Everything for Sale: The Clinton Global Initiative


I’m sure that this post will frustrate a number of my friends, but seriously — $15,000?!
This weekend I stayed with a great couple — thoughtful people who are public policy intellectuals in their own right — and they were invited to attend Bill Clinton’s mega-event, the “inaugural meeting” of the Clinton Global Initiative. The session takes place September 15-17 in New York, and there is a whopper fee to go — even for close Clinton pals.
The fee to get in the door is $15,000.00.
I happened to chat with Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor of The Nation, and she too was asked to pay that price for entry. I was interested in attending, but I don’t think that bloggers will be given a break. Maybe I’ll give it a try and report on the response.
The roster includes many foreign heads of state who are going to be in New York for the U.N. General Assembly meeting. But there are others, including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Gore, George Soros, Richard Parsons, Rupert Murdoch, etc. (wouldn’t it be great if George Soros joined Carl Icahn to buy Time Warner out from under Richard Parsons — in order to give Rupert Murdoch some competition?!)
I have long been in the event business, even in the mega-event business, and my preference is to make forums as “cost-free” as possible. Even if there is a charge, I work hard to get transcripts or web-based digital recordings out to the public for free.
Public discourse about the policy choices we make should be an inclusive event — and a $15,000 price tag only reminds me of how market-driven this nation has become at nearly every level.
Remember Bob Kuttner’s important and provocative book: Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limits of Markets?
Perhaps Bob needs to re-release the book. There is a lot I like about Bill Clinton, but this high price tag on a key public forum regarding U.S. foreign policy is not something that can be applauded.
Jimmy Carter builds houses, brokers peace deals, and monitors elections. Bill Clinton has an impressive HIV/AIDS initiative in Africa, has just returned from the African Continent, and has done terrific work in helping to organize relief for tsunami victims.
But it is the $15,000 price tag on a public policy forum that is going to get the attention.
This event rides on the skirt tails of the U.N. General Assembly — itself sort of a “global commons of world leaders” who are supposed to be working for their respective nation’s interests and the common good. To put a price tag on this is a very bad P.R. move for the William J. Clinton Foundation.
Not good.
— Steve Clemons
P.S. On the fee, the Clinton Global Initiative has posted the following:

The registration fee for the Clinton Global Initiative is $15,000, which will go toward implementing the solutions developed at the conference.
Due to the interactive nature of the Initiative, participants will play a role in deciding on the programs that the Initiative will fund throughout the year, and therefore, see a meaningful return on their investments.
The Clinton Global Initiative is open to invited participants only. If you have been invited, please contact us about registering online. However, if you have not received an invitation and would like to see if you are eligible to attend, please complete this form and a representative of the event will contact you.

Still. . .
— Steve Clemons