According to a Politico report by Josh Gerstein, while Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State, former president Bill Clinton capitalized financially on “business proposals and speech requests” despite a so called “ethics deal the Clintons and the Obama transition team hammered out in 2008 ,” while “State Department lawyers acted on sparse information … and were under the gun to approve the proposals promptly.”
Now, some of those deals are raising eyebrows; however, heavily “redacted documents began to emerge only after the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit in 2013. So far, the department has not committed to a date to produce all of the records.”
The ramifications impact not only the Clinton’s past conduct, but also come into play going forward as Hillary prepares her own run for the White House given that the Clinton Foundation continues to take foreign money and references the process during Hillary’s tenure at the State Department as a guide for that process, as well.
The ethics agreement did not require that Clinton provide the estimated income from his private arrangements, making it difficult for ethics officials to tell whether his services were properly valued.
In hundreds of documents released to POLITICO under the Freedom of Information Act, not a single case appears where the State Department explicitly rejected a Bill Clinton speech. Instead, the records show.
The records also highlight a blind spot in the with the involvement of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: While the pact subjected Bill Clinton’s moneymaking activities to official review, it imposed no vetting on donations to the Clinton Foundation by individuals or private companies in the U.S. or abroad.
As the report points out in detail, of particular concern are cases in which foreign governments, including China, may have been involved in a manner that could be construed as attempts at purchasing influence.
Concerns about individuals seeking influence by dropping money in both buckets (Bill’s pocket and the Clinton Foundation) arose soon after the first few Bill Clinton speech proposals landed at Foggy Bottom. In a 2009 memo greenlighting those talks, a State Department ethics official specifically asked about possible links between President Clinton’s speaking engagements and donations to the Clinton Foundation. However, the released documents show no evidence that the question was addressed.
“In future requests, I would suggest including a statement listing whether or not any of the proposed sponsors of a speaking event have made a donation to the Clinton Foundation and, if so, the amount and date,” wrote Jim Thessin, then the State Department’s top ethics approver and No. 2 lawyer.
Doubts also remain about the transparency of the ethics deal. Obtaining details on how the approval process played out in practice has been difficult and slow. For nearly three years after POLITICO filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the records in late 2009, the State Department released no information.
The various deals include donations from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia and Germany.”
The foreign gifts — disclosed voluntarily on the Clinton Foundation website — have led to calls from activists and ethics watchdogs for the foundation to cease such fundraising as Clinton ramps up her expected campaign drive.
“I think the foundation should stop taking money from foreign sources — now,” said Richard Painter, a fellow at Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics and a former White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush. “I would have been more conservative than the Clintons were here.”