Hillary Clinton has hurled herself into a fundraising blitz for the philanthropic foundation created by her husband Bill Clinton with events in Washington, San Francisco and London, raising new questions about the intersection of her private interests and her putative political ambitions that may include a run for the White House.
Already embarked on a series of speeches on hot-button issues and engaged in writing a memoir of her time as top US diplomat, Mrs Clinton now has an even fuller calendar. The fundraising drive began on Friday night with a dinner hosted by the former first couple at a swish restaurant on the main road running through the Hamptons on Long Island. Attendees included fashion maven Donna Karan and cosmetics king Ron Perelman.
Still to come is a “Concert Weekend” with the Clinton family in London on 11 and 12 October. Prospective supporters can also attend a cocktail reception (for $1,000) at the Italian Embassy in Washington on 9 September and straight afterwards dinner at the Clinton’s nearby home ($25,000 per cent couple). Hillary and Chelsea Clinton are to co-host an event for “young philanthropists” in San Francisco in November.
Ostensibly, the drive has nothing to do with 2016 and the next race for the White House. Rather it is designed to put the sometimes shaky finances of the charitable foundation, created by Bill Clinton in 2001 after he left office, back on a steady footing and help build an endowment for it that will carry it forward even beyond his death.
That does not mean that the new flurry at the Clinton Foundation is not being looked at by almost everyone else through a 2016 lens. It has just been renamed the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Foundation, to reflect the new roles being taken within it by the ex-President’s wife and daughter and its mission, hitherto on AIDS and poverty overseas, is being broadened to include priorities within the US, including career opportunities for women and girls.
That the foundation is useful to Mrs Clinton has suddenly come into focus. It will keep her in the public eye as she goes about some handily do-gooding activities. But also obvious all at once is how Mrs Clinton, right, is useful to the foundation. If the trickle of donations to it suddenly becomes a flood, it will surely be because the donors will in part be motivated to ingratiate themselves to someone they think might be the next President. Meanwhile, if there is an urgency to the endowment drive it may have less to do with Mr Clinton getting older and more with the narrowness of the window. If Mrs Clinton does indeed eventually open a presidential campaign she will have to start raising funds for that exclusively. Her role bringing in dollars for the foundation would be instantly over.
When the Clintons took to a small stage at the Friday dinner, no one dared ask the question to which there would have been no answer anyway – will Hillary Clinton run? Yet, her husband clearly doesn’t mind if everyone is in suspense, opening the session with a joke about his being able to whatever he likes these days because no one cares about him while his wife has to be more circumspect. The implication: people care a lot about what she is thinking. And they should. While the people who run the foundation for the Clintons may smart at the political innuendo attached to everything the family does, there is little they can do about it. “I frankly don’t have a clue what the motives are of the people who support the Clinton Foundation,” Bruce Lindsay, the recently appointed foundation chairman told the Washington Post this weekend. “I’m just grateful for their support. The work we do is important.”
Meanwhile, there is no doubt that a new-cash infusion is needed at the New York City-based foundation which ran an operating deficit last year of $8m. If Hillary and Chelsea Clinton can help then so much the better.
“We had to have another way to raise the funds that we need to keep the lights on,” Mr Lindsey noted. “You cannot continue to rely upon a single individual to raise all the money... First, it is unbelievably gruelling on President Clinton, and second, if anything were to happen to him it would end.”