For nearly two years, Bill Clinton's foundation and his work at the Clinton Global Initiative has hovered like an ominous cloud over his wife's political fortunes. In the Democratic primary, it was fodder for an embarrassing story about a Canadian mining financier who used Clinton to secure a backroom deal in Kazakhstan. Former Sen. Bill Bradley forcefully questioned whether the financial entanglements of the former president would be his wife's downfall.
When the election ended and the idea of Hillary at State began to crystallize, it was the matter of Bill's disclosures that remained a key sticking point. After it was decided that the Clinton Global Initiative would be restricted from holding events outside the United States and refuse contributions from foreign governments, that hurdle was overcome. But once Clinton made public some of his donors, questions once again swirled about conflicts of interest. Governments from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to Australia and the Dominican Republic forked over millions upon millions of dollars, in addition to the controversial contractor Blackwater.
And yet, for all the intrigue and cynicism that CGI engenders, it is important to remember that it is also a force of good in the world. On Monday, the group released its end of the year report. And like year's past, the achievements are impressive.
• CGI's 2008 Annual Meeting brought together attendees including President-elect Barack Obama, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President Hamid Karzai, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Queen Rania, Former President George H.W. Bush, Senator John McCain, Bill Gates, Bono, Wangari Maathai, Muhammad Yunus, Lance Armstrong and nearly 60 current and former heads of state.
• CGI's Commitments to Action from the 2008 Annual Meeting are expected to impact almost 160 million people.
• The launch of Clinton Global University, which brought together more than 600 students from nearly every state and 15 countries to Tulane University in New Orleans to formulate ways to take action on campuses, in communities, and across continents. Nearly 1,000 Commitments to Action were generated at the inaugural CGI U meeting.
• This month, CGI Asia convened leaders in Hong Kong to address local, regional, and global challenges focusing on education, health, and climate change. 67 Commitments to Action valued at nearly $200 million and projected to affect 10 million lives occurred at CGI Asia.