Politico: Dems worried about influence-peddling optics of Clinton Global Initiative

Last week, Bill Clinton told the staff at the Clinton Global Initiative that next month’s annual meeting would be CGI’s last. Other Democrats wonder why it’s going on at all, according to Politico’s Katy O’Donnell. With renewed focus on influence-peddling through the Clinton Foundation and rumors of FBI probes into connections between CGI and State Department actions, the last thing Democrats need is a week of reminding voters of the links between the Clintons and some less-than-savory regimes and corporate sponsors:

Hundreds of corporate executives, foreign dignitaries and celebrities will pile into a Manhattan ballroom to hobnob with Bill and Chelsea Clinton next month at their charity’s keynote annual event — just days before Hillary Clinton defends herself against pay-to-play accusations from Donald Trump in their first debate.

The 12th and final annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative will showcase its philanthropic work and also the Democratic nominee’s greatest potential vulnerability — her ties to a sprawling global charity that has accepted donations from Middle Eastern governments, foreign businessmen with checkered histories and major corporations with business before the government.

Some Democratic operatives say they’re dismayed by the timing of the three-day conference Sept. 19-21 — a week before the first national debate and seven weeks before Election Day. They say it’s inevitable that having two members of the former and perhaps future first family rubbing shoulders with the well-heeled and well-connected will provide fresh ammunition to the Republican campaign, even as Hillary Clinton is off honing rebuttals to charges that donors got special consideration from the government while she was Secretary of State.

The excuse for staging it on schedule is that it’s too late to cancel, according to one “Clinton veteran” who goes unnamed in O’Donnell’s report. A better question would be why it was scheduled in the first place. Clearly the Clintons knew that the Clinton Foundation, CGI, and its connections to foreign governments and corporate influence would be an issue in Hillary’s presidential campaign. It’s almost certainly the reason that 30,000 e-mails got deleted off of Hillary’s private e-mail system, and almost certainly the reason she used such a system in the first place.

But even apart from that, allegations of corruption from the Foundation have been raised since early last year — plenty of time to cancel this year’s gala or at least to postpone it until after Election Day. Now, the Clintons will provide a high-profile corroboration of the murky connections that Donald Trump will use to hammer Hillary down the stretch. Making that situation even worse, CGI has thus far refused to identify its sponsors, which only highlights the opacity of the operation despite previous promises to conduct foundation business in the open.

And that should be a promising line of attack, O’Donnell explains:

Current and former sponsors include corporations in heavily regulated industries that stand to benefit from favorable government relations, from banking to pharmaceuticals to energy.

Bloomberg noted in 2014 that 29 of the top 30 Dow Jones industrials had links to Clinton Foundation entities, and rent-seeking is why they’ve been investing in Clinton Inc for years. It’s not too late for participants to cancel out, though. White House officials have bailed on this year’s event, and their previous primary sponsor — Barclays — has backed out. So did Samsung, ExxonMobile, HSBC, and Deutsche Bank. CGI did pick up a big new sponsor, O’Donnell reports:  “the Middle Eastern construction giant Consolidated Contractors Company.” CCC is based in Athens but does a lot of work in Qatar, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia. They are heavily invested in oil and natural gas, and in pipelines like the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline.

What could the geopolitical implications of that be, and how could investing in the Clintons’ influence system possibly help? Hmmm. Perhaps the media will start asking some of these questions, but I suspect we’ll instead hear a lot about how Republicans are overplaying the Clinton Foundation hand instead.