Annie Karni writes in Politicoabout former President Bill Clinton’s efforts to use the final meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative to rebut the “smearing of his life’s work” at the Clinton Foundation, which has been tarnished by the “Clinton Cash” pay-to-play scandals.
His wife’s operatives are hunkered down in debate prep but Bill Clinton is waging a campaign of his own, trying to clear the name of a Foundation that has caused controversy in the 2016 race.
The former president views the final glitzy meeting of his Clinton Global Initiative — which he will address on Wednesday in an emotional farewell — as his last big opportunity to counter accusations that the philanthropy served as a vehicle for wealthy foreign donors to curry access with his wife’s State Department.
But with 48 days left in this contest — and voters in focus groups still expressing concern about what they view as inside dealing for Foundation donors seeking special access — many Democrats said they were baffled by the former President’s decision to carry on with the conference at all.
Trump has seized on the Foundation, accusing the Clintons of selling access. And on Monday, the Republican National Committee said the Foundation’s “continued acceptance of foreign contributions while [Hillary Clinton] runs for the White House is an unprecedented and unacceptable conflict of interest that undermines her ability to serve.”
The Foundation in August announced it would no longer accept corporate or foreign contributions if Hillary Clinton wins the White House and that CGI would come to an end, regardless of the election outcome. But even allies worried that this year’s conference was an unforced error that served only to cede the spotlight to the wrong Clinton just as the Democratic nominee needs to promote her own case to voters.
The former president seemed determined to turn it into an opportunity to change the narrative. Bill Clinton, close allies said, has been furious about what he sees as the “smearing” of his life’s work, the AIDS relief and the global fight on behalf of women’s rights overshadowed by questions of where the Foundation gets its money. And both Clintons, sources said, have been frustrated that Hillary Clinton’s Brooklyn-based campaign has not done enough to explain the philanthropic work the charity does at home and abroad, or that its mission is moral, not financial.
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