Clinton Global Initiative CEO slams pay-for-play allegations: 'I feel like I'm operating in two parallel universes'

Bill clintonJP Yim/Getty ImagesBill Clinton addresses the Clinton Global Initiative in 2015.

The CEO of the Clinton Global Initiative is not pleased with how political coverage has supposedly warped the image of the Clinton Foundation’s charitable work.

In a telephone interview with Business Insider Monday morning, CEO Robert Harrison highlighted some of the metrics of CGI’s philanthropic success, including billions of dollars donated toward health, education, and economic initiatives that have impacted 430 million people, many of whom are underprivileged.

Those metrics, he argued, were being overshadowed in the press by insinuation that former President Bill Clinton’s foundation was involved in nudging State Department staff to grant top donors access to Hillary Clinton while she was serving as Secretary of State.

“I feel like I’m operating in two parallel universes,” Harrison said. “The one I work in every day is where my staff and I work with our members to create commitments to address these global issues. Then there’s the other universe I read about in the paper every once in a while where someone suggests without any basis paying for play or buying access as part of what CGI or the Clinton Foundation is all about.”

Harrison continued: “I have never seen in the 9 years that I have been chief executive anyone behave that way. I don’t believe that there’s any evidence whatsoever that anyone at the State Department did anything because someone is a support of the Clinton Foundation or a member of CGI.”

During Monday’s interview, Harrison also brushed off rumours that CGI would be less glamorous this year due to concerns about how whether a meeting of wealthy top business executives would hurt Clinton in a populist economic climate.

“This annual meeting will be just like the other annual meetings that I’ve attended, which is every one,” Harrison said.

As Clinton geared up and launched a second presidential bid, CGI has found itself under increased scrutiny as Clinton’s political foes have attempted to demonstrate Hillary Clinton gave special treatment foundation donors, though no direct pay-for-play revelations have been exposed despite extensive reporting.

Still, the allegations have been enough to keep some members from attending.

Bloomberg reported that financial industry giants Goldman Sachs and Barclays will not participate this year, while marquee speakers like President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton herself won’t attend.

Harrison noted that the list still includes a number of high-profile attendees including celebrities like U2’s Bono, business leaders like Unilever CEO Paul Polman, and foreign political leaders like Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

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