Former President Bill Clinton's massive financial ties with Arab governments raise serious questions for his wife as she tries to clear Senate confirmation and become secretary of state.
The disclosure of Clinton's finances (wrung out of him by the Obama transition team) shows that the family, through its personal finances and those of Bill's nonprofits, has received tens of millions from the royal families in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Dubai, Oman, Brunei and Abu Dhabi.
While these funds were nominally paid to Bill Clinton, they inure to the benefit of his wife, as well. Never have we had a secretary of state who has profited so handsomely from foreign governments.
Bill Clinton has refined the sale of access to an art form. Now there is a big potential for selling access to the secretary of state by retaining her husband to give speeches or by donating to his presidential library or foundation. In view of this danger, his wife must answer some crucial questions at her confirmation hearings.
Still more questions are raised by Bill's financial relationship with the emir of Dubai. Clinton got millions from his association with supermarket magnate Ron Burkle in an investment group called Yucaipa. Most of that money likely came from a partnership managing private investments of the emir, one of the world's wealthiest men.
During Hillary's presidential campaign, Bill claimed that he was moving to terminate his relationship with Burkle and the emir - but there have been no further reports of what eventuated. Since this involves personal income to the Clintons, it is imperative to know the status of those relationships.
So here are the questions the senators must ask Hillary:
1) Does your husband have any ongoing financial relationship with the emir of Dubai directly or indirectly through Yucaipa, Ron Burkle or any other entity? What is the nature of that relationship? Does your husband stand to get any further payout from the emir, Burkle or Yucaipa? If so, how much and for what services? And, if he sold his interest, how much was he paid?
2) During your campaign, you said you favored extending the US nuclear umbrella to the Gulf States and specifically Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Have you changed your position? Do your husband's extensive financial dealings with these nations influence your opinion on this matter?
3) Since Dubai refineries process a large portion of the gasoline consumed by Iran and the rest is imported through Dubai, will you ask Dubai to cut off deliveries to Iran to pressure that nation to abandon its nuclear ambitions? Does the fact that your husband earned millions managing the emir's investments make you hesitant to press Dubai to curb its dealings with Iran?
4) During a recent trip to Kazakhstan, your husband met with its dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was seeking to be named to head the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a body that is charged with overseeing the fairness of elections. Because his nation does not have free elections, the State Department opposed his bid. Your husband endorsed his candidacy.
Canadian mining magnate Frank Giustra, who hosted your husband's trip, later got a lucrative uranium-mining contract from Nazarbayev and, in turn, donated at least $10 million to your husband's library and foundation and to the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative. How can you deal impartially with Nazarbayev, given this evident conflict of interest?
5) Such recipients of federal bailout aid as AIG, Lehman, Merrill Lynch, the Citi Foundation and General Motors have given large donations to your husband's library and foundation - and have also paid him hefty speaking fees. As a member of the administration, will you recuse yourself from deliberations relating to any future federal aid to companies that have donated to your husband's interests?
6) Will you agree to post on the Internet the source and amount of all payments each month to your husband and his nonprofits, including contributions from existing donors?
Even in the strange world of the Clintons, the funds that flow to one flow to both. And, of course, the largesse they've received from Dubai was simple, direct personal income to them both.
In view of these massive donations and payments, Sen. Clinton must be grilled on the conflicts of interest they create. We also need to hear how she plans to handle them and avoid them in the future.