With questions swirling at home around influence-peddling and lax accounting standards at the Clinton Foundation, President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea will embark next week on a four-nation African tour to highlight the group’s work.
On a conference call with reporters this morning, Clinton Foundation spokesman Craig Minassian pushed back on the notion that the foundation’s work was in danger of being overshadowed by a months-long onslaught of negative news stories.
“This is the 12th time the president has visited Africa and this is a nearly annual trip that the president and more recently Chelsea take to visit the work” that the foundation does, he said. “And it is something that many other global philanthropies do to make sure that work is running and doing well and to check in on the foundation staff we have all over the world.”
Questions about the foundation’s work however are starting to impact the efforts of Hillary Clinton as she launches her second campaign for president. On Thursday it was reported that the Clinton Foundation failed to disclose millions of dollars in donations from the executive of a uranium company seeking State Department sign-off for a Russian mine while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, and that the foundation failed to properly report donations from foreign governments.
Hillary will not be accompanying her husband and daughter on the trip, and the foundation spokesman said that political considerations were not taken into account.
“The point of the trip is to see our work. It has nothing to do with the campaign,” Minassian said. “It is really to see the work, highlight the work, make sure it is going well. That is the point of the trip.”
The foundation has at time seemed flat-footed over the last several months as what is largely acknowledged as its good work to alleviate global poverty and the effects of climate change abroad have been caught in the surge of interest around Hillary’s campaign.
Next week is a chance to refocus some of the attention on the work that the foundation does. While in Africa, Bill and Chelsea Clinton will meet with Ebola survivors in Liberia, tour a school that is a part of the foundation’s “No Ceilings” initiative dedicated to raising the prospects of women and girls in developing nations, visit a maize field overseen by a single mother in Malawi as part of an effort to increase farm yields in Africa, and visit an “Avon-style” women run solar energy distribution cooperative. (Full disclosure: Chelsea Clinton is on the board of IAC, parent company of The Daily Beast.)
In the 14 years since he left office, Bill Clinton’s restless energy and desire to remain involved in global affairs have found an outlet in the Clinton Foundation.
At times, today’s outreach to the media seemed to serve to remind reporters of the achievements of the Clinton administration in reducing global poverty, as the first part of the call was taken up the long backstory and context of the Clinton’s administration African outreach.
“Much of the work that President Clinton will be visiting on this trip builds on things he began while president,” said Ami Desai, the foundation’s director of foreign policy, citing the Clinton administration’s efforts to reduce African debt loads and improve the trading prospect on small business people on the continent.
Desai cited work that the president has done both in and out of office that has brought nearly 10 million people access to HIV drugs, helped 85,000 small farmers improve their crop yield and reduce African debt by $70 billion.
“He also has very specific relationship with these counties that lay the groundwork for a lot of what the foundation does,” Desai added, citing a Burundi peace deal that Clinton ironed out in 2000 along with Nelson Mandela.
The trip will end with a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative—a global solutions group under the foundation—in Morocco, where Clinton will host a series of forums with business, government and non-profit leaders from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Rwanda and elsewhere.