via their utility bills, received an $812,000 Energy Department grant. Mr. Chu, now a professor at Stanford University, said he didn’t remember the conversation.
The Clinton Global Initiative is a program of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The foundation has been a focus of criticism this political season over donations received from governments and corporations that had business before Mrs. Clinton when she was secretary of state and that could be affected by decisions she would make as president. The foundation has said it “has strong donor integrity and transparency practices.”
The Clinton Global Initiative’s help for a for-profit company part-owned by Clinton friends poses a different issue. Under federal law, tax-exempt charitable organizations aren’t supposed to act in anyone’s private interest but instead in the public interest, on broad issues such as education or poverty.
“The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests,” the Internal Revenue Service says on its website.
Energy Pioneer Solutions was founded in 2009 by Scott Kleeb, a Democrat who twice ran for Congress from Nebraska. An internal document from that year showed it as owned 29% by Mr. Kleeb; 29% by Jane Eckert, the owner of an art gallery in Pine Plains, N.Y.; and 29% by Julie Tauber McMahon of Chappaqua, N.Y., a close friend of Mr. Clinton, who also lives in Chappaqua.
Owning 5% each were Democratic National Committee treasurer Andrew Tobias and Mark Weiner, a supplier to political campaigns and former Rhode Island Democratic chairman, both longtime friends of the Clintons.