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Hillary Low-balled Bill's Pay in Forms

By Robert Parry
April 6, 2008 (Updated April 16, 2008)

In her disclosure forms for the U.S. Senate and her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton downplayed Bill Clinton’s income from two key financial backers, billionaire investor Ronald Burkle and consumer-data executive Vinod Gupta, when compared with the Clintons’ recently released tax filings.

Sen. Clinton’s earlier disclosure forms listed the former President’s compensation as “over $1,000” each from Burkle’s and Gupta’s firms – when the actual amounts ran into the hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars, according to the tax returns.

The Clintons received as much as $15 million from Burkle’s Yucaipa investment firm from 2003 through 2007, starting with $1 million a year in 2003, peaking at $5 million in 2005 and leveling off at more than $2.5 million the past two years, according to tax forms and other data released by the campaign on Friday.

In January 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bill Clinton also stands to make $20 million as he unwinds his complicated business relationship with Yucaipa, which has connections to the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. [WSJ, Jan. 22, 2008]

However, a voter would have gotten little inkling of the value of Bill Clinton’s dealings with Yucaipa from Sen. Clinton’s disclosure forms. Although she gave precise dollar amounts for Bill Clinton’s many paid speeches, his earnings from Yucaipa were listed simply as “guaranteed payment to partner, over $1,000.”

In her presidential disclosure form, signed on June 13, 2007, Sen. Clinton also put the value of her spouse’s assets in Yucaipa Global Partnership Fund LP at between $1,001 and $15,000. The form listed interest from Yucaipa Global Holding as between $5,001 and $15,000, and other related holdings ranging from $15,000 to $250,000.

Under Senate ethics rules, senators are allowed to list work compensation for spouses as "over $1,000," but are required to spell out a spouse's exact amount for honoraria, such as speaking fees as Clinton's disclosure forms did, according to campaign finance expert Fred Wertheimer.

In presidential campaign disclosure forms, candidates also are allowed to offer broad ranges for their spouses' (and their own) assets, which Sen. Clinton did even on such mundane assets as former President Clinton's whole life insurance policy and his Arkansas state pension.

However, when it came Bill Clinton's multi-million-dollar holdings in Burkle's Yucaipa partnership, the actual value is not spelled out at all clearly. Sen. Clinton offered only a minimalist picture of how handsomely the California billionaire was rewarding the ex-President for his participation in the international investment partnership.

Though she appears to have been within her legal rights to list her husband's guaranteed payment from the partnership at "over $1,000," the couple's tax returns show that they were aware the actual figure for 2006 was $2.5 million. [See Page 51 of their 2006 tax returns.]

In other words, Sen. Clinton may have fulfilled the minimum requirements for public disclosure forms while giving the public little meaningful information to base a judgment regarding the significance of potential conflicts of interest surrounding Burkle's investments. Letting a spouse into a lucrative partnership deal apparently was not regarded as a serious threat for influencing a member of Congress when the ethics laws were passed three decades ago.

Sen. Clinton’s disclosure forms displayed a similar vagueness regarding Bill Clinton’s earnings from Gupta’s InfoUSA. The forms listed “non-employee compensation, over $1,000” – however, the tax material released by the Clinton campaign on Friday showed that InfoUSA paid the ex-President $400,000 last year alone.

Legal papers, which surfaced in 2007, showed that Bill Clinton had earned more than $3 million from Gupta’s firm. [Washington Post, April 5, 2008]

In signing the disclosure forms, Clinton certified “that the statements I have made on this form and all attached schedules are true, complete and correct to the best of my knowledge.”

Major Backers

Both Burkle and Gupta have been major backers of Clinton campaigns and other family endeavors, including Hillary Clinton’s presidential run.

Burkle ranks as one of Sen. Clinton’s “Hillraisers,” meaning that he has raised more than $100,000 for her presidential run. Besides donating to the campaign, Gupta has contributed to Bill Clinton’s presidential library.

Questions about the Clintons’ post-presidential tax records arose after Sen. Clinton disclosed that she had made a $5 million loan to her campaign in late January, before the crucial “Super Tuesday” primaries on Feb. 5.

Sen. Clinton insisted that the $5 million had come from her personal money, not from the couple’s joint accounts. Hillary Clinton’s Senate disclosure forms show that she had earned almost $10 million for her memoir, Living History, meaning that the loan indeed could have come from her own money.

However, the bulk of the couple’s wealth – estimated at about $30 million and accumulated almost entirely since they left the White House in January 2001 – appeared to derive from Bill Clinton’s lucrative speeches, totaling $10.2 million in 2006 alone, according to Sen. Clinton’s last Senate disclosure form.

From 2001 to 2007, Bill Clinton collected nearly $40 million in speaking fees, according to a review by the Washington Post. His paid speeches  – with fees as high as $400,000 – included appearances before landlord groups, biotechnology firms, food distributors, charities and leadership organizations all over the world.

Over the past eight years, the Clintons earned a combined $109 million, according to the tax data released Friday.

The significance of Hillary Clinton’s assertion that the $5 million campaign loan came from her portion of the couple’s wealth related to the political sensitivity – and questionable legality – of a husband or wife financing the campaign of a spouse. Federal law only allows the candidate to make unlimited contributions to his or her own campaign.

For instance, when Sen. John Kerry arranged a $6.4 million loan to keep his 2004 campaign afloat, he used his Boston townhouse as collateral, rather than count on help from his multi-millionaire wife, Theresa Heinz Kerry.

In the Clintons’ case, there was also the question of whether contributors – like Burkle – who have maxed out on the $2,300 legal limit for contributions to a campaign might be providing back-door funding through favorable financial deals. Given Burkle’s ties to foreign investors, there was the additional question of foreign money influencing a U.S. presidential campaign.

[For more on this topic, see’s “Hillary’s Curious Campaign Loan.” To see Sen. Clinton’s Senate disclosure forms, click on the years, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. For her tax forms, see 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to

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