It's not as if Clinton's speeches are imparting anything new to his audiences. People are paying for celebrity, proximity to a former president and possibly a future one. After one hears Clinton's riff on the supposed shortcomings of his successor, the "failure" of the administration's policy in Iraq and whatever he proposes to solve the world's problems, there is little else. Why would anyone pay so much to hear so little?
Other than greed, what is the primary motivation behind Bill Clinton's massive cash-in? The answer is suggested in the Post story: "Šit allows (the Clintons) to tap into that wealth for a campaign if Hillary Clinton, as expected, forgoes public financing in her race for president. It also suggests a sometimes close connection between their personal finances and her political career." What else is new?
The Clintons are plowing new ground. Ethics and election laws should keep pace. Never before has the spouse of a former president run for president. One of the reasons for disclosure forms is to ensure no improper influences are exerted on public officials by outside groups, or governments. Among those for whom Clinton spoke were a Saudi Arabia investment firm ($600,000 for two speeches), a Chinese real estate firm, run by a Communist Party official ($200,000), and a Toronto company, founded by a Kenyan immigrant who was convicted of stock fraud and barred for life from the brokerage business ($650,000 in 2005 and an undisclosed sum last year). The public needs to know more about their backgrounds.
While other ex-presidents have spoken for money, there has been nothing on this scale and none of their spouses served as elected officials.
If the new Democratic congressional leadership is serious about living up to its pledge of a far more ethical body than the one run by Republicans, the Senate Ethics Committee will get on this right away. There ought to be an investigation into the associations and ties of especially foreign governments and interests who paid these big bucks to Bill Clinton.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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