Following his failed 2012 presidential campaign, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain turned over nearly $9 million in unspent funds to a new foundation—the McCain Institute for International Leadership.
Associated with Arizona State University, the institute is a tax-exempt non-profit foundation holding assets valued at $8.1 million. “Dedicated to advancing human rights, dignity, democracy and freedom,” the institute is intended to serve as McCain’s “legacy.”
McCain is a high-ranking political force in Washington, D.C. and is presently chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services.
According to an exclusive report from The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group, critics across the political spectrum view the institute as a major conflict of interest for McCain. With its list of questionable donors and McCain’s personal involvement in the organization’s exclusive “Sedona Forum,” some critics are concerned about the institute’s resemblance to the Clinton Global Initiative
The DNCF reported that “The institute has accepted contributions of as much as $100,000 from billionaire liberal activist-funder George Soros and from Teneo, a for-profit company co-founded by Doug Band, former President Bill Clinton’s ‘bag man.’ Teneo has long helped enrich Clinton through lucrative speaking and business deals.”
In 2016, a Bloomberg report revealed a $1 million Saudi Arabian contribution to the institute, a donation the McCain organization has refused to explain publicly.
The institute has also received at least $100,000 from a Moroccan state-run company repeatedly accused of worker abuse and exploitation, and another $100,000 from the Pivotal Foundation, which was established by Francis Najafi who owns the Pivotal Group, a private equity and real estate firm.
During the last three years, The Pivotal Foundation has contributed $205,000 to the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), which strongly advocated for the Iranian nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration.
“This is a very real conflict of interest,” Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen, told The DCNF. “This is the similar type of pattern we received with the Clinton Foundation in which foreign governments and foreign interests were throwing a lot of money in the hopes of trying to buy influence.”
McCain recently contended that he has no involvement with the institute, saying “I’m proud that the institute is named after me, but I have nothing to do with it.”
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