Questions Linger Over Bill Clinton's International Work, Lugar Says

Sens. Lugar, Reed support Hillary Clinton for secretary of state.

November 30, 2008, 12:21 PM

Nov. 30, 2008 — -- With Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., poised to accept the secretary of state nomination, Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., responded this morning to a new conflict of interest deal brokered between former President Bill Clinton and President-elect Barack Obama's transition team.

Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, explained that while he supports Sen. Clinton for secretary of state, he has lingering concerns surrounding her husband's international work. "I would vote in favor of Sen. Clinton," he said in "This Week" interview with George Stephanopoulos.

"I suspect, however, that I'm not alone in suggesting that there will be questions raised, and probably legitimate questions."

As part of the deal, former President Clinton has agreed to restrictions on his activities at the Clinton Foundation. In addition to disclosing all of his contributors, the former president will separate his Clinton Global Initiative from the Clinton Foundation and end any Clinton Global Initiative meetings outside the United States.

He will also submit any future speeches, projects or consulting contracts to Department of State ethics officials for review.

"I think it's a big step," Lugar added. "I don't know how, given all of our ethics standards now, anyone quite measures up to this who has such cosmic ties. But I think the Obama campaign people have done a good job in trying to pin down the most important elements."

But when asked what more President Clinton could do to clear himself of any conflicts of interest, Lugar explained, "I don't know, frankly... I would just suspect that given all of the ties, all of the influence that he has, all of the relationships that he is a major player in foreign policy. Now, Mrs. Clinton is going to be the secretary of state. They are married, they are a team."

In the same interview, Reed, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and top adviser to Obama, expressed his approval of the agreement. "I think this arrangement sets up a framework of transparency and disclosure. And I think that's a significant and important aspect of the confirmation process for Mrs. Clinton, Sen. Clinton."

Reed: Cinton Relationship a 'New Dimension'

But he added that "as it goes forward...the presumption will be that both the Secretary of State Clinton and president, former President Clinton will be very judicious in what they take on, because there's a new dimension here. The secretary of state and the former president are married, and I think that's going to set the standard."

Clinton is expected to be announced as secretary of state on Monday. Other announcements anticipated include General Jim Jones as national security adviser, Susan Rice as U.N. ambassador and Gov. Janet Napolitano, D-Ariz., as secretary of homeland security. Robert Gates is also expected to stay on as secretary of defense.

"I think they're excellent selections," Lugar said. "I think it will be a strong team. I would just say, as an individual, I look forward to working with each one of them. I hope and I'm certain Sen. Kerry, who is our incoming chairman, feels the same way. Bipartisan support of this team really is of the essence right now."

Reed agreed. "I think it's a superb group of people. Experienced, pragmatic. People I think who will also work well together, and I think they are a group of very talented people, whose talent is being enhanced by the dialogue between President-elect Obama and all of these individuals."

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