Clintons' Connections Leave Hillary Open to Conflict of Interest

Bill and Hillary Clinton, who made influence peddling into an art form, are apparently at it again.

The Clintons have developed a profitable and compromising connection with billionaire Ron Burkle. In the past, Burkle has contributed large amounts of cash to the Clintons’ campaigns, their legal defense fund, and to the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. Most recently, on April 21, 2006, he hosted a fundraiser for Hillary’s Senate reelection campaign at his Green Acres (Beverly Hills) mansion.

But the financial connections do not stop there.

Bill Clinton is a senior advisor to Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies. Hillary is not legally required to provide the full details of her husband’s financial arrangement with Yucaipa, claiming on her 2003 and 2004 Senate financial disclosures that Bill’s only Yucaipa income is “more than $1,000” in guaranteed payments. She could tell more, but you can bet she won’t.

According to former Clinton campaign advisor Dick Morris, however, Clinton “stands to clear tens of millions of dollar — with virtually no risk — from his Yucaipa work.” Off the record, he is also working on a fund that “invests in overseas ventures, for which he receives regular payments and would draw one-third of the profits when the fund is dissolved at least five years from now.” In one news report, Burkle estimated that he spends 500 hours per year with the former president — about 10 hours per week on average — a very small amount of time for a very large amount of undocumented income. (I know that Yucaipa does business with public pension funds in the State of California. Nice to know that an admitted perjurer can help direct the investment of public pension funds, isn’t it?)

Why is all of this important? Because Hillary Clinton presumably shares a bank account with her husband and payments to him are, in effect, payments to her as well. And since Hillary Clinton is in a position to vote on legislation that impacts Burkle’s massive empire, there is great potential for a conflict of interest. Burkle will no doubt expect something in return for the millions he funnels into the Clintons’ bank account — something more than what amounts to a few hours of Bill Clinton’s time each week.

The situation becomes even dicier should Hillary make her much-anticipated run for the White House in 2008. Burkle is reportedly working on a deal to purchase a string of American daily newspapers, including San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and St. Paul Pioneer Press. What kind of press coverage do you suppose he’ll give to his business partner’s political campaign?

President Bush Re-nominates Conservative Judges

President Bush appears ready to go to battle on behalf of his conservative judicial nominees this fall. On Wednesday, the president re-nominated five conservatives to the federal appellate court, at least one of which has been targeted by Democrats for a possible filibuster. The president’s move is widely seen as a challenge to Senate Republicans, especially Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.), to move these judges through the confirmation process before the November elections. The president is doing his part to fill judicial vacancies with conservative jurists. Now it’s up to Senate Republicans to finish the job.

According to Senate rules, judicial nominations expire if Congress is out of session for more than 30 days, which occurred recently with the summer recess. Normally, they are automatically renewed by unanimous consent of the Senate. However, Senate Democrats objected, forcing the president to resubmit the nominations, which include: Terrence Boyle of North Carolina and William James Haynes II of Virginia to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.; Michael Brunson Wallace of Mississippi to the 5th Circuit in New Orleans; and William Gerry Myers III and Norman Randy Smith, both of Idaho, for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.

Sen. Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) has promised to filibuster the Terence Boyle nomination, and has left open the possibility of blocking William Haynes as well. (Judicial filibusters are a flagrant violation of the Constitution, and Senate Republicans should do everything in their power to stop them.)

This is going to be a real test of Sen. Bill Frist’s leadership. Thus far, Frist has failed the president and his judicial nominees by allowing Senate Democrats, who are still in the minority, to manipulate the judicial confirmation process. If Republicans lose seats this November — and many political analysts believe they will — these nominees will have little chance of getting confirmed. Frist must step up now and make sure that all of the president’s nominees get the up-or-down votes they deserve.

JW’s Earns Widespread Media Coverage for Discovery; Re: Wiretapping Judge

Last week, Judicial Watch discovered that Anna Diggs Taylor, the federal judge who ruled the government’s anti-terrorist wiretapping program unconstitutional, had a potential conflict of interest that she failed to disclose. Obviously, this story has struck a nerve. Numerous national media outlets, including USA Today, the Associated Press, The Washington Post, and Fox News, covered Judicial Watch’s discovery. (Even the ultra-liberal New York Times wrote an editorial critical of Judge Diggs Taylor.) More than a week later, the press is still talking about it.

Just to review the details… On August 21, Judicial Watch discovered that Judge Diggs Taylor has indirect financial ties to a plaintiff in the wiretapping lawsuit, creating a potential conflict of interest. Judge Diggs Taylor serves on the Board of Trustees and is the Secretary for the Community Foundation of South Eastern Michigan (CFSEM), a non-profit organization which donated at least $45,000 to the ACLU of Michigan, a plaintiff in the wiretapping lawsuit.

According to syndicated columnist Bob Novak, even the White House, which obviously had a lot at stake in this lawsuit, was surprised by this potential conflict of interest. “Administration sources told me the president’s lawyers were unaware of her ACLU connection,” Novak reported on Monday. Well, they’re aware of it now.

Should Judge Diggs Taylor have recused herself from the case over her financial link to the ACLU? Perhaps. Should she have disclosed the relationship? Absolutely! Unfortunately, she didn’t, so many Americans now question whether Judge Diggs Taylor was truly committed to impartiality in the ACLU lawsuit.

I am hopeful that all of this public attention will prompt a serious investigation of Judge Diggs Taylor. At the very least, though, this intense scrutiny should force her to be more careful about disclosing her links to litigants that come before her court.