In 2005, I attended the opening session of the first Clinton Global Initiative.
Wednesday, I attended the closing session of the last.
So much good has been catalyzed by CGI in those intervening years — more than 3,600 “commitments” saving and improving hundreds of millions of lives.
Yet in today’s bizarro world, a sentiment like this . . .
“I have been a proud member of CGI since 2005. I have witnessed its unique practical and measurable contributions in the world, the opportunities it created for marginalized voices to be heard and how it helped push social issues otherwise ignored into the limelight,” said Zainab Salbi, the founder of Women for Women International, at a panel earlier this week. “This may be the last annual meeting, but the work and the spirit of President Clinton’s vision and the CGI committed community will live on forever.”
. . . gets spun by Clinton foes into this . . .
“The Clinton Foundation is at its heart a corrupt enterprise that masks its true mission of empowering and enriching the Clintons and their cronies . . . ” said Steven Cheung, director of rapid response for the Trump campaign.
My friend Dan Gelber’s recent post on the criticism:
It’s Neither Pay Nor Play
As Republican leaders scream for public executions and trials (in evidently that order) over the Clinton Foundation fundraising, it might make sense to take a step back for some much needed perspective. As a former federal corruption prosecutor, I can assure you the only thing noticeably absent from this fabricated “pay to play” scandal is the pay and the play. It does have, however, hypocrisy and irony aplenty.
A few things about the Clinton Foundation.
The Clinton Foundation is a charity and apparently a very good one. The funds raised are used to help nations battle diseases like malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis and address challenges like global warming and deforestation. A recent fact check found that nearly 90% of the money raised went directly to providing these services to the sick, forgotten and left behind. (that’s well over the 75% industry standard for charities).
Also lost in this debate is the fact that the Clintons don’t receive a penny in salary. Not one red cent. In fact, they donate their own money to the Foundation. Someone needs to explain to Secretary Clinton that if she’s trying to exploit the foundation for personal gain, she’s going about it exactly the wrong way.
So before we start to explore the claims of conflict of interest, first recognize the Clinton Foundation does not benefit the Clintons. It benefits the world. There is no “pay.”
And there is also no evidence of “play.” Not only were the Clintons not receiving anything of value, there is no evidence that donors to their charity received anything in exchange for their donation. The idea that people and leaders with influence might be able to meet with powerful people is a fact of life that plays out at every level of society. Not exactly scandalous.
What this brouhaha lacks in substance, however, it surely makes up for in irony. How does a guy like V.P nominee Mike Pence contend there is something wrong with these charitable donations? As a congressman he solicited over $10 million in campaign checks mostly from special interests who had business before his congressional committees and the congress. And the money he solicited and received wasn’t used to fight malaria; he used it to keep himself in office and on the public dole (and, on one occasion, to literally pay his home mortgage!).
If Pence gets a Silver Medal in hypocrisy, Trump gets the Gold. Donald Trump paid Florida’s Attorney General $25,000 just before that office declined to civilly prosecute his Trump University. Think about it. Trump is criticizing Secretary Clinton because of contributions people made to a charity, while he actually gave money to a public official who was deciding whether to prosecute him and his pretend University.
It is appropriate that the media shine a light on these matters – including the Clinton Foundation. But no one can seriously contend that Secretary Clinton has done something even remotely scandalous. As for Trump, that’s an entirely different story.
The foundation one candidate is associated with has won praise from leaders around the world, inspiring the cooperation of participants as diverse as Bono, Wal-Mart, Rupert Murdoch, and Bishop Desmond Tutu.
The foundation controlled by the other candidate uses other people’s money to buy a $20,000 portrait of himself and settle business disputes. Even, perhaps, to make a little money.
(“It was 2010,” reports the Washington Post, “and Trump was being honored by a charity — the Palm Beach Police Foundation — for his ‘selfless support’ of its cause. His support did not include any of his own money. . . . [Indeed], Trump may have actually made money. The gala was held at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, and the police foundation paid to rent the room.”)
To join the final session of the Clinton Global Initiative, click here. The first hour includes a panel discussion with Ben Affleck on rape victims in the East Congo. The second, starting at 59:30: a film montage followed by President Clinton’s own perspective
Have a great weekend.