National press is full of reports about the major corporate and foreign government contributions to the Clinton Foundation, which has a large presence in Little Rock.
The Hill, for example, notes a new Wall Street Journal report on contributions to the Foundation by major corporations that had business with the State Department when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. The Foundation has also received money from foreign governments, which could present at least the appearance of potential conflict with a future president.
The articles are, if not encouraged by the Republican opposition research machine, generally inclusive of Republican remarks critical of appearances. Which is fair enough. It would be fairer still had they been on record against foreign contributions to, say, the Bush presidential libraries.
The Clinton Foundation will have to adopt policies that include not only transparency about contributions but other ways to put minds at ease. It won’t be easy with a drumbeat of criticism from political opponents.
The Foundation posted this after the Wall Street Journal report. Bob Harrison, CEO of the Clinton Global Initiative, wrote that corporations whose motivations have been questioned have joined in specific projects to improve lives around the world.
Here are the facts: since CGI was created in 2005, CGI members have made nearly 3,200 commitments to improve more than 430 million lives in 180 countries. These commitments are helping address issues such as climate change, economic development, global health, access to education, and the empowerment of women and girls. Some examples include:
• Several commitments by Procter & Gamble to provide safe drinking water to millions in need of clean water, by scaling up production of clean water packets and distribute them with the help of NGOs around the world. So far, Procter & Gamble has provided 7.5 billion liters of clean water at no cost to those who need it most in more than 70 countries worldwide.
• The Inter-American Development Bank is working with corporate partners, including Microsoft, Caterpillar, and Walmart to implement an employment program across ten Latin American countries. This work began a year ago and is projected to help 500,000 disadvantaged youth enter the workforce over the next five years. More than half of these will be women and girls.
• The UTeach Institute has partnered with ExxonMobil, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and UT Austin to educate STEM teachers. This commitment is projected to produce 10,000 STEM teachers from 34 universities by 2020, and it is expanding to ten additional universities with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
• Nike made a CGI commitment to create and fund the Coalition for Adolescent Girls (CAG), a group that brings together international organizations to invest in girls to promote their social and economic development. Since its creation, over 50 organizations have come together to bring their perspectives and resources to bear on a variety of issues. CAG members have launched programs that promote education and literacy, provide vocational training, and prevent teenage pregnancy.
Many of the corporations named in the Wall Street Journal article have partnered with non-profit organizations, other corporations, and public sector entities on Commitments to Action that are making a huge positive impact.
In short, many major corporations make commitments to philanthropy and good for them. The Foundation has proven a good recipient by its deeds. But this won’t make political questions go away, any more than you can shake questions about the friendliness and access provided to major contributors to political campaigns
As regular readers know, I have a hopeless conflict of interest in this matter. My daughter, Martha, works for the Clinton Foundation. Her work has included soliciting contributions from foreign governments and working with corporations interested in charitable projects. This supports HIV clinics in African countries and sustainable agriculture in Africa and Myanmar.
We were charmed this week by a visit with Ganizani Malata. He works with Martha in Malawi, where both soybean farming and health care delivery are among Foundation projects. Gani was invited to Little Rock for a training session for emerging leaders. During a break from the conference, we showed him the Capitol, the Governor’s Mansion and Park Plaza. I don’t think the 2016 election ever came up.
It is possible — at least sometimes — when they say it is about philanthropy that it IS about philanthropy. But I also know questions are inevitable when large sums flow into a charity with names of a former and potentially future president in the nameplate. Sadly, there’s a seeming inevitability that politics might hinder some demonstrably worthy work.
Karl Rove has an idea for a quick solution, of course. No candidacy, no problem.