The numbers just keep going up. Jim Wright got thrown out as Speaker of the House for agreeing to a $12,000 book advance. Facing angry Democrats, Newt Gingrich gave a $4.5 million book advance back. And the House of Representatives changed its rules to keep members from accepting such advances.
The Senate ethics guidelines have no similar provision. So, the junior Senator-elect from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton, agrees to Simon & Schuster's offer of $8 million for a book penned by the former first lady and stays within the rules - at least those on paper.
And the Republicans don't seem to mind, at least for now, and at least not too much. Pundits say it's partly because of the spirit of bipartisanship in the air in Washington. Hmmm, maybe, maybe not. Abiding by principle shouldn't have anything to do with party lines or loyalty. Indeed, two watchdog groups are asking Mrs. Clinton for details of the deal.
Simon & Schuster is owned by Viacom, which owns a lot of companies, including CBS and Paramount Pictures. Viacom folks make regular appearances on Capitol Hill to lobby Congress. From her position on the Senate floor, Mrs. Clinton should be able to clearly see the problem here - that the millions she's receiving up front from a Viacom company could be construed as a conflict of interest.
Had Senator-elect Clinton taken just royalties and not an advance, she would perhaps be perceived as less beholden. And she would have set a better example for others.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society