Husband's foreign deals may pose issue for Clinton with Obama | world | Hindustan Times
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Husband's foreign deals may pose issue for Clinton with Obama

world Updated: Nov 15, 2008 11:06 IST

AP
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Former President Bill Clinton's globe-trotting business deals and fundraising for his foundation sometimes put his activities abroad at odds with Sen Hillary Rodham Clinton, and it could cause complications for her if President-elect Barack Obama considers her to be secretary of state.

During her own presidential campaign earlier this year, the New York senator criticized China for its crackdown on protesters in Tibet and urged President George W Bush to skip the Olympics in Beijing. Her campaign was embarrassed by reports that her husband's foundation had raised money from a Chinese Internet company that posted an online government "Most Wanted" notice seeking information on Tibetan human-rights activists that may have been involved in the demonstrations.

Sen Clinton has campaigned as a champion of workers' rights. Earlier this year, Brazilian labor inspectors found what they called "degrading" living conditions for sugar cane workers employed by an ethanol company in which Bill Clinton invested. In the Senate, Mrs Clinton was an outspoken critic of a proposed deal under which a Dubai company planned to buy a British business that helped run six major US ports. Meanwhile, the company, named DP World, privately sought Bill Clinton's advice about how to respond to the controversy in Washington over the port plan, which the company later abandoned.

Obama met quietly with Sen Clinton on Thursday at his headquarters in Chicago, and some Democrats were enthusiastic amid speculation the pair discussed the job of secretary of state. She declined on Friday to say anything about the subject, and Obama is understood to be considering other candidates as his top diplomat, including Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Democratic Gov Bill Richardson of New Mexico and retiring Sen Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska.

Bill Clinton's fundraising for his presidential library and charitable activities also could pose additional headaches for Sen Clinton formerly Obama's fierce political rival if he selects her for the job.

Since leaving the White House in early 2001, Bill Clinton has raised at least $353 million for the William J. Clinton Foundation, which finances his presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas, as well as his global anti-AIDS initiative and other charitable efforts.

The former president has raised money overseas beyond the Chinese Internet company's contributions: the Saudi royal family; the king of Morocco; a foundation linked to the United Arab Emirates; and the governments of Kuwait and Qatar, The New York Times reported last year.

His foundation reaped millions of dollars from Canadian mining tycoon Frank Giustra, and Clinton accompanied Giustra on a 2005 trip to Kazakhstan, whose human-rights record Sen. Clinton had criticized, the newspaper reported. The pair met with Kazakhstan's president, and within days Giustra's company landed preliminary agreements giving it rights to buy into uranium projects controlled by a Kazakhstan state-owned enterprise. Bill Clinton said he had nothing to do with the deal.

Louis Freeh, the FBI director under the former president, said Clinton sought a library donation from Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah during a discussion of the investigation into the deadly 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers US military dormitory in Saudi Arabia. Freeh wrote in his book, "My FBI," that the FBI was trying to get Abdullah to let the FBI question suspects that the Saudi kingdom had in custody, and that Clinton failed to pressure Abdullah. Clinton denied Freeh's account, and has said his business dealings and foundation fundraising pose no political conflicts for his wife. The former president has so far refused to identify donors to his foundation.

Matt McKenna, a spokesman for the former president, declined to comment on any potential difficulties that Clinton's activities could pose for Sen Clinton should she become secretary of state, or whether the former president would alter any of his fundraising or other activities to avoid potential conflicts.

The Clintons have taken in more than $100 million since leaving the White House, thanks in large part to six-figure speaking fees charged by the former president and to his book royalties and partnership with Yucaipa Global Opportunities Fund, a Los Angeles-based investment firm founded by a longtime Clinton fundraiser.

Bill Clinton has cultivated the image of a senior statesman since leaving the White House and often makes speeches abroad. That role could be diminished if his wife were representing the Obama administration on international issues.

In a 6,400-word speech in London in March 2006, the former president laid out his views on a variety of world issues, including the Middle East peace process. Buried in the lengthy address were a few lines could make a White House press office rush for damage control.

"The Palestinians are younger and poorer today than they were when we started the peace process in 1993," Bill Clinton said. "And I have never met a single poor Palestinian anywhere in the world except in the Palestinian territories. Every single Palestinian I know in America is a millionaire or a college professor, and I say that with deep respect, but when there is a conflict, when there is an absence of security, there is always an absence of opportunity.

"Whatever you believe about the Iraq thing," he continued, "we all have a stake in seeing it succeeded and one of the reasons it isn't is because the environment is still not secure and electricity production is still below where it was before the conflict began."