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Clintons dispute report on Bill Clinton's use of ex-presidents program money

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 26: Former US President Bill Clinton delivers remarks on the second day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Drew Angerer, Getty Images

NEW YORK -- A new report detailing how Bill Clinton spent federal dollars to set up his personal office after leaving the White House is fueling ongoing speculation about the links between the former president, the Democratic nominee and the Clinton Foundation.

The report, an investigation published Thursday by Politico, lays out how Clinton used money available to him through the Former Presidents Act to pay and provide benefits to members of his personal staff, many that also worked for his foundation, and to purchase supplies, including a server, for his office. 

The Act authorizes the General Services Administration to pay for ex-presidents’ pensions, staff and other expenses. While Politico’s investigation found nothing illegal, it comes as the Clintons and their charity have been the subject of intense scrutiny. 

Aides to both Clintons took to Twitter early on Thursday to dispute the report’s findings, which were based on records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. They took issue with its headline in particular, among the other errors the aides identified.

The report was initially posted to Politico’s website with a headline stating that Clinton used “tax dollars to subsidize” the foundation and his wife’s “private email server.” 

“This headline is egregiously false,” Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, wrote in a tweet.

According to an aide to Bill Clinton, no GSA funding was used for any private email server used by the Clintons or their staff. Instead, the Clintons paid for their email server personally. Later, Politico changed its headline to clarify that GSA dollars were used to pay for “private email support,” referring to a staffer who helped maintain the email server while on the GSA payroll for a period of time. The staffer, Justin Cooper, was also compensated by the Clintons personally for his work.

More than a dozen members of Clinton’s personal staff on the GSA payroll also worked at the Clinton Foundation, Politico found. Pointing to a 2001 report by the Government Accountability Office, the Clinton aide explained that it is common for personal staff members to receive compensation from other sources, including former presidents or their spouses’ charitable foundations.

On Thursday afternoon, Fallon tweeted that the story was “such bad journalism.” 

Clinton’s campaign similarly criticized the Associated Press for a recent report which showed how major donors to the Clinton Foundation maintained access to the former Secretary of State. That report, and others that have looked into the connections between Clinton and their donors, have yet to find any wrongdoing on behalf of the family. In recent days, though, even Clinton allies have begun to urge the two to sever their ties to the foundation, as did the editorial board of the New York Times.

“The Clinton Foundation has become a symbol of the Clintons’ laudable ambitions, but also of their tangled alliances and operational opacity,” the board’s editorial Tuesday read. “If Mrs. Clinton wins, it could prove a target for her political adversaries. Achieving true distance from the foundation is not only necessary to ensure its effectiveness, it is an ethical imperative for Mrs. Clinton.”