I had a story yesterday in Fusion about the Clinton Foundation’s programs in Colombia, where it brags about helping the poor but, as I saw when I visited the country earlier this year, has accomplished pathetically little on the ground. Its main activity — in addition to running a private equity fund out of the foundation offices — seems to be training people for minimum wage jobs that leave them in poverty.
Meanwhile, Canadian stock promotor Frank Giustra, who is reportedly the Clinton Foundation’s largest donor, made a fortune in Colombia in the energy and mining sectors with some of his deals being cut after he and Bill visited the country together in 2010. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton happened to be in Colombia at the exact same time for a meeting with right-wing President Alvaro Uribe, whose government subsequently took decisions highly favorable to Giustra. (Uribe, incidentally, recently played a key role in scuttling the Colombia peace agreement that would have ended more than fifty years of war.)
The Clinton Foundation and Giustra formed the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP), which claims — in the empty jargon the foundation is known for — to create “new enterprises to generate both social impact and financial returns by addressing existing market gaps in developing countries’ supply or distribution chains.” The CGEP sponsors the Colombia jobs training program and another allegedly charitable project — the “Acceso Oferta Local” — that is supposed to help local “smallholder farmers and fishermen” market their projects.
As I noted in the Fusion story, the Clinton Foundation brags about Accesso Oferta and how it is “Empowering Women-owned Businesses in Cartagena” Yet when I talked to Sandra Valdivieso, the chief exhibit for this claim — “I am very happy, indeed,” she is quoted as saying on the foundation’s website — she told me she had dropped out of the program three years ago because “if we had stayed with them, we would have gone out of business.”
Angel Urena, Bill Clinton’s spokesman, attacked the piece on Twitter, saying it was “poorly researched, minimally sourced, and ridden with factual inaccuracies” and that I had a long record of being biased against Hillary. Urena also said, multiple times, that I had not given the Clinton Foundation any opportunity to reply to my “litany of baseless accusations.” Eric Boehlert, a Clinton lapdog at Media Matters who once upon a time wrote a book called Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, retweeted Urena’s claims that I had never contacted the Foundation.
For the record, I sought comment via email from the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the CGEP. None of them replied.
(Incidentally, Giustra has blocked me from following him on Twitter. The story cites Adrian du Plessis, a former stock-fraud investigator, who says that Giustra was known as the “Poison Dwarf” because of his tiny stature and habit of putting together deals that were toxic to his buyers but profitable to him.)
In seeking comment, I couldn’t have been more direct. Here’s part of what I wrote:
I’m currently writing a piece about the foundations’ activities in Colombia, where I recently spent 10 days, and interviewed dozens of people, including three senators and the labor minister.
I truly want to hear your side of this story, which thus far appears to be utterly appalling. While the Foundation and presidential candidate Hilary Clinton have effusively and repeatedly expressed their concerns for the poor and organized labor — and in Colombia specifically mention a deep concern for Afro-Colombians — I found no evidence of that on the ground.
In Colombia, I stopped by the Clinton Foundation’s office and was told no one there could answer questions about its activities. I also visited the offices of the job training program and the Accesso Oferta Local and staffers there declined to talk as well.
Yet Urena and Clinton campaign surrogate Boehlert kept insisting I had never reached out to the Clinton Foundation. When Adam Weinstein, my editor at Fusion, tweeted an image of two of my emails, Urena changed course and said whether or not I had sought comment had never been his point.
I will plead guilty to one charge, though. Like most Americans, I don’t like Hillary Clinton. The only reason she’s going to win the election is because even fewer people like Donald Trump, who I don’t like either. That changes nothing about my story from Colombia and the Clinton Foundation’s egregious poverty pimping there.
Anyway, Angel, I’m working on another story that involves the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Thanks for sharing your contact information, I’ll reach out to you on Twitter soon.