WaPo’s Clinton Foundation Take: Doing Well By Doing Good

So it seems the Washington Post‘s big take on the whole Clinton Foundation saga has arrived, written by David Fahrenthold, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind Helderman. And at least, unlike the scandal-seeking missile that is the New York Times coverage of All Things Hillary, the WaPo take concedes that the Clinton Foundation’s genesis is almost entirely altruistic, and that whatever benefits donors or the Clintons derived from its efforts were a byproduct of the unique situation of two people with a globally significant past and (perhaps) future.

Here’s an excerpt:

[T]he Clinton Foundation is unlike anything else in the history of the nation and, perhaps, the world: It is a global philanthropic empire run by a former U.S. president and closely affiliated with a potential future president, with the audacious goal of solving some of the world’s most vexing problems by bringing together the wealthiest, glitziest and most powerful people from every part of the planet.

The evolution of the foundation, which began as a modest nonprofit focused largely on the ex-president’s library in Arkansas, is a nearly perfect reflection of the Clintons themselves. It was not designed as a master plan but rather has grown, one brainstorm at a time, in accordance with the ambitious, loyal, restless and, often, scattered nature of its primary namesake. Many programs were sparked by chance encounters in Bill Clinton’s life. A meeting with a Harlem shopkeeper. A friend’s plan to fight AIDS. The flight to Davos. Emergency heart surgery….

The foundation now includes 11 major initiatives, focused on issues as divergent as crop yields in Africa, earthquake relief in Haiti and the cost of AIDS drugs worldwide. In all, the Clintons’ constellation of related charities has raised $2 billion, employs more than 2,000 people and has a combined annual budget of more than $223 million.

In the middle of it all is Bill Clinton, a new kind of post-presidential celebrity: a convener who wrangles rich people’s money for poor people’s problems. In the process, the foundation elevates the wealthy by giving them entree to one of the nation’s most prominent political families.

I’ve only scanned the piece quickly, and for all I know there’s some scandalous-sounding tidbit embedded in it that will dominate coverage elsewhere. But it would be nice to start discussion of this matter all over again, without all the heavy breathing.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.