Buy My Book Here

Fox News Ticker

Please check out my new books, "Bullied to Death: Chris Mackney's Kafkaesque Divorce and Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and the World's Last Custody Trial"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Conflicted Secretary

Conflict of interest has always been one of those subjects with a very fine line and it's difficult to know when it is crossed. Conflicts of interest can create the worst kind of politics. I have spoken of it often in describing the scandals at Emory University and it is at the center of the scandals involving Governor Rod Blagojevich. On the other hand, it is damn near impossible for a powerful person not to eventually have some conflicts. After all, you rise up in the ranks of power by eventually alligning yourself with other powerful people. As such, it is difficult to tell the difference sometimes between a problematic conflict of interest and one that happens to everyone in a position of power.

In the case of the prospective Secretary of State though, it's hard to imagine anyone proclaiming that the conflicts of interest wrapped up in her husband's library contributions are merely the product of political networking. Furthermore, not only is the money given to his library enormous, but there are enormous sums from all sorts of foreign interests. These are the very same foreign interests that Hillary Clinton will presumably negotiate with as Secretary of State. Here is how Dick Morris described some of the potential conflicts.

Bill Clinton visited Kazakhstan and met with its president on Sept. 6, 2005, accompanied by Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra.

Soon after, Giustra was awarded a highly lucrative contract to mine uranium there. Now, lo and behold, Frank Giustra turns up having given the library and foundation between $10 million and $25 million and the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative of Canada gave $1 million to $5 million more.

And Clinton got $1 million to $5 million from Lakshmi Mittal, the fourth-wealthiest person on the Forbes billionaire list and a member of the Foreign Investment Council in Kazakhstan.

In addition, Clinton further fished in troubled waters by taking $1 million to $5 million from Victor Pinchuk, the son-in-law of the controversial former president of the Ukraine.

The Wall Street Journal focused on a troubling connection to a Nigerian power broker.

Bill Clinton's ties to Nigerian businessman Gilbert Chagoury illustrate the kind of complicated relationships with foreign figures the former president is now disclosing to pave the way for Hillary Clinton to become secretary of state.

Nigerian businessman Gilbert Chagoury, shown with his wife, Rose-Marie, has long been a financial supporter of Mr. Clinton.

Mr. Chagoury is one of the biggest donors to the Clinton Foundation, having given between $1 million and $5 million, according to the list of over 200,000 contributors released Thursday by the former president's charitable organization. The release of the names came as part of an effort by Mr. Clinton to satisfy the incoming Obama administration that his extensive array of foreign donors wouldn't present problems for Mrs. Clinton as the nation's top diplomat.

Mr. Chagoury has long been a financial supporter of Mr. Clinton. He donated funds to support then-President Clinton's 1996 re-election effort, and later helped the former president land a lucrative speaking fee. Members of the Chagoury family donated thousands of dollars to Mrs. Clinton's recent unsuccessful run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mr. Chagoury is also a figure with a controversial past. In the mid-1990s, he was known for a close association with Nigeria's military dictator, Sani Abacha, which helped him land lucrative business contracts in construction and other areas.

The list of folks that contributed lots of money to Clinton's library is so long that it begs the question: what did all of these folks want? This is a question that Republicans in the Senate will no doubt ask over and over during her confirmation hearings. Furthermore, it is a question that observers, pundits and media will ask everytime she sits down with anyone that is related in any way to one of the donors to her husband's library.

This does two things. First, it puts the Obama administration on the defensive as soon as Clinton's confirmation hearings begin. I have no doubt that each and every scandal she has been tied to in the last thirty years will be explored, but so too, will each and every conflict created by the donor list. Her confirmation hearings are looking like they will be political theater that every political junkie will love, however more importantly, they look like they will be one giant headache for the newly minted President. As potential conflict after conflict is introduced, the public will have less and less confidence that the potential Madame Secretary can perform her role without being compromised.

Second, it will provide an even bigger headache for the President if this pick doesn't work out. The conventional wisdom is that this was a great pick. It is being lauded by many Republicans, like John McCain and Henry Kissinger, as well as most Democrats. Yet, this is as risky a pick as Obama made short of Eric Holder for AG. It's unclear whether her allegiances will be to the President or her own future potential Presidency. It's also unclear, to me at least, just how qualified she is. Now, it's unclear just how objective she can be. If this pick turns out bad, there will be a collective after the fact media version of I told you so. All of the problems I just described will be hyperanalyzed to no end by pundits and opponents alike smelling blood. This has the potential of doing serious damage to his Presidency. He has just doubled down on his Presidency and staked his entire reputation and judgment in the hands Hillary Clinton, who's only foreign policy experience is a few years in the Senate and her husband's accomplishments. Now, she also has all of her husband's baggage. Let's all hope it doesn't spill onto the President.

No comments: