If I were Gov. Bill Richardson, still smarting somewhere in New Mexico over his lost Cabinet post in the incoming Obama administration, I would be plenty sore about Sen. Hillary Clinton. According to all rosy media predictions, Clinton is destined to sail through Senate confirmation hearings and become secretary of state next week, a veritable regatta's worth of clapping senators trailing in her wake. Richardson, meanwhile, is out on his ear.
Why? As the story goes, Richardson wasn't forthcoming enough about a federal probe into whether officials in his New Mexico administration tipped a state project to a firm run by a major financial contributor to Richardson's PAC. Clinton, meanwhile, wasn't forthcoming -- period -- about legislation she helped pass that made tax-exempt bonds available to a businessman who, practically simultaneously, donated $100,000 to hubby Bill's foundation. The main difference is Richardson's troubles are being sorted out in a federal investigation; Clinton's appeared in a news story. And even though The New York Times saw fit to flick at a so-called pay-for-play scandal with its headline "A Donor's Gift Soon Followed Clinton's Help," the story just doesn't seem to stick.
So, what else is new with the Clintons?
Actually, there is something -- the long-awaited list of nations, organizations and people who have ponied up nearly $500 million for the Bill fund, known officially, since our Bill now is all growed up, as The William J. Clinton Foundation.
It was from this donor list -- released in the media black hole just before Christmas -- that the Times, sorting through the Soros, the Bings and the Waltons, the Nigerians, the Ukrainians and the Canadians, made the Bill-donation Hill-legislation connection.
But such a story is nothing next to what else the list reveals: deep and disturbing and disqualifying conflicts of interest for Mrs. Clinton due to her husband's monetary ties to some of the worst despots in the world. And why has Bill made his post-presidential life one long fund-raiser? According to the foundation's Web site, the purpose is to fund such efforts as "combating climate change," "transforming ideas into action" and other global, if not cosmic, missions. Too bad for Hillary that Bill didn't just sign up as a roving ambassador for UNICEF.
One major conflict the Clinton foundation creates for Hillary regards Saudi Arabia, listed among the Clinton foundation's largest donors. "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" dropped somewhere between $10 million and $25 million into the foundation's kitty, while the pro-Saudi advocacy group Friends of Saudi Arabia threw in another $1 to $5 million. (I won't even mention the assortment of Saudi nationals showering the foundation with moolah.)
How does Madame Secretary Clinton talk tough, clean and independent to "the Kingdom" with all that Saudi cash in her husband's foundational pockets? Whether she could in fact rise above the money flowing into the Clinton foundation coffers, she could not rise above it in appearance. And it is appearance here that counts for the good offices of the USA.
The problem is hardly limited to Saudi money. Many millions of dollars have come sloshing into the Clinton foundation from Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and other Persian Gulf nations, including as much as $5 million from the Zayed family of the U.A.E. The Zayeds, as Jacob Laksin writing at Frontpagemag.com pointed out, have made headlines for past philanthropic acts related to a family think tank for anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and jihadists.
Money pouring in from the Dubai Foundation -- between $1 and $5 million -- is at least as disquieting. Remember the furor when, in 2005, the Bush administration wanted to transfer security and management of U.S. ports to Dubai Ports? That's a business owned by the Dubai Foundation, essentially a business owned by Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Bill Clinton still has non-foundation business dealings with Mohammed, along with supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, as the Wall Street Journal noted. This doesn't look good for Hillary -- or for our country.
Naturally, there's more. For digging up somewhere between $1 and $5 million for Bill's foundation, Issam M. Fares presents another unfortunate association for the wife who wants to be secretary of state. Fares, a former Lebanese Deputy prime minister, is hot for Hezbollah and tight with Syria. The fact that he has ties to Republicans, donating $100,000 to George W. Bush's 2000 inauguration and paying $100,000 apiece for speeches by George Bush (the father) and James Baker, as reported by Worldnetdaily.com, doesn't help Mrs. C. Again, whether these are ties that would actually bind her, they would certainly trip her up in question marks.
I could go on. For instance, there's Clinton foundation donor Alibaba.com, a Chinese Internet company that the Los Angeles Times described as being "accused of collaborating with China's censorship of the Web." How's that for complicating a secretary of state's Chinese portfolio?
And then there's the Alavi Foundation. Writing at Forbes.com, Rachel Ehrenfeld this week reported that this group, which supports Iranian causes, gave the Clinton foundation between $25,000 and $50,000 on Dec. 19, 2008 -- the very day the Alavi Foundation's president, Farshid Jahedi, was indicted on federal charges related to a probe of the foundation's relationship with Iran's Bank Melli. (The donation, according to Ehrenfeld's report, also came two days after the U.S. Treasury Department designated Alavi's partner, the New York-based ASSA Corp., as a terrorist entity.) Both the Alavi Foundation and Bank Melli, Ehrenfeld reported, have been "recognized as procurement fronts for Iran's nuclear program," with Bank Melli being designated in 2007 as a terrorist entity.
The point is not to argue that Hillary Clinton is indeed beholden to those among her husband's donors who run the gamut from unseamly to indicted. The point is that as secretary of state, she would appear to be, and that appearance would lower her standing -- and our country's -- throughout the world. This is an extremely urgent and grave matter coming before the U.S. Senate next week. Unfortunately -- tragically -- for the United States, the Senate is all too likely to approach it with a rubber stamp.