Bill Clinton: The most networked president in history?

By Laurie Bennett

October 11, 2010 at 9:39am

Despite Jimmy Carter’s recent claim to supremacy, Bill Clinton may well be the most networked president in U.S. history.

The force of Clinton’s personality - magnified by five terms as Arkansas governor, two terms as president, the unprecedented achievements of his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and his post-presidential activities - creates a relationship map unparalleled by anyone else in the Muckety database.

Since leaving the White House, Clinton has built worldwide programs through the Clinton Global Initiative and the William J. Clinton Foundation. His annual Global Initiative Summit draws world leaders and raises piles of money to address poverty, education, health care and other issues.

He has also worked with other former presidents to organize disaster relief. He and George H.W. Bush united to raise money for Katrina recovery. George W. Bush collaborated with Clinton on rebuilding Haiti after the earthquake.

Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter pose with President-elect Barack Obama in the White House Oval Office on Jan. 7, 2009
Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter pose with President-elect Barack Obama in the White House Oval Office on Jan. 7, 2009. White House photo

Many former members of the Clinton administration have stayed close to their boss, continuing in positions with the nonprofit groups. Alexis Herman, labor secretary under Clinton, has worked with both the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Mack McLarty, his chief of staff, also worked with the Katrina fund.

Karen Tramontano, who was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, is president of the Global Fairness Initiative, a nonprofit that advocates fair wages and equal access to markets. Clinton is the founding chairman of the group.

Declared the most popular politician in America in a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Clinton is helping embattled Democrats in the mid-term elections.

His success at fundraising - political or otherwise - has been a mixed blessing. Clinton resisted calls during the 2008 presidential campaign to release a list of donors to the Clinton Foundation. He finally relented in January 2010, in an agreement with the Obama administration to prevent an appearance of conflict with his wife’s role as secretary of state.

The donor list included foreign governments such as Saudi Arabia and Dubai, U.S. and foreign corporations, unions and nonprofit groups. The foundation counted more than 19,000 contributors in 2009 - all of them links in Clinton’s personal network.

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