Bill Clinton defends foundation's acceptance of foreign money

Bill Clinton defends his foundation's practice
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Bill Clinton defends his foundation's practice 01:05

Story highlights

  • Clinton Foundation has taken money from foreign governments
  • Bill Clinton: "I believe we have done a lot more good than harm"

Coral Gables, Florida (CNN)Former President Bill Clinton on Saturday defended his family foundation's practice of taking money from foreign countries, arguing that while he doesn't agree with all of the policies of countries that contributed, he feels the foundation has "done a lot more good than harm."

The Clinton Foundation admitted last month that a 2010 donation from the Algerian government was not properly approved under the guidelines the Obama administration put in place with the foundation when Hillary Clinton became secretary of state in 2009. Bill Clinton defended the donations as something that went to worthwhile projects.
"The UAE [United Arab Emirates] gave us money. Do we agree with everything they do? No. But they are helping us fight ISIS and they built a great university with NYU open to people around the world," Clinton said at a foundation event in Florida. "Do I agree with all the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia? No."
    Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman are among the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation.
    Clinton continued: "You've got to decide when you do this work, whether it will do more good than harm if someone helps you from another country. ... I believe we have done a lot more good than harm."
    The story became a controversy for the Clintons, one where even some Democrats questioned the practice. Hillary Clinton is the party's presidential frontrunner in 2016 and is expected to announce her presidential aspirations next month.
    Republicans jumped on board the story, too, using it to question the Clintons' ethics and whether, as president, she would give preferential treatment to countries that have donated to the foundation.
    Democrats that did publicly defend the Clintons noted that the foundation disclosed all of their donation on their website. On Saturday, Clinton did the same.
    "My theory about all this is disclose everything. And then let people make their judgments," Clinton said. "I'm going to tell you who gave us money and you can make your own decisions."
    Clinton concluded his defense of the foundation, stating that he thinks organizations should "bring people together across great divides, around things that they can agree on and find something to do to make peoples lives better."
    The Clinton Foundation was founded by Bill Clinton after he left the presidency in 2001. To date, the foundation has raised over $2 billion that goes toward a wide variety of projects, including health and wellness, economic development and leveling the playing field for women and girls.
    Many of their projects focus on international issues, such as rebuilding Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and providing access to low-cost HIV and AIDS treatment. Those were primarily the projects backed by foreign countries.
    The former president's comments were the only moment any Clinton mentioned the foreign fundraising controversy. Neither Hillary or Chelsea Clinton mentioned the issue.

    No mention of Hillary Clinton emails

    At no point Saturday did any of the Clintons address the fact that Hillary Clinton exclusively used a private email account for the four years she served as America's top diplomat, a practice that skirted legal standards in place.
    The former secretary of state spent 18 minutes on stage Saturday and didn't mention question about her email, instead focusing on the foundation and a new report they will put out on women and girls participation.
    That didn't bother the over 1,000 overachieving millennials at the Clinton Global Initiative University meeting who couldn't have cared less about the swirling email and fundraising controversies that have defined the Clintons the last few weeks.
    Saturday's event is the university-focused branch of the Clinton Foundation. It brings philanthropic minded students from around the world together to talk about their projects and pitch the foundation for funding.
    This year brought together students looking to do a wide variety of things, from increasing women's inclusion in science and math fields to harvesting potable water from fog. In total, the foundation will hand out $900,000 to the different students.
    The general sense among the event attendees was: "What controversies?"
    "I am here for me. I am here for learning, exploring, meeting new people and expanding my knowledge about nonprofit management and social change," said Armel Arnaud Nibasumba, a Middlebury College student born and raised in Burundi. "I don't really care if they address those political issues that are going on."
    A few students, including Victoria Arild from Menlo College, said they hadn't heard of the controversies.
    "I am here because my college, I had the privilege of them funding me," she said, before shrugging off questions about the email issues.