Fiorina's campaign-trail attacks leave out her own ties to Clinton

Carly Fiorina has had a friendlier relationship with the Clintons and their foundation than she highlights

In a crowd of Republican presidential contenders hammering away at Hillary Rodham Clinton, no one has been more relentless than Carly Fiorina.

In speeches and media interviews, some of them while shadowing Clinton on the campaign trail, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive has attacked the Clintons’ family foundation for a lack of transparency amid reports that it accepted money from foreign governments. “She is not trustworthy,” Fiorina says in a video on her website, itself named ReadytoBeatHillary.com.

In a Facebook post, Fiorina excoriated the Clintons for accepting donations from foreign governments “while making promises about transparency that they never intended to keep.”

“What else don’t we know? What don’t we know about your donors?” she asked Wednesday on Fox News about the Clintons’ charitable efforts. “What don’t we know about the conflicts of interest that those donors represent?”

But in Fiorina’s own philanthropic ventures, one of the key points of her resume as a White House hopeful, she has had a friendlier relationship with the Clintons and their foundation than she highlights on the campaign trail. And, in pressing for help for women around the globe, Fiorina is more similar to Hillary Clinton than she admits.

The discrepancies show how personal and professional ties can complicate life on the campaign trail for well-connected people like Fiorina, who also unsuccessfully ran for Senate in California in 2010.

One Fiorina charitable effort, a campaign to fund women’s empowerment projects around the globe, went forward with help from the State Department when Clinton was secretary.

And Fiorina has roles in two charities that participated in projects that became commitments with the Clinton Global Initiative, one of the organizations in the Clintons’ worldwide philanthropic network in which charities and companies announce partnerships to pledge action on social projects.

She has also twice participated in Clinton Global Initiative events. In 2013, she spoke on a small panel that discussed how to boost female entrepreneurship. Last year, she appeared with former President Clinton and three other people on a televised panel discussion on how best to pull people out of poverty.

Fiorina at times sparred with the former president and criticized Democratic economic policies, saying that the Obama administration “made the rich much richer.” But she also argued for the role of small business and praised the organization's work. “Seed capital, support, tools, energy -- all of the initiatives that the Clinton Global Initiative invests in to try and build Main Street entrepreneurship -- it has always been the hope of this country,” Fiorina said.

A spokeswoman for Fiorina said she was “delighted” to participate in a session advocating for women who are entrepreneurs, and characterized the second discussion as “a debate with Bill Clinton.”

Fiorina has contrasted her belief in transparency with Clinton’s, saying last month: “Unlike Hillary Clinton, I am not afraid to answer questions about my track record or beliefs.” She did not respond to follow-up questions about her involvement with the foundation or her work with the State Department.

Bill Clinton, speaking at a Clinton Global Initiative conference on Wednesday, said the foundation had always considered itself nonpolitical and had hosted a number of Republican politicians, including Mitt Romney and John McCain. He didn’t mention Fiorina.

Fiorina helped spark a charitable drive in 2008 called the One Woman Initiative, targeting women’s empowerment groups, mostly in Muslim countries. According to the organization, she set it up with help from the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

It took about a year to raise the money. By the time the approximately $500,000 in grants was released, in June 2009, President Obama was in the White House and Clinton was secretary of State. The initiatives included a microfinance program in Pakistan, a conflict-resolution program in the Philippines and an economic development program in India.

The initiative aimed to distribute grants with the help of corporate sponsors, and with support from the Department of State and USAID. The agencies also declined to comment on the initiative.

The Clinton Global Initiative draws together corporate and charity leaders for networking and to announce commitments to complete projects together.

Fiorina is connected to two groups that participated in such programs. She is board chairman of Good360, a Virginia-based group that connects companies who want to donate goods with charities that need them. Hilton Worldwide made that program a Clinton Global Initiative commitment in 2013.

Fiorina also is on the advisory board of the National Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, a group that wants to open a center celebrating inventors and entrepreneurs on the National Mall in Washington. That too was announced as a Clinton initiative commitment in 2013. But the plans have stalled, in part because the Smithsonian decided it couldn’t devote resources to the project, said Philip Auerswald, the group’s board chairman.

The advisory board and Fiorina didn’t play a role in the decision to announce the project as a Clinton initiative commitment, he said, adding: “Carly has been nothing but supportive throughout this process.”

joseph.tanfani@latimes.com

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