Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton collaborated with Flint officials in 2016 to create a program designed to help people find work, but there is little evidence the project was successful, according to an analysis from The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Flint Water Works initiative was developed to train Flint citizens to distribute water bottles to residents. Clinton championed the program during the 2016 presidential election while fending off a surging candidacy from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver supported Clinton’s presidential bid shortly after the initiative was publicized. The program received financing from a pair of billionaire benefactors associated with Clinton.
Wealthy Democratic donors J.B. and M.K. Pritzker kickstarted Clinton’s initiative with a $500,000 donation. The money was eventually directed toward the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, which received more than $22 million in contributions and grants in 2016 and $3 million in 2015, according to the charity’s tax documents. Mott Community College was then tasked with using the donation to train nearly 100 of the city’s 10,000 unemployed.
Conservatives called the move a political ploy, but Chelsea Clinton, who collaborated on the project in March of 2016, pushed-back against accusations the jobs program was meant to help her mother’s presidential campaign. Sanders, an Independent and self-described socialist, ultimately won Michigan but lost Flint to Clinton.
“For my mother and for me, this is not political,” Chelsea Clinton said during a press conference at the time of announcing the jobs initiative. She was surrounded by young black people who ostensibly stood to benefit from the project. “It is deeply personal,” she added. The initiative received raved reviews from Weaver, who attended the March press conference.
Clinton “came to Flint when the water crisis hit,” the Flint mayor told fellow Democrats in July 2016 during a speech at the Wells Fargo Arena. “She joined with our community groups and our churches. Hillary said, ‘I will do everything I can to help you get back up and to help you get your strength,'” Weaver added. The program’s management is shrouded in mystery, but TheDCNF managed to track down one of its organizers in Flint.
The Flint Water Works Initiative was a success, it resulted in hundreds of jobs, and the initial donation has not yet been depleted, Dartanyan Jamerson, director of workforce development at the Mott Community College Workforce Development Department, assured TheDCNF. Jamerson promised to provide documents April 17 detailing aspects of the program, but the college has been unresponsive to further inquiries.
J.B. Pritzker, who is currently running for governor in Illinois, has not responded to TheDCNF’s questions about whether he followed up with the donation. Pritzker and his wife contributed at least $14.7 million to two super political action committees supporting Clinton’s White House bid, federal records show.
Flint citizens have been struggling for several years to bring back their city, which was once a thriving auto manufacturing hub. State officials and local residents have also been unable to get the small, mostly black town’s water system up and running after lead contaminated its water supply. High levels of lead are believed to be a significant contributing factor to outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease in Flint.
Officials switched the small eastern Michigan city’s water supply from Lake Huron in 2014 to the Flint River in a bid to save money. But the state applied the wrong regulations and standards for drinking water, which ultimately resulted in corroded pipes. The lead leaching did not come to the fore until a pair of scientific studies showed significant levels of contamination were present in the water supply. A federal state of emergency was declared in January of 2016.
Media have pilloried federal regulators and state politicians for failing to respond more quickly to the crisis. Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, for instance, defended cabinet members in June 2017 currently fighting off manslaughter charges for not notifying citizens of Flint’s corroded water in time to prevent two deaths related to the crisis.
Snyder, a Republican, was referring to Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon and Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells — both of whom he says have his “full faith and confidence.” The two bureaucrats have been instrumental in Flint’s rehabilitation, Snyder also said.
Environmental Protection Agency was also criticized for not doing more to prevent the problem. The EPA only acts to enforce clean drinking water regulations when public outrage reaches a deafening pitch, implying negligence on the part of agency officials, one report published in March 2017 claims.
Nearly 2,000 citizens of Flint sued the agency for overlooking the problem until it was too late. The EPA failed to take the proper steps to ensure state and local authorities were addressing the crisis, Flint citizens’ lawsuit claims. The defendants are seeking a civil action lawsuit for $722 million in damages.