Bill Clinton defends foundation's work

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(Jacquelyn Martin, AP)
(Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

Washington — Former US President Bill Clinton defended the work of his charitable foundation on Monday, telling supporters that it had "improved millions of lives around the world" but needs to change if his wife, Hillary Clinton, wins the White House.

The former president outlined the Clinton Foundation's accomplishments and planned shift in scope in an email to about 500 000 supporters. It came hours after Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump called the foundation "the most corrupt enterprise in political history" adding, "It must be shut down immediately".

Bill Clinton announced last week that the foundation will no longer accept contributions from foreign governments and corporations if his wife, the Democratic presidential nominee, is elected. The ex-president, who oversees the foundation with daughter Chelsea Clinton, also said he would hold his final Clinton Global Initiative meeting next month in New York regardless of the election's outcome.

"Since Hillary began her presidential campaign in 2015, Chelsea and I have made it clear that the work the Clinton Foundation started should continue if Hillary is elected, but that changes would be necessary," Bill Clinton said in the email. "While it would be presumptive to assume a victory in November, now that Hillary is her party's nominee, it would be irresponsible not to plan for it."

Stepping down

The changes aim to address criticism from Republicans and some Democrats that the foundation has created a significant conflict of interest as Hillary Clinton seeks the presidency. While Trump has donated to the foundation previously, he has charged Hillary Clinton with creating a "pay-for-play" scheme at the State Department through the work of the foundation.

Defending the foundation's mission, Bill Clinton pointed to more than 11.5 million people in more than 70 countries who have gained access to HIV/AIDS drugs at a much lower cost and millions of American students who have healthier food and more physical education options because of the foundation. He also noted the foundation's work around the globe, including efforts to help improve Haiti's sustainability, foster job training in Latin America and support farmers in East Africa.

The ex-president said in the event of another Clinton presidency, the foundation's work, funding and his role in it would raise questions that would need to be resolved "in a way that keeps the good work going while eliminating legitimate concerns about potential conflicts of interest".

If Hillary Clinton is elected, the former president said the foundation would accept contributions only from US citizens, permanent residents and US-based independent foundations, whose names would continue to be disclosed on a quarterly basis. He said the official name would be changed from the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation to the Clinton Foundation. And he said he would step down from the board and no longer raise money for it.

Bill Clinton said that much of the foundation's international activities would be transitioned to other organisations to continue that type of work.

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