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None Dare Call It Bribery

Earlier this week, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign (remember that?) sent out an e-mail to its list of names. And in it, James Carville announced a nifty new contest to help retire their campaign debt — they will draw three names from a round of contributors, and the winners will either get a day with former President Clinton in New York, attend the American Idol finale in Los Angeles, or get a guided tour of Washington, DC with Carville himself and Paul Begala (commencing, presumably, after their daily conference call with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos).

This raised a couple of eyebrows.

The first eyebrow poked up at the memory of Hillary’s eventual capitulation and endorsement of then-Senator Obama for president. At the time, it was reported that one key element of her signing on was his pledge to help her retire her multi-million-dollar campaign debt.  To keep that pledge, Obama and his wife each wrote checks at the legal maximum for the campaign, and encouraged their supporters to do likewise. Apparently, Obama’s support didn’t pay off.

The second eyebrow joined the first at the thought of a sitting Secretary of State going, hat in hand, to the American people for money for a debt not related to her current office. The potential for mischief, for conflicts of interest, are screamingly flagrant. While the Secretary of State doesn’t have the clout to enrich or benefit individuals and groups as, say, the President or the Treasury Secretary or the Secretary of Labor does, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see how currying favor with such a worthy might end up personally profitable.  Indeed, it seems the very definition of “appearance of impropriety.”

On the other hand, the potential prizes could be tremendously entertaining. Setting aside the American Idol trip, imagine the mischief one could have if one were to spend the day with either Bill Clinton or James Carville and Paul Begala.  “James, Paul, can I listen in on the daily conference call with the White House and ABC News?”

All kidding aside, this is precisely the sort of matter that should have been resolved before Mrs. Clinton was confirmed as Secretary of State. To have someone in so powerful an office, and so high up in the line of president succession, with this kind of liability is simply unconscionable.


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