Bill Clinton defends family foundation, says political attacks on it inevitable

The Clintons have been criticized for raking in millions of dollars from paid speeches since they left government service

DENVER — Former President Bill Clinton said Wednesday that if his wife is elected president he will stop giving paid speeches and, if she asks, step down from the foundation that bears his name and has fuelled attacks against her during her nascent campaign.

The Clintons have been criticized for raking in millions of dollars from paid speeches since they left government service, as well as for letting foreign countries and companies with interests before Hillary Clinton’s State Department give money to their foundation.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV at the Clinton Global Initiative’s Denver meeting, Clinton said he’d stop giving paid speeches should Hillary Clinton return to the White House. He added that it would be his wife’s call on whether he stayed at CGI.

“She will have to decide what is my highest and best use, including being around to buck her up in the morning,” he said.

Clinton acknowledged that some of the $2 billion in donations the foundation has received may seem questionable when viewed through a political lens. But he said they were accepted with the best intentions. “Has anyone proved we’ve done anything objectionable with this money?” he asked. “No.”

The charity was set up after Clinton’s presidency more than a decade ago, and he said no one was thinking that Hillary Rodham Clinton would run for president someday and that “everything we did would be treated with the presumption of wrongdoing.”

Clinton cited a $500,000 donation from the government of Algeria in 2010 that violated an Obama administration ban on the foundation taking contributions from foreign states. The donation came two days after the Haiti earthquake that killed more than 230,000 people. Clinton said the injured were being anesthetized in the streets with vodka because hospitals were destroyed — and he was accepting help from anyone.

“There are very few countries in the world I would not accept for help to Haiti,” Clinton said.

In an interview with CNN to be broadcast Sunday, Clinton acknowledged “you never know of what people’s motives are” for donations but said he’s seen no efforts to win favours.

He added that the foundation has a “strict” non-corruption policy and noted that several Republicans, such as former President George W. Bush and 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have spoken at its gatherings.

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