Clinton confirmation: Bill's charity still a problem for Hillary?

Is Bill Clinton’s charity going to be a problem for Hillary as the new secretary of State?

Didn’t the Obama team dispense with this issue already?

Apparently Sen. Richard Lugar, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Republican, doesn’t think so.

"The core of the problem is that foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the secretary of state," Senator Lugar said in his opening statement at Hillary Rodham Clinton’s confirmation hearing Tuesday.

The Republican senator from Indiana wants the foundation to refuse any foreign donations in the future – and he wants more transparency.

Sheikhs and ordinary donors
The William J. Clinton Foundation has already disclosed a list of 200,000 donors that have contributed a total of more than $490 million since 2001.

Ninety percent of the donors gave $250 or less. But Lugar’s worried about the other 10 percent. Those big donors include the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the government of Norway, assorted Middle Eastern sheikhs, and foreign government-linked aid and development groups.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the Clinton foundation successfully raising funds to do good – what foundation doesn’t? No one questions the validity of the good being done by the foundation in 40 nations.

But both Clintons now want to avoid even a whiff of influence-buying from here on out.

Is there a precedent?
Sharon Theimer at the Associated Press cross-referenced the Clinton Foundation donor list with Sen. Hillary Clinton’s official activities. She found that the New York senator had “intervened at least six times in government issues directly affecting companies and others that later contributed to her husband's foundation.”

Ms. Theimer writes:

The overlap of names on former President Bill Clinton's foundation donor list and business interests whose issues she championed raise new questions about potential ethics conflicts between her official actions and her husband's fundraising.

Sounds like the same thing that Lugar was concerned about.

Mrs. Clinton, I presume?
The Senate hearing offered the first window on a secretary of State who already has global name recognition.

Here’s what she said Tuesday about Iran:

“We are not taking any option off the table at all.”

Hmm. That sounds a lot like President Bush’s statement that “no option is off the table.”

But Sen. Clinton also implied that there may be another approach, using “smart power.”

We must also actively pursue a strategy of smart power in the Middle East that addresses the security needs of Israel and the legitimate political and economic aspirations of the Palestinians; that effectively challenges Iran to end its nuclear weapons program and sponsorship of terror, and persuades both Iran and Syria to abandon their dangerous behavior and become constructive regional actors…

As expected, she echoed the experts who expect an Obama foreign policy to be more pragmatic, and less ideological.

“Foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology, on facts and evidence, not emotion or prejudice,” she told the senators.

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