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Vetting Bill Clinton Could Bring Controversy

POSTED: 02:53 PM ET, 11/17/2008 by Chris Matthews

With Hillary Clinton emerging as one of the top candidates to become Secretary of State, Barack Obama's transition team has begun to vet not only Clinton, but her husband as well.

A team of lawyers will be poring over former president Bill Clinton's activities and finances. Some worry that his personal finances and business relationships at home and abroad could bring unwanted controversy to the Obama White House.

During the Democratic primaries, the former president promised to reveal the identities of contributors and the amounts given to his foundation if Hillary were elected president. If he is asked to disclose similar information as the husband of the Secretary of State, some interesting information could be revealed.

Since leaving office, Clinton has been busy making contacts throughout the world through the Clinton Global Initative and the William J. Clinton Foundation. He has earned millions in speaking fees and business dealings and solicited donations to his foundation from foreign businesses. To date, his foundation has raised over $500 million.

Among several of Clinton's business relationships that have proven controversial:

Last year, The New York Times reported that while some Clinton foundation donors were longtime friends, others sought policy changes while he was still in office. Two donors pledged $1 million while under investigation by the Justice Department.

Clinton's decision to serve on the board of Yucaipa Cos., run by his billionaire friend Ronald Burkle, has also drawn criticism. Clinton earned more than $5 million through his partnership with Burkle, helping Burkle land investors and identify business opportunities.

In 2005, Clinton expressed support for Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan's authoritarian president, undercutting international criticism of Kazakhstan's poor human rights record, an issue championed by Clinton's wife. Days after Clinton's public declaration, his ally (and future donor) Frank Giustra won the rights to three state-run uranium projects. Months later, Clinton received a $31.3 million donation from Guistra.

Clinton has also accepted fees for speaking in China and Saudi Arabia, countries that have blemished human rights records.

By Chris Matthews |  November 17, 2008; 2:53 PM ET
Previous: Are Bonuses the Next Bailout Casualty? | Next: Mark Cuban Accused of Insider Trading


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OH God.....I wish you media people would give it a rest. Vet the clintons, vet the clintons....its always a problem. IT'S NOT A PROBLEM FOLKS!!!!!! WE DON'T CARE. We love the Clintons. Bill's been President, and Hillary came within inches of it. (She'll be #45). So give up the "vetting problems with the Clintons" thing. We're sick of hearing it.

Posted by: ladyesq1 | November 17, 2008 4:04 PM

America's tradition of allowing former politicians to go forth and make money from public office experience is a disgrace.

Let's call these large sums what they really are, they are bribes and kickbacks. That's what they would be called if we found the same behavior in a third world country.

Clinton is not at fault, IF the system allows this to happen, it is perhaps unethical but not a crime.

Here's my proposal, all public officials are allowed to earn up to 2 times their annual salary for personal use. All inflows should be public record (after all they are exploiting their public experience and not their golf game skills). Anything in excess they should donate to a charity of their choice.

I feel a 2 x salary cap per year is a good number ( a very generous one) and will get the problem solved quickly. Even a president should be allowed to make money.

Posted by: ggooch | November 17, 2008 4:05 PM

Is this the same Chris Matthews of MSNBC who wrote this? Because we sure don't need to give this guy any more air space.

Posted by: rdklingus | November 17, 2008 6:09 PM

Its amazing to me that this Clinton vetting issue is still not handled. It seems that the Obama White House feels the need to give the impression of considering her, while reserving the right to act indignant so as to be able to placate her supporters.
I would bet a nickel right now, that she is not the SEC of State.
Richardson is actually fully qualified.
Kerry is dying for the job. Its soooo him.
It would be nice if she would come out and say she doesnt want it and spare us all a month of nonsense, since she must know in her heart that her husband's contacts will ultimately disqualify her. Let's put our attention on solutions for the auto industry.

Posted by: ottothewise | November 17, 2008 6:50 PM

WAPO sez: In 2005, Clinton expressed support for Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan's authoritarian president, undercutting international criticism of Kazakhstan's poor human rights record, an issue championed by Clinton's wife. Days after Clinton's public declaration, his ally (and future donor) Frank Giustra won the rights to three state-run uranium projects. Months later, Clinton received a $31.3 million donation from Guistra."

Its so juicy and decadent, you have to wonder how anyone could even consider appointing Mrs C to high office, after you read that sequence.

Posted by: ottothewise | November 17, 2008 6:53 PM

For those like ladyesq1 who do not believe Bill's relationships, etc., are probably the same ones who blast Cheyney and the Bushes for their oil connections and ties to Halliburton. Do you have ANY proof of wrongdoing with Halliburton and this White House? Were there any other companies qualified to do what Halliburton did? NO. Yet, there appears to be direct evidence that Bill has some questionable dealings but you have on problem with that - all because you "like" him. I suppose if you were married to a man who was a thief and molested kids, you would stay married to him if you "liked" him. I assume you must be an attorney with the "esq" in your name. Doesn't the word "ethics" mean anything to you? Wrongdoing and ethical behavior are separate from "likes" and "dislikes." People loved John Gotti; should they have not prosecuted him?

Posted by: rld2 | November 17, 2008 8:35 PM

Who gets to vet the vettors (or is it "vetters," or "vetting agents," or "vet-masters"?) These are the things that concern me.

Posted by: boesc | November 18, 2008 1:34 PM

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