The Clintons are moving ahead with plans to downsize their controversial foundation’s network of offshoots, a decision carried out as the powerful family’s political influence wanes and its once-lengthy donor list shrinks.
In a decision announced last week, 22 additional employees are being laid off from the Clinton Global Initiative – known for its annual glitzy gathering of high-powered leaders and celebs. The layoffs are tied to a decision to shutter CGI that originally was announced in an Aug. 22 letter from former President Bill Clinton.
At the time, the Clintons were under pressure to explain how they would handle potential conflicts of interest with their namesake foundation if Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were to win the White House.
Bill Clinton wrote in his letter at the time: “Nine years ago in my book ‘Giving,’ I wrote, ‘I want to continue these meetings for at least a decade, with the objective of creating a global network of citizen activists who reach across the divides of our interdependent world to build real communities of shared opportunities, shared responsibilities, and a genuine sense of belonging.’ … That is exactly what CGI, its members, and its dedicated staff have done.”
Clinton lost the 2016 election to Donald Trump — but the family is proceeding anyway with its CGI plans, and those “dedicated staff” are getting the ax.
The 22 staffers are part of a wave of layoffs.
Syracuse.com reported on Oct. 4 about a WARN notice announcing 74 employees would be laid off. Another notice was issued on Jan. 12 stating 22 more employees would be let go. WARN is the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires employers to give 60-days advance notice of business closings.
Under the form’s “Reason for Dislocation” section, a staffer wrote: “Discontinutation (sic) of the Clinton Global Initative (sic).”
The “layoff date” is set for April 15.
It’s unclear how many employees will be left at CGI after the latest round of layoffs, or if any of those workers will be shifted to other Clinton projects. A spokesperson for the Clinton Foundation declined to comment on the record for this story.
CGI, which began in 2005, is not a direct-action charity like the Clinton Foundation, but instead brings power players together to address “significant global challenges” through their own commitments to action.
While Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects were quashed mere months after Bill Clinton penned his August letter, other factors may have contributed to CGI’s ending despite the disappearance of looming conflict-of-interest issues.
While the 2011 CGI meeting boasted a roster of 46 sponsors, that number had been cut in half by the final September summit, Politico reported. And since Clinton’s presidential election loss in November, other donors have cut back or stopped giving to the overarching Clinton Foundation, too. After 10 years and more than $88 million in donations, the Australian government decided against renewing its partnership with the foundation, news.com.au reported. Norway reduced its giving from $20 million in 2015 to $4.2 million in 2016.
The final CGI event came only days before anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks released a trove of emails from the account of Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta. Some of the emails, dating as far back as 2008, revealed internal tensions – and possible impropriety – among the Clintons and CGI insiders.
“I signed a conflict of interest policy as a board member of cgi,” top Clinton confidant Doug Band wrote in a Nov. 17 email to Podesta in which he referred to Clinton by his initials, WJC. “…Oddly, wjc does not have to sign such a document even though he is personally paid by 3 cgi sponsors, gets many expensive gifts from them, some that are at home etc.”
He added: “I could add 500 different examples of things like this.”
Chelsea Clinton was appointed to the CGI board in late 2011 and the Podesta emails show there was no love lost between the Clintons’ daughter and Band, with notes from both sent to Podesta privately excoriating the other.
Band, who began as Clinton’s “body man” during the White House years, was one of the masterminds behind CGI and played a key role in securing donations for the Clinton Foundation. He continued soliciting clients for the Clintons even after founding his own company, Teneo, in June 2011, according to a memo he wrote addressing his role in the Clinton’s world. Two of the major clients secured by Band – The Coca-Cola Company and Barclays Capital – did not sponsor CGI in 2016, Politico reported, despite years of reliably donating to the event.