Trafficking in Platitudes

Clinton-associated foundation sponsored conference in hotspot for human trafficking

Bill Clinton / AP


President Obama denounced human trafficking from the podium at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on Tuesday—just weeks after a Clinton-associated foundation sponsored a conference in an African dictatorship that is a premier destination for modern slavery and sex trafficking.

Former President Bill Clinton has been listed for several years as an honorary board member of the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, which aims to empower "underprivileged people worldwide by promoting the principles of self-help and social responsibility," according to the foundation’s website.

The Sullivan Foundation came under fire in July for holding its biannual African summit in Equatorial Guinea, a small West African dictatorship guilty of numerous human rights violations, including sex trafficking.

"The Government of Equatorial Guinea does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so," a United Nations Refugee commission report said. "…Despite having a law in place and reports of child trafficking, the government initiated no investigations or prosecutions of suspected trafficking offenses."

The former president provided the group with more than just his famous name. He worked two hours per week at the foundation, according to its most recent IRS filings.

Clinton’s name was purged from the foundation’s website in August, though his name remains prominently displayed on archived versions of the site’s "Leadership" page.

Obama praised Clinton Tuesday for helping to "improve and save the lives of millions of people around the world" through the CGI, before delivering a scathing indictment of forced labor and prostitution.

"We will have zero tolerance," Obama said. "No government, no nation, can meet this challenge alone. …Every nation can take action. Modern anti-trafficking laws must be passed and enforced and justice systems must be strengthened."

Equatorial Guinea dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has overseen an oil boom in the nation since taking power through a military coup in 1979. The nation has become a hotbed for human trafficking, importing menial workers and forced laborers from its neighbors to fulfill its growing labor demands, according to the U.N.

Obiang and his family have grown rich during his reign—his son recently purchased a $30 million Los Angeles home—while more than 60 percent of residents survive on less than $1 per day.

The Sullivan Foundation’s decision to host its conference in the country drew condemnation from the leaders of humanitarian groups, including Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation.

"Nobody knows the exact body count, but [Obiang] killed or expelled more than one third of the country's population," he wrote in the Huffington Post. "…The rent-a-crowd summit represents the largest PR effort the Obiangs have waged thus far. And it is likely to be a prelude for a further charm offensive in the future.

Neither CGI nor the foundation returned requests for comment.

Bill McMorris   Email Bill | Full Bio | RSS
Bill McMorris is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He joins the Beacon from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he was managing editor of Old Dominion Watchdog. He was a 2010 Robert Novak Fellow with the Phillips Foundation, where he studied state pension shortfalls. His work has been featured on CNN, Fox News, The Economist, Colbert Report, and numerous print publications and radio stations. He lives in Alexandria, Va, with his wife and three daughters. His Twitter handle is @FBillMcMorris. His email address is

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