Hillary Responds to Ethics Allegations: Whoopsie!

| Tue Feb. 27, 2007 3:32 PM EST

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Sen. Hillary Clinton has for five years running neglected to report her involvement with a Clinton family charity in her ethics disclosures. After Sen. Bill Frist and Rep. Nancy Pelosi attracted attention (though no penalties) for the same oversight, it seems bizarre at best that Hillary's professional army of advisers would have neglected to report the senator's role in the foundation. (The family foundation is separate from the better known William J. Clinton Foundation.)

More importantly, such pet charities generate temptations for additional ethics violations: An individual connected to a certain corporation can make a contribution to a particular charity as a way of currying favor with a politician. Notorious examples include the Ted Stevens Foundation, a charity whose mission is to "honor and recognize the career of Sen. Stevens." A 2004 foundation dinner was attended by executives whose corporations had business before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which Stevens led. Ethics violator extraordinaire Tom DeLay also established a charity whose major donors turned out to be major corporate players.

Finally, there's a personal ethics issue. Here's the Post:

The retired chief of the IRS branch that oversees tax-exempt nonprofits said family-run foundations are commonly created by wealthy Americans, allowing them to earn tax breaks by donating to a charity whose future good works they can control. Such charities need only to give 5 percent of proceeds each year to maintain a tax exemption.

The Post's numbers indicate that the Clintons have given away about 10 percent of what they have put into their private charity. In a sense, holding Hillary accountable for this is unfair since the tax code routinely hands out favors like this to the wealthy, but she is running for president—and as a Democrat—so maybe we can fairly ask a little more from her?