A Big Impediment to Hillary’s SecState Prospects: the Clinton Foundation

Created: November 18, 2008 10:55 | Last updated: July 31, 2020 00:00

Welcome back to the Democratic primary.

If you remember way back when, a concern faced by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton during the presidential campaign was the secrecy surrounding donations to her husband’s Clinton Foundation. Bill Clinton insisted that all donations remain undisclosed to the public, even as her campaign rivals whispered that those donations could be used to funnel contributions to Clinton’s campaign.

That’s clearly no longer operative. But according to Politico, the Clinton Foundation remains unwilling to disclose its donor list to Obama’s vetters:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is President-elect Barack Obama’s first choice for secretary of State but his aides are becoming exasperated by the Clinton camp’s pokey response to demands for extensive information about former President Bill Clinton’s finances, according to numerous Democrats involved in the process.

“The sense among the no-drama Obama world is: This is well on its way to winning best Oscar for drama,” said one well-connected Democratic official.

There’s a probable kabuki element here. The Politico piece says Clinton may clear up remaining obstructions in the coming days — suggesting the Obama people planted the Politico story as a way to nudge Clinton along. Whether or not that’s true, it isn’t in Clinton’s interest for her husband to keep the donor list a secret if she wants to be secretary of state. The Republicans may have a reduced minority in the Senate, but they could still tie up her confirmation hearings in an ugly and embarrassing manner.

Back in fall 2007, Bill Clinton said that he’d release the donor list if Hillary won the presidential election. Is that pledge still operative if she accepts the secretaryship? His little-noticed recent comments to Philanthropy magazine, from September, suggest at least a partial disclosure, though the context is admittedly very different:

The only reason I didn’t want to do the library donors is that no previous president had. I suppose if Hillary were elected president, or maybe even if she had been nominated, we would have had to go back to the donors and at least disclose everyone that didn’t object to it. But I wouldn’t have any objection to it.

With foreign donors, but also with domestic ones, if there’s any question, we do exhaustive vetting. I can recall some money we haven’t taken and also some we did but only after more than a year of efforts to make sure that everything was okay.