By Joseph Tanfani, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)
WASHINGTON — 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, Fiorina, 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 last week on Fox News about the Clintons’ charitable efforts. “What don’t we know about the conflicts of interest that those donors represent?”
Fiorina’s criticism, however, comes after years of association with the Clintons’ foundation through her own philanthropic work.
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 also has roles in two charities that participated in Clinton-fueled partnerships.
The attacks on the Clintons after years of a productive relationship with the foundation show how personal and professional ties can complicate life on the campaign trail for well-connected candidates such as Fiorina, who also unsuccessfully ran for Senate in California in 2010.
In addition to her charity ties, Fiorina has also twice participated in events that were part of the Clinton Global Initiative, one of the organizations in the Clintons’ worldwide philanthropic network.
In 2013, she spoke on a small panel that discussed how to boost female entrepreneurship. Last year, she appeared with former President Bill Clinton and three other people on a televised panel discussion on how best to pull people out of poverty.
Fiorina at times sparred with Clinton 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 initiative’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 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 CGI conference last week, said the foundation has always considered itself nonpolitical and has 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 were released, in June 2009, President Barack 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 about 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 chairwoman of Good360, a Virginia-based group that connects companies who want to donate goods with charities that need them. Hilton Worldwide made the program a CGI 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 CGI 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 CGI commitment, he said.
“Carly has been nothing but supportive throughout this process,” Auerswald said.
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Photo: Carly Fiorina speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore via Flickr)