The Clintons have always behaved like the rules that governed everyone else didn't apply to them. And they've largely gotten away with it -- but perhaps Hillary Clinton's quest for the White House will finally bring this to an end. Two stories in recent days suggest the mainstream media are uncomfortable with ignoring the Clintons' hypocrisy, especially when it comes to money.
Until Bill and Hillary left the White House in January 2001, they were hardly what you'd call rich. They had never owned a home until they purchased one in late 1999 so that Hillary could have a permanent address in the state she hoped to represent in the U.S. Senate. Their friends' and political allies' efforts to enhance their financial status when the two occupied the Arkansas governor's mansion had ended badly in investigations into land deals and mysterious commodities windfalls.
These investigations, along with those into Bill's infamous peccadilloes and the Republicans' impeachment efforts, left the Clintons with huge legal bills. But they quickly made up for it by amassing a small fortune over the next six years. And that has provoked some concern among the media.
Over the last several days, The Washington Post has put two stories on its front page that reflect this uneasiness. The first focused on Bill Clinton's lucrative speaking engagements, which the Post noted in its headline garnered nearly $40 million since 2001. The second story revealed that, despite Senate ethics rules requiring her to do so, Hillary Clinton failed to disclose the amount of money she and Bill had sheltered from taxes through a family charity they set up when they left the White House (though she amended her disclosures after the story appeared).
The Post did important investigative reporting on both these stories, which should quell some conservatives' fears that the mainstream media is somehow in cahoots with the Clintons in their efforts to move back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The revelations about her failure to report the tax shelter caused Sen. Clinton some embarrassment at a time when her presidential campaign surely did not need that kind of attention. More importantly, the story about Bill's speaking engagements hinted at some unsavory links between the former president's hefty fees and his wife's own presidential aspirations.
"Many of Bill Clinton's six-figure speeches have been made to companies whose employees and political action committees have been among Hillary Clinton's top backers in her Senate campaigns," note John Solomon and Matthew Mosk. For example, the Post reporters discovered that Goldman Sachs paid Bill $650,000 for four speeches in the last few years, while its employees and PAC have given Hillary $270,000 since 2000.
Citigroup also made large contributions to the Clintons' efforts by paying Bill $250,000 for a speech in France in 2004 and committing $5.5 million toward his Global Initiative aimed at helping the poor in other countries start their own small businesses, while its employees and PAC gave more than $320,000 to Hillary's campaigns.
If this isn't buying influence, what is? Bill Clinton may give one heck of a speech and his charitable efforts may be commendable, but does anyone really believe that his benefactors aren't prompted to give largely because they want to buy access and influence with Hillary? And what better way than to fatten the couple's bank account, boost the ever-insecure former president's ego, and help the missus reach the pinnacle of American politics?
Maybe Bill and Hillary thought no one would notice this influence-buying. More likely, they believed they'd be given a pass, since it was being done in the noble cause of furthering their liberal policy agenda.
Like some 16th-century Antinomians who believed that they were anointed by God and could therefore ignore the moral laws that applied to the rest of mankind, the Clintons seem to think that they can do whatever they want in pursuit of some greater good. But the more ambitious and greedy they become, the less likely they'll get away with it.