April 6, 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.
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 no 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.
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]
It is not clear why Sen. Clinton low-balled her husband’s compensation from these two sources when she provided precise figures for his many speeches in her disclosure forms. Broad ranges of figures are permitted in these forms, but a category as vague as “over $1,000” is not included as a typical option.
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.”
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 Consortiumnews.com’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.]
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This story was published on April 7, 2008.