Despite pledges by campaign aides, Sen. Hillary Clinton still has not released any of her tax returns from this decade. She ought to do so. The release of the records is no mere formality. Important questions, questions of public interest, must be answered.
For weeks, her presidential campaign suggested that even asking her to release the returns was out of bounds. Communications director Howard Wolfson said the request was akin to “imitating [former independent counsel] Ken Starr” — which, in Democratic circles, amounts to a serious insult. Sen. Barack Obama released his tax returns on March 25, and his communications director, Robert Gibbs, said Clinton could easily do the same: “All she has to do is send someone down to Kinko’s.” The Clinton campaign responded by saying it expected to release her returns within a week.
Well, more than a week has passed, and the public still lacks details concerning the vast wealth she and husband, Bill, have secured since leaving the White House seven years ago.
Remember that the Clintons faced large unpaid legal bills when they left the presidency, courtesy of multiple transgressions that left the former president stripped of his law license and the former first lady criticized in the official report of another independent counsel for having given “sworn testimony” that was “factually incorrect.” Yet their financial fortunes have improved so much that Mrs. Clinton was able in January to lend a whopping $5 million to her own campaign.
It is known that Mr. Clinton has earned at least $40 million in speaking fees, at up to $450,000 a pop, with more than $27 million coming from overseas. That income can be shared 50/50 with Mrs. Clinton.
While it is illegal for foreign sources to donate to American federal political campaigns, it is not unlawful for a candidate — or spouse — to use “private” income from abroad for her own campaign. But legality and propriety often are two different things.
Several of Mr. Clinton’s benefactors/employers/business partners have been embroiled in controversy, notably include billionaire Ron Burkle.
Fearing bad publicity, former President Clinton cut ties with Burkle last December, and also severed his relationship with InfoUSA, which sold databases repeatedly used by criminals in schemes to defraud elderly citizens. Mr. Clinton earned at least $3 million from InfoUSA, and a reported $20 million-plus from Burkle.
The purpose of financial disclosure is to let the public judge for itself whether candidates are compromised by shady associations. As a presidential candidate, Sen. Clinton has a duty to give the public the necessary information to analyze her family’s multifaceted network of income and obligations.