As Bill and Hillary Clinton fight to establish the White House dynasty of which they have long dreamed, they continue to block disclosure of their joint tax returns and White House papers from the first Clinton administration. While the Clintons promise to disclose their tax returns at some indeterminate future date, they block all attempts at accessing their White House papers and claim that it is not they but others who are doing so. White House papers particularly as pertains to Hillary Clinton's role in her husband's administration are an important record of the experience she claims as a qualification for the presidency, and voters have the right to know NOW what that role entailed. Barack Obama long ago released his tax returns, and while the Obama campaign presses for the Clintons to do likewise, Obama's supporters and all other advocates of honest government should add their voices to the call for full and immediate disclosure.
On the subject of the Clintons' tax returns last month, the New York Times demanded, "Show Us the Money," arguing that "release of the tax returns should not be made conditional on winning the nomination," and observing that while Barack Obama long ago disclosed his tax returns both Hillary Clinton and John McCain have thus far refused. "The reluctance of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain to reveal more about their finances ill-serves voters and the nominating process of both parties...," the Times further argues, "...It also sets a terrible precedent for future campaigns for important posts at the national and state level." Since 1984, as ABC News observed last May, only one previous major presidential candidate has likewise refused to disclose personal tax information to the public: Bill Clinton in 1992. As long as the Clintons refuse to disclose the truth about their personal finances, we can only assume that there is something in them they don't want us to see.
All efforts to access crucial White House papers from the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, meanwhile, have been blocked by Bill Clinton himself even as he claims that it is others who are holding up the process of disclosure, as Newsweek reported last October based on documents obtained from the National Archives in Washington. As Newsweek observes, Bill Clinton has tried to blame the present administration for the delay in releasing his and Hillary's White House papers. "Look, I'm pro-disclosure...," Clinton insisted in a testy exchange with reporters at a recent press conference, "...I want to open my presidential records more rapidly than the law requires and the current administration has slowed down the opening of my own records." Documents obtained by Newsweek under a Freedom of Information Act request to the National Archives, however, suggest that while insisting publicly that he seeks to ease restrictions on his records, Clinton has in fact issued private instructions to tightly control the disclosure of large portions of his archive. In a November 2002 letter obtained by Newsweek, Clinton requested that the National Archives withhold a range of documents related to foreign-policy issues, sensitive personal and political matters, legal matters involving investigations by Congress, the Justice Department and independent counsels, and communications between the offices of the President and the First Lady. Clinton's predecessors, Newsweek notes, put no such controls over the papers of their wives.
The controversy of the Clintons' White House papers re-emerged this week when USA Today reported that federal archivists at the Clinton Presidential Library are blocking the release of hundreds of pages of White House papers on pardons that the former president approved, including clemency for fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich. As USA Today observes, Bill Clinton issued 140 pardons on his last day in office, including several to controversial figures such as Rich, then wanted on tax evasion charges. As USA Today further observes, Rich's ex-wife Denise contributed $2,000 in 1999 to Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign, $5,000 to a related political action committee, and $450,000 to a fund set up to build the Clinton Presidential Library. Bill Clinton also pardoned two men who each paid Hillary's brother Hugh Rodham about $200,000 to lobby the White House for pardons. While the Clintons have denied knowledge of payments received by Hugh Rodham, the White House papers in question could clarify this and many other questions regarding the Clintons' White House years. As Time reported last November, access has likewise been blocked to Hillary's papers as First Lady of Arkansas, now under lock and key in a Little Rock library with Bill Clinton's gubernatorial files.
It is essential that the Clinton campaign be pressed to fully disclose both their tax returns and White House papers now, and that the issue of disclosure be brought before Democratic primary voters. As the crucial Pennsylvania primary approaches, the Obama campaign must call for full disclosure; and Obama supporters can help to increase the pressure through media activism, letters to superdelegates, and on the ground in Pennsylvania and other primary states. The voters need to know what Hillary is hiding.
Mark C. Eades