Sen. Hillary Clinton’s nomination to become the country’s next secretary of state could be hindered by her husband’s international business dealings. Many questions have been raised as to whether Mr. Clinton’s fundraising work would enhance or conflict with his wife’s new potential job.
“At this time, I am taking neither position,” said Dr. Claire Keith, a global studies professor at Marist College. “My guess is that the appointment of Mrs. Clinton would be a good way to minimize the immense charisma and sway that Bill Clinton still has abroad, just by virtue of who he is.”
Since leaving the White House, the former president has raised millions of dollars for the William J. Clinton Foundation which finances his presidential library and addresses global issues such as AIDS, climate change, and hunger. He has also convened the Clinton Global Initiative which has garnered $46 billion in charitable commitments, largely in donations from foreign governments.
If Mrs. Clinton accepts a nomination to President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet, she will force scrutiny of her husband’s financial dealings. Mr. Clinton is not required to reveal the list of donors, and has refused to do so in the past.
“I know a lot has been said about the potential conflicts of interest with regard to the broad and at times pragmatic fundraising that the Clinton foundation has been engaged in, or even with the occasional pronouncements Bill Clinton has made that seem at odd with his wife or Obama’s
positions,” Keith said.
“Many people have therefore warned Obama against appointing Senator Clinton. A few others are adamantly supporting the appointment, including a number of Republicans whose very endorsement would make many Democrats even more worried.”
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the former President offered to endure an ethical review if his wife is appointed. Mr. Clinton agreed he would make public all new donors to his philanthropic organization and identify all “major” past contributors if his wife is nominated as top US diplomat. Some of the already known foreign benefactors include the King of Morocco, the governments of Kuwait and Qatar, and the Saudi Royal Family.
Obama’s investigative team is also examining any other conflicts of interest that the former president’s international dealings would pose for Mrs. Clinton if she became America’s top diplomat. Mr. Clinton’s ties to foreign governments, as well as some controversial foreign deals are being heavily scrutinized. This includes the former president’s role in helping Canadian mining executive, Frank Giustra, win a uranium-mining contract in Kazakhstan.
The Washington Post reported that there could be potential benefits for philanthropic power-couple if the New York Senator becomes the next secretary of state. Steve Gunderson, president of the Council on Foundations, told the paper that “It boosts her stature, it boosts the work of the Clinton Global Initiative, it boosts the whole concept of American partnerships making a real difference on the global level.”
Gunderson also stated that in her meetings, Clinton could say “‘we’re in a situation where I can’t commit congressional foreign assistance, but let me work with the philanthropic community back in the United States to see if there are ways that they can be helpful.’ ”
Mr. Clinton suggested in Kuwait that he would like his wife to serve in Obama’s administration. “If he decided to ask her and they did it together, I think she’ll be really great as a secretary of state,” he said.
If the Obama team does not believe that the former president’s dealings would be a serious obstacle to his wife’s potential duties, it could pave the way for Hillary to become the next secretary of State.
-Alex D’ercole and Kate Horvath