Saturday, April 5, 2008

IT COSTS A LOT TO BE A FRIEND OF BILL

MIKE MCINTIRE, NY TIMES Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton released tax data Friday showing they earned $109 million over the last eight years, an ascent into the uppermost tier of American taxpayers that seemed unimaginable in 2001, when they left the White House with little money and facing millions in legal bills. . .

Since Mrs. Clinton announced her campaign for president, controversies involving her husband’s business and philanthropic endeavors have occasionally raised questions about the potential for ethical conflicts should she win the White House. Among them is Mr. Clinton’s partnership with Ronald W. Burkle, the billionaire investor and supermarket magnate, whose deals have included investing money for the government of Dubai and acquiring a stake in a Chinese media company.

Mr. Clinton had previously not disclosed what he earned from that partnership, but the tax returns show he collected at least $12.6 million since 2002, and possibly as much as $15.3 million, from his work as an adviser and rainmaker for Mr. Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies. The lack of clarity is because the Clintons released only a summary of their 2007 income, which lists $2.7 million in partnership income but does not identify sources. Based on previous years’ returns, it is likely that income came from Yucaipa.

Since 2002, the former president has provided investment advice and helped drum up business for several domestic and foreign funds in Yucaipa’s portfolio, one of two consulting arrangements he entered into after leaving office. Representatives of the Clintons have said that Mr. Clinton has made arrangements to dissolve his Yucaipa partnership if his wife wins the nomination, to avoid possible ethical conflicts.

The other consulting arrangement Mr. Clinton has had was with InfoUSA, a consumer database company run by a friend, Vinod Gupta, who gave $3.3 million in consulting contracts to Mr. Clinton beginning in 2003, according to court records related to a shareholder lawsuit against Mr. Gupta. The shareholders accused Mr. Gupta of improperly spending company money on the consulting agreements and on private jet travel for the Clintons.

It is not clear from the tax returns exactly how much Mr. Clinton earned from InfoUSA each year, but a summary of the Clintons’ income from 2007 released by Mrs. Clinton’s campaign said Mr. Clinton was paid $400,000 by InfoUSA that year. . .

SARAH BAXTER, TIMES, UK, 2007 - The frontrunner for the Democrats in the 2008 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, has been hit by a legal dispute in which one of her fundraisers is accused of trying to "ingratiate" himself with powerful friends at the expense of his company. The row has revived accusations of the influence peddling and favors for donors that marred Bill Clinton's presidency in the 1990s.

For years the Clintons flew on Vinod Gupta's corporate plane, introduced him to world leaders - including Tony Blair - and received donations for their political campaigns and charitable foundations. They relaxed at his holiday home in Hawaii - next door to Pierce Brosnan, the former James Bond star - and jetted to Acapulco, the Mexican resort, while Gupta once spent the night as a favored guest in the Lincoln bedroom at the White House. . .

The lawsuit, by company shareholders, accuses Gupta of squandering millions of dollars on his high-profile friends, including $900,000 worth of travel on the Clintons.

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