Clinton Global Initiative Hatched on Private Plane to Davos

Switzerland World Economic Forum
AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

From the Washington Post:

Chevy Chase was on the plane with Bill Clinton. So was a former president of Brazil. The founders of Google. A former president of Mexico. And John Cusack.

They were all going to Davos, the Swiss resort that holds an annual conclave of the wealthy and powerful. The jet — arranged by a Saudi businessman — provided a luxurious living-room setting for a rolling discussion: Couldn’t the big names at Davos be doing more to solve the world’s big problems?

In the background, a Clinton staff member named Doug Band had an idea that would change the ex-president’s life.

“Only Bill Clinton could bring a group like this together,” Band thought.

Bill Clinton didn’t need Davos. He could do this himself.

At its heart, the Clinton Foundation is an ingenious machine, which can turn something intangible — the Clintons’ global goodwill — into something tangible: money.

For the Clintons’ charitable causes. For their aides and allies. And, indirectly, for the Clintons themselves.

But today, the very things that made the foundation work for Bill Clinton’s purposes — its mega-dollar donations and its courting of the richest and most powerful interests in the world — have proved troublesome for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

As donations have surged, particularly as her bid for the Democratic nomination grew closer, she has been forced to answer for whether those supporters have been not merely giving to a charity but also paying to curry favor with a former secretary of state and a would-be president.

Every ticket to the [Clinton Global Initiative’s first] event cost $15,000, in addition to the do-gooder pledge. (Full-time do-gooders, such as activists and nonprofits, got in free.) Many corporations were also encouraged to make separate donations to the foundation. Corporate sponsors who generally paid at least $250,000 were showcased in the conference’s official literature, and they received invitations to exclusive receptions.

From 2004 to 2006 — the years before and after Clinton’s new conclave began — his foundation’s revenue more than doubled, from $58 million to $134 million.

“This was the fundraiser of fundraisers for the foundation,” one foundation insider said. The success of this idea — a Clinton-centered “Davos with a soul” — had tapped a vast new reservoir of money. “It’s so much better than going to a rubber-chicken dinner.”

The model that would guide the Clinton Foundation — and in many ways later come to vex Hillary Clinton’s campaign — was now in place: Woo the world’s most powerful interests to help the powerless.

Read the rest of the story here.