Ivanka Trump
Credit: Michael Vadon/Flickr

Mike Allen reports that Ivanka Trump is setting up a fund for female entrepreneurs.

Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe. Both countries and companies will contribute to create a pool of capital to economically empower women.

In later reports he says that the fund will be managed by the World Bank — although that is still to be confirmed. But obviously this raises a lot of questions. Dan Primack highlights six of them.

  1. Will these be investments seeking to generate a financial return, or will they be some sort of grant or loan?
  2. Who will be on the investment committee? Will they receive financial compensation?
  3. Are Trump, Powell or other White House employees actively soliciting contributions from foreign governments and/or private institutions (banks, foundations, etc.)? If so, has White House counsel signed off on it?
  4. Will the fund solicit capital from U.S. state pension funds, as do many more traditional private equity funds.
  5. Will the fund be registered with the SEC?
  6. How will the fund balance interests of U.S. companies that could receive direct competition from foreign startups that receive investment?

Given the fact that we don’t know a lot yet about how this fund will work, I have a variety of thoughts in response. First of all, as Josh Marshall suggests, we are once again faced with a situation where something Trump railed against Clinton about is now being embraced by his administration. But it wasn’t just the candidate who criticized Hillary’s involvement with the Clinton Foundation. Most of the media seemed to take it for granted that there was something nefarious going on that presented the “appearance” of a problem. It will be interesting to see if Ivanka’s endeavor comes under similar scrutiny.

Secondly, the way the entire Trump family and administration have blurred the lines between their business interests and government policies makes it impossible to give Ivanka the benefit of the doubt on both her motives for doing this and how it will be administered.

But with that in mind, I also think that we shouldn’t simply throw the baby out with the bathwater. It was sad to watch the way the achievements of the Clinton Foundation were simply cast aside or trampled on because they became fodder for media clicks and political games.

All of this brings to mind the fact that the Obamas started a couple of worthwhile initiatives while they were in the White House. Neither were as large as the Clinton Foundation and all of them involved very different structures. So perhaps it behooves us to make sure we maintain the possibility for supporting these kinds of efforts by future presidents.

In 2014, President Obama started the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. It was initiated as a White House effort that eventually spun off into a private non-profit organization — My Brother’s Keeper Alliance — with its own governing board and leadership. Over its first two years, the initiative matched federal grants with over $1 billion in private sector commitments.

Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative was based on a somewhat different model. It developed cooperative efforts between the U.S. Agency for International Development, the State Department, the Peace Corps, the Department of Labor and the Department of Agriculture. Since Trump was elected, it seems to have been discontinued (I suspect it would have been embraced in a Clinton administration). But these are the kinds of initiatives in which the State Department has participated regularly, often in cooperation with private partners and foreign governments.

As I’ve already mentioned, the Trump family’s pattern means that Ivanka’s efforts require close scrutiny. Should she fail to be transparent in providing information, that would pose an even bigger issue. So let’s hold Ivanka accountable. But it would be unwise to simply condemn any effort to initiate public/private partnerships within the White House to address domestic or global issues.

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