Non-profit

Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)

Clinton Foundation logo (link)
Website:

www.clintonfoundation.org/clinton-global-initiative

Location:

LITTLE ROCK, AR

Tax ID:

27-1551550

Budget (2012):

Revenue: $28,222,117
Expenses: $28,222,117
Assets: $11,903,362

Formation:

2005 in New York City, New York

Status:

Defunct

Founders:

Bill Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Doug Band

President:

Bill Clinton

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) was an annual conference hosted from 2005 through 2016 by former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton coinciding with the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly.[1]

To attend the annual conference, attendees were required to pay $20,000 and also make a commitment to invest in a cause that would further CGI’s left-of-center goals,[2] [3] which sought to address gender, economic, environmental, health, and education access issues worldwide.[4] CGI boasts that its attendees made at least 2,500 commitments estimated at $85 billion towards these goals.[5] Observers criticized these commitments as vague[6] or created for other reasons and artificially announced at CGI to create the illusion of a larger impact.[7] Moreover, many of the commitments were set for the distant future, and as a result Foreign Policy magazine stated in 2017 that it was difficult to assess the true impact of CGI commitments.[8]

The conference was described as “the glossiest, most glamorous part” of the Clinton Foundation. [9] It has been attended by of left-of-center politicians including then-President Barack Obama and former Vice-President Al Gore, activists such as Center For American Progress founder John Podesta and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, and liberal celebrities including Bono, Sting, Ben Affleck,[10] Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie, and others.[11]

Throughout the years, many of these left-leaning activists have used CGI to announce the creation of left-of-center policies such as a $25 million on foreign aid program for East Africa sponsored by the Obama administration, JP Morgan, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.[12] The conference’s largest announced project was a $10 billion infrastructure program backed by the AFL-CIO labor union federation. [13]

CGI was widely criticized for the perception that it was just a vehicle for special interests to buy access to then-Secretary of State or Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. [14] During her time as Secretary of State, 44 companies that lobbied the State Department together had pledged a combined $3.2 billion toward CGI initiatives.[15] As she ran for President, many noted that the conference served as another way for donors to cozy up to Clinton and “present[ed] a troubling ethical problem for a likely future president.”[16]

The final CGI conference was held in September 2016, prior to the November election in which Clinton was defeated. [17]

Background

Former President Bill Clinton and his longtime aide Doug Band created the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in 2005 in New York to serve as a networking platform for the Clinton Foundation.[18] Its events would coincide with the annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly.[19]

In order to attend the CGI, prospective attendees were required to pay $20,000 per person to attend and to make specific commitments outlining actions they planned to take that would further CGI’s left-leaning international economic and environmental goals.[20] [21]

CGI’s activities were managed as a part of the Clinton Foundation.[22] However, from 2009 through 2012, CGI was spun off as a separate entity while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State in the Obama administration.[23]

CGI created a number of notable of regional conferences such as CGI America, CGI Latin America, CGI Middle East and Africa,[24] and CGI Asia.[25] These regional meetings sought to generate a variety of progressive education, environmentalist, and public health policies in each specific region.[26] [27] For instance, the 2015 CGI Middle East and Africa conference included sessions that sought the development of environmentalist-driven energy sources and sought to expand public funding for “social and sustainable infrastructure.”[28]

CGI University

CGI University, created in 2007, brings together students, university staff, policy advocates, and celebrities in an effort to develop programs focused on left-of-center environmental, economic, military, social, and healthcare concerns.[29] While CGI’s annual convention has ceased operations, CGI University continues to operate and plans to convene a 2018 meeting in October 2018.[30]

In 2007, CGI became host to the Clinton Global Citizen Awards Ceremony, which provided awards to individuals whose works often were devoted to creating lasting liberal social policies.[31] Award recipients included then-New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) for his personal behavior mandates[32] and Leonardo DiCaprio for his advocacy in support of left-leaning environmental causes.[33]

Ambiguous Commitments

Multiple commentators have noted that many of the commitments made at CGI were vague and nearly impossible to track. In 2005, Fortune wrote, “some of the commitments seem so vague as to be meaningless.”[34] Similarly, The Observer wrote, “Both the initiative’s mission and its own definition of what it seeks to accomplish are vague.”[35] Non-Profit Quarterly noted that “CGI fell under criticism for mixed results, as some commitments appeared to be more rhetorical than action-driven.[36]

Fortune pointed out that some of the major commitments that former President Clinton claimed were CGI-inspired, like Deutsche Bank’s $75 million microfinance fund, were created well before the conference even began.[37] Foreign Policy magazine acknowledged that it is hard to assess the true impact of CGI’s commitments.[38]

As of 2014, CGI claimed that its members had made over 2,500 commitments valued at $85 billion, but only 42 percent of their committed projects had been completed.[39] CGI’s analysis of commitments relied upon self-reported data from the respective CGI members “with very limited auditing by CGI staff.” [40]

Attendees

Fortune Magazine described CGI as “the glossiest, most glamorous part of the Clinton Foundation,”[41] and International Business Times labeled it “the Oscars of global philanthropy.”[42] In 2013, the left-leaning New Republic wrote that CGI “operates like an economy in which celebrity is the main currency.”[43]

Conference attendees include noteworthy liberal U.S. leaders such as then-President Barack Obama, former President Jimmy Carter,[44] former Vice President Al Gore,[45] former U.S. Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton, and then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.[46] The conference has also prominently featured numerous foreign royalty and current and former heads of states.[47]

In 2013, former Secretary of State Clinton argued for a worldwide increase in tax collection against the wealthy. Clinton said, “there are rich people everywhere, and yet they do not contribute to the growth of their own countries.”[48] Also at the 2013 conference, President Barack Obama argued that Obamacare was essential to reducing America’s deficit and fixing the American economy.

The conference also prominently featured numerous liberal celebrities such as Bono, Sting, Ben Affleck,[49]Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie,[50] Ariana Huffington, Anderson Cooper, Matt Damon, Ben Stiller,[51] Tom Arnold, Barbara Streisand, Eva Longoria, Rosario Dawson, and Michael Douglas.[52] Prior to the collapse of his public image amid allegations that he had committed sexual assault, actor Kevin Spacey also appeared at CGI.[53] Despite the Clinton Global Initiative’s promotion of public health, actor Jim Carrey, who has spread anti-vaccine conspiracy theories,[54] also appeared at CGI.[55]

The conference also touted the participation of liberal activists such as John Podesta, former Clinton administration White House chief of staff and co-founder of the Center for American Progress; Carl Pope from the Sierra Club; former Obama administration official Van Jones;[56] and Randi Weingarten from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).[57]

Activism Commitments

These liberal politicians, activists and organizations used CGI as the platform to announce their left-of-center programs. In 2011, the AFL-CIO made the largest CGI commitment in the conference’s history, committing $14 billion toward a program that would create union jobs by financing infrastructure construction, while also seeking to address environmentalist concerns.[58]

In 2011, the Obama Administration committed to a $500 million program that would invest in costly experimental environmental construction technologies as part of President Barack Obama’s plan to force a 20% energy reduction in American commercial buildings.[59]

Also in 2011, the Obama Administration, JP Morgan, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation pledged to spend a combined $25 million on foreign aid to East Africa.[60]

In 2016, Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced a $20 million to expand advocacy for contraception and abortion in Africa and Latin America.[61]

In 2006, the Sierra Club committed $4 million towards pushing local government entities to commit to left-leaning environmentalist emissions reduction mandates and experimental energy policies.[62]

Left-Of-Center Agenda

CGI’s programming including general information sessions, breakout workshops, and networking events identifying left-leaning mechanisms, programs, and policies to address gender, economic, environmental, health, and education access issues worldwide.[63]

Income and Gender Inequality

CGI 2009 hosted an additional plenary session that argued “Every problem in the world is exacerbated by gender inequality”[64] as well as an economic policy session that sought policies worldwide to artificially cut the gap between the rich and the poor. [65] It also included sessions exploring new models for expanding government-funded education and healthcare worldwide. Moreover the conference featured a number of environmentalist sessions identifying ways government could impose experimental energy technologies in the future.[66]

Global Issues

From 2012 through 2014 the annual CGI conference was designed around one of three respective themes teaching members how to design (2012), execute (2013), and evaluate (2014) programs expanding left-of-center approaches to global economic, healthcare, environmental, and environmental concerns.[67]

Urban Development and Healthcare

CGI’s 2015 sessions looked at a number of future trends including the future of government-funded affordable housing development and urban planning, future incentives for government-backed healthcare development, and “the future of gender investing.”[68]

Other Issues

2016 was CGI’s final conference,[69] and focused on creating partnerships to again address a host of left-leaning issues including gender equity, impact investing, refugee assistance, climate change, and the COP21 comprehensive plan to impose environmentalist-backed government policies.[70]

Corporate Public Relations Machine

CGI has featured commitments from many of the world’s largest corporations. The conference has featured numerous liberal-leaning billionaires such as George Soros, Warren Buffett, Jamie Dimon, Jack Ma,[71] Pierre Omidyar,[72] Bill Gates, and Carlos Slim.[73]

Additionally, the conference featured executives from Goldman Sachs, Mastercard, Cisco, Wal-Mart, General Electric, Yahoo!, Bank of America, BP, Pepsi, Duke Energy, Kraft Foods, Visa, Sony, ExxonMobil, and many other international corporations.[74]

The New Republic noted in 2013 that corporations pledged to support CGI social initiatives for two reasons: Those pledges came with a “major P.R. boost” and to create a relationship with the Clintons that those corporations could call upon in a future where the Clinton family controlled substantial political power.[75]

Controversies

In 2016 Politico noted that CGI had become “a particularly thorny subject for the Clintons” as it “became embroiled in political controversy” during Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential campaign.[76] Several CGI advisers noted that the 2015 CGI conference saw a drop in attendance, buzz and pledged commitments due to controversies surrounding the conference and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.[77] These controversies also caused some of CGI’s major corporate donors to drop their sponsorships[78] and a number of big name liberal celebrities and politicians, including Elton John and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), declined invitations to attend the conference. [79]

Politico also noted that CGI’s corporate donors were increasingly reluctant to donate money for meetings featuring Chelsea Clinton, rather than one of her parents.[80]

Conflicts of Interest

Before she was confirmed as Secretary of State, in response to concerns about the potential for a quid pro quo relationship between Clinton and donors to Clinton-family philanthropies including CGI, Clinton wrote a letter to the State Department and signed a memorandum of understanding with President Obama that sought to limit the potential for conflicts of interest. In the 2009 letter, Clinton said she would not personally participate in any particular matter that had a personal direct and predictable effect or financial effect on the foundation (or the Clinton Global Initiative) without first obtaining a waiver.[81] The 2008 Memorandum of Understanding also stated that CGI would not accept contributions from foreign governments.[82]

However, in 2012, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker wrote that Bill Clinton “advocated very strongly” for his wife to take the job as Secretary of State because it would be an asset in attracting foreign donors to attend CGI.[83]

On at least two occasions, Clinton family aide Doug Band, then head of the Clinton Global Initiative, sought to connect State Department officials with CGI members who around that same time made billions of dollars in program commitments to CGI. [84] Band sought to connect billionaire Gilbert Chagoury with a senior State Department official in order to pass political information about Chagoury’s native Lebanon.[85] [86]

As Hillary Clinton prepared to run for president, Nathan J. Robinson of Current Affairs pointed out that even though ‘pay to play’ charges leveled against her as Secretary of State “remain unconfirmed, it’s certain that the foundation raised money from foreign governments in ways that present a troubling ethical problem for a likely future president.” Specifically, Robinson noted that CGI “has become, according to some, particularly unseemly.”[87]

Similarly, National Public Radio’s Adam Davidson (who previously moderated panels at CGI) wrote that the event “is all about buying access,” noting that the rich pay more to get access to political leaders. Davidson concluded, “If you are planning…to run for president…don’t set up a foundation where you are beholden to scumbags from other countries. That’s ridiculous. And if you are secretary of state tell your husband not to do business with them.”[88]

Heavy Spending

In 2013 and 2014, the Clinton Foundation spent nearly $8.5 million on travel. This amount was nearly double the prior year’s total travel amount and was attributed to the Clinton’s CGI-related charter flights.[89] Republicans criticized Hillary Clinton for not itemizing these travel expenses, potentially skewing the line between political expenditures and foundation-related expenditures.[90]

“Bill Clinton, Inc.”

In a 2011 memo released by suspected Russian intelligence cutout Wikileaks, longtime Clinton family aide Doug Band detailed how he raised $46 million for the Clinton Foundation through the Clinton Global Initiative, while also running the private company Teneo that leveraged his relationships with corporate sponsors to secure lucrative speaking arrangements and consulting gigs for the former president. In the memo, Band “described the money-making endeavor as ‘Bill Clinton, Inc.’”[91]

According to Band’s memo, he had helped secure $3 million in paid speaking fees for Bill Clinton along with future contracts that would pay out $66 million over the subsequent nine years if the deals remained in place.[92]

Worried about the potential for conflicts of interest from Band’s work, Chelsea Clinton forced an internal review of the Foundation’s practices. The review “found that the tangled web of relationships between the Clinton’s personal and philanthropic work might lead some donors to expect a quid pro quo.”[93]

References

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Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Doug Band
    Co-Founder
  2. Bill Clinton
    Co-Founder
  3. Carl Pope
    Conference Attendee
  4. Van Jones
    Conference Attendee
  5. John Podesta
    Conference Attendee
  6. Randi Weingarten
    Conference Attendee
  7. John Holdren
    Informal Advisor, Grant Recipient
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: October 1, 2010

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2012 Dec Form 990 $28,222,117 $28,222,117 $11,903,362 $9,519,694 N $28,221,924 $0 $0 $547,170 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $26,095,117 $16,674,095 $4,765,250 $2,381,582 N $26,095,040 $0 $0 $465,272 PDF
    2009 Dec Form 990EZ $0 $0 $1 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)

    1200 PRESIDENT CLINTON AVE
    LITTLE ROCK, AR 72201