By Rick Saunders & Jeff Schreiber
Several times here at America’s Right, we’ve noted that President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of Hillary Clinton was an excellent political move for all involved, but as Sen. Clinton works her way through the confirmation process required for her to be installed as President-elect Barack Obama’s Secretary of State, a number of issues should present themselves as to possible conflicts of interest and more.
First, according to an Associated Press report gleaned from her official correspondence, we’ve learned that on at least a half-dozen separate occasions, Sen. Clinton may have intervened in government issues directly affecting companies and others that later contributed to her husband’s foundation. Among those companies impacted by Clinton’s actions? PAETEC Communications, Barr Laboratories, Merck & Company, and more. All, of course, are denying any improprieties, but each either themselves or through intermediaries later donated to the Clinton Foundation or Clinton-related causes.
Second, rumors are flying that Sen. Clinton’s campaign committee received contributions from Bernard Madoff, the Wall Street crook whose $50 billion Ponzi scheme–also known as “Social Security Light”–has resulted in his court-mandated pre-trial “hard time” under house arrest in his $7 million Park Avenue pad in New York City. Although you’d be hard-pressed to read about it in The New York Times or hear about it from the so-called journalists at NBC News, political donor databases NewsMeat.com and OpenSecrets.org indeed show that, between Bernard Madoff and son Peter (identified as a senior manager at Bernard L. Madoff Investments), $6,900 has been contributed to Clinton’s personal senatorial campaign and $50,000 has been given to the generic Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Even President-elect Obama received his share. And while there is no word yet from Obama on what, if anything, he intends to do about those particular contributions, Sen. Clinton was apparently declining calls to divest herself of the money, claiming through intermediaries that since it was given long ago to her first Senate campaign fund–which no longer exists–no repayment obligation therefore exists.
Wait for it during the confirmation hearing . . . “Well, Senator,” Hillary will say, leaning forward into the Bob Barker microphone, “it depends on what your definition of ‘fund’ is.”
In the interest of fairness, however, it should be noted that the list of other recipients of Madoff’s largesse reads like a Who’s Who of liberal Democrats — who received over 90% of all monies Madoff donated to politicians, political committees and parties. Whose committee between 1998 and 2004 received $6,300 from Madoff? New York Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat. Any others? Of course — they’re Democrats! New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg received $3,600 from Madoff in 2004 and 2007, and New York Congressman Charlie Rangel received $2,000. The latter, of course, now sits as the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, from which all tax legislation originates. After it was revealed that Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was unraveling, both Schumer and Lautenberg announced they would be donating the contributed money to various charities. No final word yet from Clinton or Rangel on what, if anything, they intend to do.
Third on the list of Sen. Clinton’s possible problems is a constitutional roadblock which has presented itself and very well could render her ineligible to serve in Obama’s cabinet. Article I, Section 6 of the United States Constitution states the following:
No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time: and no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either House during his continuance in office.
Since the “emolument” (read: salary) of the Office of the Secretary of State was increased by President Bush by executive order while Hillary Clinton was representing New York in the Senate, a significant question exists as to whether she is even eligible to serve as Secretary of State. The problem, of course, is that there have been other instances in the past where similar questions have surfaced, and each time they have been finessed and massaged through various subsequent steps taken to “undo” the prior pay raise in order to, thereafter, “un-ring” the bell of constitutional disqualification.
Finally, and perhaps most disturbingly relevant and most of concern considering Sen. Clinton’s prospective position, there’s the $491 million in post-presidential contributions to her husband’s presidential library and “Clinton Global Initiative,” collected over the past decade by Bill Clinton from overseas donors described by The Wall Street Journal as various “assorted rogues, dictators and favor-seekers,” including but certainly not limited to more than $60 million from various sources in the Middle East.
Even more astounding, according to the terms of the agreement between the prospective Secretary of State’s husband and President-elect Obama’s administration, the former president and his bony, smelly index finger may continue to collect overseas donations so long as all checks are addressed to some Clinton-related entity other than the “Clinton Global Initiative.” The other known aspects of the aforementioned agreement are even more interesting. From the Journal piece:
Instead of being immediately disclosed, future donations will only be made public once a year and the exact amounts and dates of previous donations will never be made public.
While Mr. Clinton will submit some donations from foreign governments to Administration scrutiny, he need only do so if the donations are new or are of a significantly larger magnitude from a previous donation. In other words, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman can keep giving millions without U.S. government review even while Mrs. Clinton is America’s chief diplomat. These disclosure limitations suggest that the Clintons seriously out-negotiated Team Obama. We hope the President-elect does better with Iran.
The double standard here is maddening. If it were the wife, or brother, or adviser, or valet parking attendant of a former Republican president who, since leaving office, had gallivanted across the globe and garnered almost a half billion dollars in contributions to his presidential library and charitable foundation, congressional Democrats would be up in arms and left-leaning so-called journalists like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow and the entire New York Times editorial board would be ready to explode in a fine mist of venom and vitriol.
Because it’s the Clintons, however, and because Sen. Clinton is looking to serve as diplomat-in-chief for the Obama administration, the silence is deafening. As the Journal points out, when Henry Kissinger was asked to co-chair the 9/11 Commission, “the political went bonkers about his foreign clients.” Where’s the outrage here?
Regardless, any day when a Clinton is testifying under oath is a good, sunny, zip-a-dee-doo-dah day for conservatives. Former Republican Party strategist and Clinton White House adviser Dick Morris even woke up this morning and proposed a number of questions he’d like to see asked while the former First Lady’s hand was still burning from contact with the Bible. Of course, they will not be asked and, even if they were, we certainly wouldn’t receive any answers.
When it comes to the Clintons and when it comes to the Democrats, there has never been and there never will be accountability, at least not until our mainstream press undergoes a sea change in terms of ideology and credibility. Scandal, for a Democrat, is practically an expectation when it comes to public service. Quid pro quo political contributions are a way of life.
In the end, will Hillary Rodham Clinton be confirmed as Secretary of State for Barack Obama’s adminstration despite baggage which would be politically cumbersome if not deadly for anybody across the aisle? Absolutely.
After all, it depends on what your definition of “baggage” is.
Both Jeff Schreiber and Rick Saunders contributed to this report. Rick Saunders is a freelance writer who splits his time between endeavors in southern California and the American southwest. He began writing for America’s Right in December 2008.