Saturday, December 20, 2008

Washington Post: Clinton List Means "Heap of Potential Trouble"

The paper pulls its punches by suggesting that there is a way out for the Clintons with a revised agreement with Obama--but in fact the logic of the case dictates that there isn't any possible agreement that a convicted perjurer and impeached former President may reasonably be trusted to follow. The Clinton list should signal the end of Hillary's bid for Secretary of State. If not, Obama's promise to change the culture of Washington should prove D.O.A. on January 20th, 2009. A self-inflicted wound that would haunt his entire administration.

From Sunday's Washington Post editorial:
But however worthy the cause or uncontroversial the foreign government, it strikes us that such fundraising by the former president presents an unavoidable conflict. What is the standard for the ethics official to apply? Doesn't spurning a proffered donation from a foreign government risk creating its own diplomatic problems? What happens when Secretary Clinton, visiting Country X to press for, say, a climate change agreement, is informed by the prime minister that he's just written her husband a $10 million check for that cause? What about gifts from foreign governments seeking trade concessions or approval to purchase military equipment? Even if Ms. Clinton is not influenced by gifts to her husband's charity, the appearance of a conflict is unavoidable. The better approach would be to allow existing commitments to go forward but to forswear any new ones.

Moreover, the memorandum of understanding does not appear to contemplate any prior review of contributions by foreign individuals or corporations, or by U.S. companies or individuals with overseas entanglements. So consider -- because it already happened -- the case of a wealthy investor who is seeking business opportunities in, say, Kazakhstan. He gives millions to the Clinton foundation, visits the country with the former president and obtains the sought-after contract. No one in the Obama administration will vet such a gift in advance; the public will learn of it only with the yearly disclosure. The new administration is buying itself a heap of potential trouble with this arrangement.