Published January 12, 2009
WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers want more details on an agreement between Hillary Rodham Clinton and President-elect Barack Obama intended to ensure her husband's charitable work would not pose a conflict of interest if she is confirmed as secretary of state.
Under an agreement made public last year and outlined in a Jan. 5 letter by former President Bill Clinton's lawyer, ethics officials at the State Department will be allowed to review overseas contributions made to Bill Clinton's charity. The State Department also will be able to assess any plans Bill Clinton has for consulting work and speaking engagements.
The plan is intended to ensure that the former president's work would not conflict with his wife's duties as the nation's top diplomat. Countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, as well as the State Department contractor Blackwater, have contributed to his charitable foundation.
Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview Monday that he and other senators want to know whether any contributions might be excluded from the oversight requirement and exactly how the disclosure process will work.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to testify before the panel on Tuesday.
Kerry said that while members want to ensure proper oversight, he does not see any sticking points that would prevent the Senate from eventually confirming Clinton.
"There's no stumbling blocks," he said in the interview.
In his letter to the State Department, David Kendall confirmed that the department's ethics officials will be able to assess contributions of countries "that elect to increase materially their commitments" to the William J. Clinton Foundation. The State Department also will be able to assess any plans Bill Clinton has for consulting work and review potential speaking engagements two weeks in advance.
Kendall said in his letter to James Thessin, the State Department's deputy legal counsel and designated ethics official, that the steps are voluntary and go "above and beyond" the law and ethics regulations. In a separate letter to Thessin, Hillary Rodham Clinton said she wanted to avoid "even the appearance of a conflict" and asked that she be advised on any further steps she can take to "avoid any actual or apparent conflicts of interest."