Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New Tools in Quest for White House: Clinton Foundation and the Center for American Progress

The behemoth international Clinton Foundation, and premiere liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress (CAP), are both barely ten years old, but now offer a new model on how to run for president in the 21st century, and, especially, the post-Obama era. They are essential tools in what has become a global influence network and billion-dollar quest for the White House.

Since its beginning in 2001, the Clinton Foundation has evolved into a multi-pronged charitable effort that has raised $2 billion throughout its fourteen-year-and-counting existence. Because of foreign donations, transparency issues and conflict of interest charges, it has become a controversy for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Still, the foundation, and especially the Clinton Global Initiative, which is an international schmooze-fest in the tradition of Davos, has been a huge asset for the Clintons and their ambitions.

Setting the Stage for Hillary’s Presidential Ambitions
The foundation also has benefitted the Clinton’s lavish lifestyles by boosting their prominence and corporate and civic networks, and led to millions in speaking fees.

The annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting is a platform for business leaders, top media members, non-profit directors, global billionaires, glitterati and a sprinkling of Nobel Laureates. Like Davos, the contacts, exchange of ideas and in CGI language “Commitments to Action,” which are initiatives for charitable activity, has linked the former president and the former secretary of state into a global network that is greatly facilitating the transition to a presidential campaign and, potentially, the White House.

The Center for American Progress (CAP)
Founded in 2003 by Bill Clinton’s last White House Chief of Staff, John Podesta, CAP has been compared to the influential Heritage Foundation in the late 1970s and its power in the Reagan era. CAP gained a national reputation in 2008 when it provided liberal Democrats with many of their talking points and policy ideas. President-elect Obama then outsourced his administrative transition to Podesta and CAP. Its budget has grown from $25 million in 2008 to $40 million today. Similar to CGI, some of CAP’s money is a source of criticism, with concerns over conflicts of interest and transparency.

The think tank and associated political action committees have done well during the Obama years, providing ideas, reams of policy research (on such topics as global warming – one of Podesta’s personal interests), advocacy and personnel. The highest profile person among dozens of CAP staff working in the administration is Podesta himself, as counselor to the President. Denis McDonough, current Chief of Staff, is a close second.

CAP has smoothly moved to take over the Hillary Clinton campaign, with Podesta as campaign chair (he launched the campaign on Twitter) and Jennifer Palmieri, former CAP communications senior staff and Obama’s White House communications director – now serving as Clinton’s head of press and communications.

A serious run for the White House requires a global and domestic network of leaders and intellectuals, familiarity with global and domestic issues, and masses of cash. These two organizations provide the Clintons, and especially the presumptive Democratic nominee – Hillary Clinton – very powerful platforms from which to operate.

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