A New York Times front-page article I highlighted earlier made note of how the Clintons have required all vendors for the wedding to sign a confidentiality agreement, but could this open the door to foreign heads of state giving gifts to the daughter of the secretary of state?
I called Chip Brooks, who is the senior ethics counsel to the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser. I asked him if a random State Department official were to have a relative (a daughter, just hypothetically speaking) in a wedding, would there be any concern about foreign entities giving gifts with some strings attached. Brooks explained that such a gift would fall under the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, which
…Opens up the door to allow employees to accept gifts from foreign governments. Foreign governments are defined under the statute not merely as foreign governments but also international organizations. The act also defines employees as spouses and family members, but in this case, only dependent children qualify. If the State Department employee has an adult child, the gift to the adult child would not be considered a gift to the employee.
So in other words, yes, Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of the sitting secretary of state and the former president, can receive all the gifts she likes from foreign heads of state, or even “international organizations.” The confidentiality agreements would make it very easy for someone outside the country, say, to pay for all of the flowers in the wedding without public scrutiny. Not that we should worry about that, Brooks explained, because we have to presume that the activities are above board. On the other hand,
If the circumstances were such that the gift was really intended for the employee, we may be able to pierce that veil. … It depends on what types of information the employee who is subject to the rules is providing, what they may be telling us and not telling us. We have to have confidence that employees are doing the right thing.
The Clintons have a problem in this area in particular. Here’s a Washington Post editorial decrying President Clinton’s fundraising for his presidential library, in which he was being accused of giving pardons in exchange for donations:
THE LAST THING we want to do is dampen the festivities in Little Rock, where the Clinton Presidential Center is opening today, but does anybody remember Marc Rich? He’s the fugitive financier who was pardoned by President Bill Clinton on his way out of office — after Mr. Rich’s ex-wife, songwriter Denise Rich, gave $450,000 to the foundation raising money for this very same library.
And here’s a report (also from the Post) about how foreign entities donated to the Clinton Presidential Center after all:
The royal family of Saudi Arabia gave the Clinton facility in Little Rock about $10 million, roughly the same amount it gave toward the presidential library of George H.W. Bush, according to people directly familiar with the contributions. The presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has for months faced questions about the source of the money for her husband’s presidential library. During a September debate, moderator Tim Russert asked the senator whether her husband would release a donor list. Clinton said she was sure her husband would “be happy to consider that,” though the former president later declined to provide a list of donors.
The amount of the contribution from Saudi Arabia and several other countries, as well as the percentage of the total given by foreigners, had not been revealed.
The Post confirmed numerous seven-figure donors to the library through interviews and tax records of foundations. Several foreign governments gave at least $1 million, including the Middle Eastern nations of Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the governments of Taiwan and Brunei. In addition, a handful of Middle Eastern business executives and officials also gave at least $1 million each, according to the interviews. They include Saudi businessmen Abdullah al-Dabbagh, Nasser al-Rashid and Walid Juffali, as well as Issam Fares, a U.S. citizen who previously served as deputy prime minister of Lebanon.
Yeah. I’m sure it’s fine that there’s no room for public scrutiny.