“I think I’m probably the most transparent person in public life,” Sen. Hillary Clinton recently declared.
Much like her husband’s infamous Monica Lewinsky testimony, in which then-President Bill Clinton haggled, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” Hillary’s claim depends on what her definition of “transparent” is.
If Sen. Clinton thinks she’s transparent now that thousands of pages of scheduling records from her days as first lady have been released – because the group Judicial Watch and others sued to have them made public – sure, she’s transparent.
And if not disclosing her sources of income and sharing her tax returns since leaving the White House equals transparency, then yes, those Clintons are one transparent couple. On government disclosure forms, Sen. Clinton reports they have assets worth somewhere between $10 million and $50 million. That’s a lot of paid speeches and book sales. For a point of contrast, Sen. Barack Obama’s reported belongings, on the same disclosure forms, are worth between $456,000 and $1.1 million.
How have the Clintons amassed most of their wealth since leaving the White House? Where did that $5 million that Sen. Clinton pumped into her own campaign earlier this year come from? Who has donated to the presidential library’s coffers?
If Sen. Clinton really were the “most transparent” public official in the country, we’d know the answers to these questions. Instead her campaign hems and haws and says they’ll try to release some tax returns on or around April 15.
And then there’s the transparency that every taxpayer is interested in: How is Sen. Clinton spending our tax dollars?
The Los Angeles Times reports “Clinton has earmarked more than $2.3 billion in federal appropriations for projects” since joining the Senate. The Times also points out that it’s lucrative to be a Clinton contributor, reporting, “Since taking office in 2001, Clinton has delivered $500 million worth of earmarks that have specifically benefited 59 corporations. About 64 percent of those corporations provided funds to her campaigns through donations made by employees, executives, board members or lobbyists.”
Earmarks are often wasteful pork projects that pump federal taxpayer money into states and congressional districts at the specific request of congress members.
In a recent Senate vote, Clinton and Obama joined Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, who has long fought against pork and earmarks, in supporting a one-year moratorium on earmarks. (Of course in DC, not even three presidential candidates can beat pork; the earmarks moratorium went down in flames in the Senate, 71-29.)
McCain doesn’t request earmarks. And Obama upped the disclosure pressure on Clinton by releasing all of his earmark requests – including the ones that weren’t approved – since he joined the Senate. Clinton refuses to do the same. Call it Clintonian transparency.
Last year, the Reason Foundation, a free-market think tank that has advised the last four presidents, joined with a diverse, bipartisan coalition of 35 groups to ask each of the presidential candidates to sign an “Oath of Presidential Transparency.”
The oath commits the candidate, if elected, to sign an executive order in his or her first 30 days requiring the executive branch to adhere to the principles of Google government. This basically means the executive branch would post expenditures, earmarks, contracts and grants in a transparent, searchable database online so citizens can see how their money is spent.
Sen. Obama immediately signed the oath last August. Sen. McCain and Sen. Clinton haven’t.
McCain, at least, has a well-earned Senate reputation for fighting ferociously against pork-barrel spending by both parties. Clinton, on the other hand, has no real record of transparency.
Clinton’s refusal to sign the oath of transparency, coupled with her missing tax returns and aversion to share her pork-project requests, suggests that she hasn’t passed the threshold test for calling herself transparent.