The Clinton Global Initiative’s final meeting this week wrapped up with a speech from Bill Clinton, who praised the controversial organization as “a profound advance in the conduct and impact of modern philanthropy.”
Politico reports that Clinton “shared a series of anecdotes detailing the good work it has done both in the U.S. and abroad, defending his post-presidential legacy to date.”
The former president, who was introduced by his daughter, said the initiative’s beginnings are rooted in Harlem, where Bill Clinton sought to aid the businesses surrounding his post-administration office. From there, Bill Clinton recalled work he did raising money to rebuild rural parts of India after an earthquake and raising money for college for the children of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
All told, Bill Clinton said the initiative has helped 435 million people in 180 countries.
“You are living proof that good people committed to creative cooperation have almost unlimited positive impact to help people today and give our kids better tomorrows,” he said. “I have spent the past 15 years of my life trying to advance that idea.”
“This is all that does work in the modern world. People may tell you you’re making incremental change,” he added later. “But look back after 11 years and see what the aggregate is. There’s nothing incremental about helping 435 million people in 180 countries.”
Bill Clinton said in a recent interview that if his wife wins the presidency, it would be “impossible” for the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to continue operations.
Politico mentions the controversy surrounding the CGI as a “Republicans attack” story, although it’s actually Hillary Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin who did the attacking, participating as she did in a series of email exchanges with donors looking for special treatment from the Secretary of State – emails Hillary Clinton went to extraordinary lengths to keep the American public from seeing.
McClatchy News notes that Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama chose not to attend the final Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, although Chelsea Clinton was there.
While many past corporate sponsors failed to attend, McClatchy lists some controversial guests who did show up:
Aleksandar Vucic: The popular prime minister of Serbia served as information minister for Slobodan Milosevic, a former leader who was nicknamed “the Butcher of the Balkans” after he being accused of playing a role in multiple massacres. Vucic had previously praised Ratko Mladic, who was alleged to have organized the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995.
Mauricio Macri: The president of Argentina who made headlines as the mayor of Buenos Aires for defending catcalling on the street. “Women who say they don’t like it, and are offended by it, but I don’t believe it,” he said. He had previously called homosexuality a “disease,” refusing to back a law allowing same-sex marriage. Macri was forced to acknowledge existence of an offshore in the Panama Papers that he said was created by his father to invest in Brazil and has since been closed. A second company tied to Macri recently emerged.
Stacey Davidson: The executive director of the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa had been investigated by the financial services board for alleged theft of government retirement funds, according to reports.
Andrew Witty: The CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical company accused of failing to immediately make public information about some of its drugs, including one was linked to suicidal thoughts. In 2014, the company was fined almost $500 million as part of a bribery scandal in China,
Paul Polman: The CEO of Unilever, a multinational food company accused of mistreating female workers, paying bribes in third-world countries and running an ad that was called homophobic, comparing learning that your child was gay to being shot in the heart.
Casey Wasserman: Sports executive Casey Wasserman, whose charitable organization donated between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, was recently in the news for asking a foundation executive for help securing an interview for a unnamed client with the U.S. Embassy in London. The foundation executive emailed top Clinton’ aide at the State Department.
And then there was Hanan al-Hroub, a Palestinian teacher whose husband, Omar al-Hroub, was convicted as an accomplice in a 1980 bombing that killed six Israelis who were walking home from Friday night prayers.
The Clinton Foundation separated Hanan al-Hroub from this chapter in her husband’s life, insisting she is a prize-winning teacher who does not endorse violence of any kind.
Curiously, she was absent from the roster of speakers for the annual meeting on the Clinton Global Initiative until after the Wall Street Journal reported on her participation but a Clinton spokesman told the Journal she was added in a planned update to the website that coincidentally took place a matter of hours after the Wall Street Journal started asking questions about her.