Hillary Clinton runs into rough weather over husband’s fundraisingJanuary 14th, 2009 - 11:47 am ICT by IANS
Washington, Jan 14 (IANS) Hillary Clinton has run into rough weather over potential conflicts of interest former President Bill Clinton’s fundraising could pose if she is confirmed as secretary of state, but has refused to commit to greater disclosure.Clinton asserted before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday that government ethics officials have concluded under “well-established” rules that “there is not an inherent conflict of interest” for her in any of former president Bill Clinton’s fundraising or other business dealings.
The former first lady stated at her confirmation hearing that her husband had already gone beyond what was legally required by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to fully disclose donations to the Clinton Foundation.
Concerns about Bill Clinton’s financial ties to foreign governments were expected to be the biggest hurdle in the New York senator’s otherwise non-controversial nomination to be the country’s top diplomat.
While admitting that extending the MoU to the Clinton Global Initiative is not required by law, Republican senator David Vitter asserted that “a lot of real and perceived conflict issues” arise from the work of the group, particularly relating to certain contributors from the Middle East.
Clinton responded that while the MoU would not be amended to cover the work of the Initiative, she was trying to address all questions about potential conflicts of interest in a “transparent manner” and there would be “ongoing reviews” of the Clinton Global Initiative’s activities.
The initiative wasn’t included in the original MoU because it has always disclosed the names of its donors, Clinton noted.
She also refused to agree to a request by Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the committee, to have the Clinton Foundation reject donations from foreign governments during her tenure as secretary of state.
She asserted that donor countries, as well as the Obama transition team, know that the majority of the money donated goes directly to humanitarian activities such as purchasing AIDS medications in poor countries.
Clinton also stated that all foreign government donations to the foundation will be reviewed by the State Department.
She said she is not immediately made aware of new donations to the foundation, so it would be tough to argue that she could be potentially influenced by its donors.
“I will keep a very close eye on how this is being implemented and make sure the good work of the foundation continues without having an untoward effect on my service,” Clinton promised.
Lugar said he worried about the “perception problems” of having Clinton in the post as Bill Clinton continues his overseas fundraising for his foundation.
“I share the president-elect’s view that the activities of the Clinton Foundation and President Clinton himself should not be a barrier to Senator Clinton’s service,” he said.
“But I also share the view, implicitly recognised by the Memorandum of Understanding, that the work of the Clinton Foundation is a unique complication that will have to be managed with great care and transparency.”
The panel’s chairman John Kerry concurred that Lugar’s concerns about the foundation’s donations were not partisan, but reflect the concerns of committee as a whole.
Still, in their opening statements, both Lugar and Kerry expressed support for Clinton’s nomination. Lugar even called Clinton “the epitome of a big leaguer”.
Although Clinton’s daughter Chelsea was seated behind her, Bill Clinton watched the hearing from their Washington home.
The panel hopes to vote on Clinton’s nomination Thursday.
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