Erik Schelzig
September 12, 2007
Associated Press Newswires 

President Bush on Wednesday nominated former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to the board of the Millennium Challenge Corp., an international aid program that seeks to encourage democracy and openness in poor countries.

Frist, a Tennessee Republican who did not seek re-election to the Senate last year, was nominated to replace former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. The nomination to the three-year term must be confirmed by the Senate.

"I'm delighted at the opportunity to serve on a board that reflects the absolute necessity of having transparency and accountability tied to our developmental foreign aid," Frist said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Bush in 2002 proposed the creation of the Millennium Challenge account to distribute foreign aid to poor countries committed to tackling corruption and to dedicate themselves to certain economic policies and human rights. The idea was that little good comes from pouring aid into a country that has corrupt or unstable leadership.

Under the program, countries agree to complete certain tasks to get the money.

"I'm committed to developmental efforts tied to accountability and the rule of law," Frist said.

The program was formally launched in 2004, but Congress funded the program at only about half the $9 billion Bush originally envisioned for its first three years. Bush has asked for $3 billion for the upcoming budget year, but the Senate has proposed $1.2 billion, while the House recommended $1.8 billion.

Frist, a medical doctor, oversaw a significant increase in funding for AIDS research and treatment programs when he was in the Senate. He said he would work to see Congress meet the funding goals set by Bush and the next president.

Frist, 55, abandoned a widely expected presidential bid last year, and is now focusing on global health issues. He has signed on to teach at Princeton and is heading up a Save the Children campaign to lower childhood mortality around the world.

Frist withdrew his name from consideration for the presidency of the World Bank shortly before Bush nominated Robert Zoellick, the administration's former trade chief and No. 2 diplomat.

Up to four private-sector appointments can be made to the board, but Bush so far has only filled two. The other members of the board are the corporation's chief executive officer, the secretary of state, the secretary of the treasury, the U.S. trade representative and the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.