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Bill Clinton may be why Hillary won't make it as Secretary of State

November 18, 2008 14:31 IST
United States President-elect Barack Obama will not formally offer Senator Hillary Clinton a post unless he is satisfied that her husband former president Bill Clinton's activities would not pose a conflict of interest, a media report said on Tuesday.

Bill Clinton had delivered 54 speeches last year for a total fee of US $ 10.1 million. That, says the New York Times, complicates the vetting process that Hillary Clinton is undergoing by the Obama transition team.

Clinton's post presidential life as a globe-trotting philanthropist, business consultant and speech-giver poses the highest hurdle for his wife to overcome if Obama chooses to nominate her as secretary of state, the paper said, citing aides of the Clintons and Obama.

The Obama transition team, it says, is focused on the wide array of Clinton's post presidential activities, some details of which have not been made public. This list includes the identity of most of the donors to his foundation, the source of some of his speaking fees (he has earned as much as US $ 425,000 for a one-hour speech) and his work for the billionaire investor Ronald W Burkle.

The vetting of Bill Clinton's myriad philanthropic and business dealings is 'complicated, and it may be the complications that are causing hesitation on both sides,' Abner J Mikva, one of Obama's closest supporters and a White House counsel during the Clinton administration, told the paper.

'There would have to be full disclosure as to who all were contributors to his library and foundation. I think they'd have to be made public.'

While aides to the President-elect declined to discuss what sort of requirements would make it possible for Hillary to serve as secretary of state, they said Obama would not formally offer her the job unless he was satisfied that there would be no conflicts posed by Bill Clinton's activities abroad.

Associates of the Clintons were quoted as saying that Bill Clinton was likely to have to make significant concessions and that he was inclined to do so. Among other things, they said, he would probably have to agree not to take money for speeches from foreign businesses that have a stake in the actions of the American government.

Another obvious issue, Democratic lawyers told the paper, would be whether Bill Clinton's foundation should accept money from foreign governments, businesses or individuals for the foundation's philanthropic activities and if it should disclose those donors publicly.

'The problem is, it's going to require some sacrifice by him,' a former Clinton aide who is not involved in the discussions was quoted as saying. 'If he's not willing to do that, it could blow up.'

One proposal, floated by Mikva and several other aides involved in the vetting process, would be for Clinton to separate himself from the activities of his foundation, including raising money, the Times said.

'It's not just what he does or says, it's the fact that the foundation is involved with foreign countries, some of which might well be in conflict with US policy,' Mikva said. 'It's more than a legal problem, there are ethical problems and appearance problems.'

Several longtime associates of the Clintons were quoted as saying that the former president would be an asset to Hillary if she were appointed secretary of state. The Obama administration 'would be able to use Bill Clinton as the ultimate special envoy inside the tent,' one longtime unidentified associate was quoted as saying.

Since the former president established the William J Clinton Foundation in 1998, it has raised more than US $ 500 million, a sum that allowed him to build his steel-and-glass presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas, and create the Clinton Global Initiative, which has done good deeds all over the world, including working to eradicate AIDS in Africa, the paper said.

Clinton, the Times said, is not required by law to identify the donors to his foundation, and this year he declined to name them.

Last year, Hillary Clinton was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, the New York Times compiled the first detailed list of 97 donors who gave or pledged a total of US $ 69 million for the Clinton presidential library in the final years of his administration.

The examination found that while some US $ 1 million contributors were longtime Clinton friends, others were seeking policy changes from the administration. Two people pledged US $ 1 million each while they or their companies were under investigation by the Clinton Justice Department.

The foundation has received contributions from the Saudi royal family, the king of Morocco, a foundation linked to the United Arab Emirates and the governments of Kuwait and Qatar.

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