Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Clinton Foundation celebrates top donor and Teneo client Coca-Cola; Coke exec took 'sabbatical' to work on Hillary Clinton campaign

Update 2/10/16: Decades before Coca Cola became a major contributor and partner for the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton defended one of its bottling plants, after it was sued by a former worker, who claimed he was disabled while working there.

In a 2007 article called "The Making of Hillary Clinton", Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Claire wrote that she represented the "Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Arkansas in a lawsuit filed by a disabled former employee who had been denied full retirement benefits by the company." And in their 2007 book, "Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton," investigative journalists Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta - who won Pulitzer Prizes for the New York Times - reported, "In one lawsuit she successfully handled, filed in 1979, her client was the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Arkansas and its employee retirement plan. A worker, Ronnie Weeks, had sued the company in federal court, claiming he was permanently disabled and had been improperly denied retirement benefits."

On February 6, 2014, anti-Democratic candidate PAC America Rising noted, "Today Hillary Clinton will receive a medal from the Bar Association for her work as a corporate attorney at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Arkansas. It’s unclear why she would want to highlight this resume."

"Maybe she will give a passionate speech about the time she challenged a ballot initiative supported by ACORN that gave low-income Arkansans a break on their utility bills in court," the PAC's website added. "Or the time she defended Coke when they were denying a disabled man named Ronnie Weeks his retirement benefits?" (hat tip: @jethomme)

Coca-Cola has given at least $5-to-10 million to the Clinton Foundation, and, as I've reported, is a client for Teneo: a rapidly growing consulting firm co-founded by former President Bill Clinton "body man" Doug Band, who helped 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's transition into the State Department as President Obama's Secretary of State, and two of her fundraisers, including Declan Kelly, who she appointed as the Economic Envoy to No. Ireland.

On November 6th, 2015, the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas "celebrate[d]" an exhibit devoted to Coca-Cola:

"'Share a Coke' with us at the Clinton Presidential Center at the opening of our 42nd temporary exhibit, Coca-Cola: An American Original on Friday, November 6, 2015. The exhibit celebrates the art and history of the contour bottle on its 100th Anniversary. In addition to showcasing the art and history of the iconic bottle itself, the exhibit will explore how the company worked with some of the country’s most noted illustrators and artists—like Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell, Haddon Sundblom, and Howard Finster—to build its global brand as well as influence pop culture here in the United States and throughout the world.

Join us on November 6, as we celebrate the opening of the exhibit with a private preview of the exhibition and a program with special guests President Bill Clinton and Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola Chairman of the Board and CEO."
Earlier today, Candice Choi reported for the Associated Press, "A nonprofit founded to combat obesity says the $1.5 million it received from Coke has no influence on its work. But emails obtained by The Associated Press show the world's largest beverage maker was instrumental in shaping the Global Energy Balance Network, which is led by a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Coke helped pick the group's leaders, edited its mission statement and suggested articles and videos for its website."

"In an email last November, the group's president tells a top Coke executive: 'I want to help your company avoid the image of being a problem in peoples' lives and back to being a company that brings important and fun things to them.'

Coke executives had similarly high hopes. A proposal circulated via email at the company laid out a vision for a group that would "quickly establish itself as the place the media goes to for comment on any obesity issue.' It said the group would use social media and run a political-style campaign to counter the 'shrill rhetoric' of 'public health extremists' who want to tax or limit foods they deem unhealthy."
In another press release about the exhibit, Clinton Foundation executive director Stephanie S. Streett stated, "Coca-Cola is among the best-known brands in the world and we are thrilled to share its remarkable story with our guests. In addition to showcasing the art and history of the iconic bottle itself, this exhibit will explore how the brand influenced some of the country’s most noted illustrators and artists—like Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell, Haddon Sundblom, and Howard Finster—as well as pop culture here in the United States and throughout the world.”

At the bottom of the press release, published at the Clinton Foundation's website, there is a paragraph "About The Coca-Cola Company", which claims the company "support[s] active, healthy living":

"The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) is the world's largest beverage company, refreshing consumers with more than 500 sparkling and still brands. Led by Coca-Cola, one of the world's most valuable and recognizable brands, the Company's portfolio features 20 billion-dollar brands including Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero, vitaminwater, Powerade, Minute Maid, Simply, Georgia and Del Valle. Globally, it is the No. 1 provider of sparkling beverages, ready-to-drink coffees, and juices and juice drinks. Through the world's largest beverage distribution system, consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy Coca-Cola beverages at a rate of 1.9 billion servings a day. With an enduring commitment to building sustainable communities, the Company is focused on initiatives that reduce its environmental footprint, support active, healthy living, create a safe, inclusive work environment for its associates, and enhance the economic development of the communities where it operates. Together with its bottling partners, Coca-Cola ranks among the world's top 10 private employers with more than 700,000 system associates. For more information, visit Coca-Cola Journey at www.coca-colacompany.com, follow it on Twitter at twitter.com/CocaColaCo, visit its blog, Coca-Cola Unbottled, at www.coca-colablog.com or find it on LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/company/the-coca-cola-company."
Searching "coca-cola" at the Clinton Foundation website nets twelve pages of results.

A recent "Commitment to Action" published at the Clinton Foundation announced, "In 2013, The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC), in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank, committed to refine and expand the Coca-Cola Coletivo platform through a $16 million investment across three countries in Latin America and 12 cities in Brazil. This will impact more than 34,000 people in Brazil alone by 2017. This commitment, which is integrated into TCCC's value chain and is co-funded by the Inter-American Development Bank's Multilateral Investment Fund, will enhance opportunities to find employment, create new business enterprises and strengthen the self-confidence of low income residents in affected communities. Coletivo was first launched in Brazil and this new collaboration will include three Coletivo models: Coletivo Retail, which focuses on young people in urban low-income communities who are seeking formal employment; Coletivo Recycling, which targets the professionalization of recycling cooperatives, generating increased income for waste collectors and formalizing the recycling value chain; and Coletivo Entrepreneurship, which provides practical training to begin and strengthen new businesses, with a focus on women."

Another recent one stated, "In 2013, The Coca-Cola Company, with a range of partners, committed to deploying 150 EKOCENTERs over a two year pilot phase to directly improve the physical, social, environmental, and economic wellbeing of more than 45,000 people. The EKOCENTER is an off the grid, modularly designed kiosk that will transform a standard shipping container into a hub of community activity by providing clean, safe drinking water, wireless communication, electricity, and other services to further enable community development within the world's population at the Base of the Pyramid. Coca-Cola will use a Golden Triangle approach to execute on this commitment, partnering with actors from the private, public, and non-governmental sectors. Deployment of the EKOCENTER is confirmed in Haiti, Mexico, the Philippines, Paraguay, Rwanda, South Africa, and the United States, with the intention to scale to over 10 more countries by the end of 2015."

A third recent "Commitment to Action" posted at the Clinton Foundation website adds, "In 2015, The Coca-Cola Company's Coca-Cola Africa Foundation committed $4.5 million over 3 years to underwrite the design and launch of the Youth Empowered for Success (YES!) program, a bold new initiative to create sustainable, safe, equitable, and productive jobs for youth across Africa. The YES! program will help young people access economic opportunities including: jobs, businesses, marketable skills, and financial services. The YES! program will be implemented in several African countries, to be determined based on assessment of need and partners."

As I reported in April, "In January, Teneo and American Ireland Funds sponsored "The Best of Ireland Gala" at the New York Athletic Club "to benefit The Children’s Medical Research Foundation and [Teneo Sports client Graeme McDowell's] GMac Foundation." Teneo CEO Declan Kelly - who was on the Board of Directors for American Ireland Funds (part of the Worldwide Ireland Funds) when they held Belfast luncheon for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012 - was the "Dinner Chairman" for the January 12th, 2015 event which honored New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and former Coca-Cola Refreshments President Brian Kelley - a Clinton Foundation donor who is now CEO for Clinton Global Initiative partner Green Mountain Coffee."

As I reported in March, Coca-Cola executives were on the VIP list for a Teneo-sponsored event featuring Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and George W. Bush - that the media was excluded from - held in September of 2012, when longtime Hillary Clinton aide and vice chair of her 2016 presidential campaign Huma Abedin was simultaneously working for the State Department, the Clinton Foundation, Teneo and for the former First Lady on a personal basis.

"One Thursday evening last September, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Tony Blair met in New York to conduct what was supposed to be a high-minded discourse on terrorism, geopolitics, and the global economy," Alec MacGillis reported for the New Republic in 2013. "The setting was elegant—the beaux arts ballroom of the Essex House, an iconic tower on Central Park South. The 78-person VIP guest list included Harvey Weinstein, Eli Broad, Blackstone co-founders Steve Schwarzman and Pete Peterson, Silicon Valley impresario Sean Parker, Billie Jean King, George Pataki, and New York City police chief Ray Kelly, along with CEOs and top executives from companies like Dow Chemical, Coca-Cola, BP, and Bank of America. Somehow, these onetime world leaders, corporate titans, and other notable personages converged in the center of New York without the event ever being noticed by the press."

MacGillis added, "The guests had been wrangled, persuaded, flattered, and otherwise enticed to attend by Doug Band, a tall man with genial, unmemorable features and a deferential demeanor. In fact, the gathering was taking place in his own building, underneath his expansive eighth-floor apartment, and it represented a major triumph for him."

In a May 27, 2015 article titled "A Coca-Cola exec's Hillary campaign sabbatical", Patricia Sellers reported for Fortune, "Wendy Clark, Coke’s North American marketing chief, is back from an unusual leave of absence. In January, when Coca-Cola KO 0.17% executive Wendy Clark took a three-month unpaid leave to help Hillary Clinton with her branding, colleagues predicted Clark would get sucked into politics and not return. Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent bet against them that his rising-star marketer would come back to Coke. He won 'multiple bets,' he says."

Sellers continued, "Now back full-time as Coca-Cola’s North American marketing chief, Clark declines to talk with Fortune about her secretive sabbatical, which she described to colleagues simply as her 'passion project.' But if you look at her Facebook FB -2.10% page or Twitter TWTR -0.32% feed, you’ll know that Clark is still doing all she can to help elect Hillary—off the clock that is."

On April 8, 2015 - in an article titled, "181 Clinton Foundation donors who lobbied Hillary's State Department", Jonathan Allen reported for Vox, "Likewise, Coca-Cola has given between $5 million and $10 million to the foundation. The company announced an investment of $200 million in Burma after Hillary Clinton worked to lift sanctions on that country. Even unions that blame Bill Clinton's NAFTA deal for killing American jobs, including the AFL-CIO, pop up on the crosstab of companies that donate to the foundation and lobbied Hillary's State Department. Coke, of course, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of NAFTA, which opened up Mexico, the country with the highest per-capita Coca-Cola consumption in the world."

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