- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2001

The Senate Ethics Committee is examining whether gift rules that apply to senators should also apply to senators-elect, a move prompted by public response to the $8 million book deal Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton signed weeks before taking office.

Ethics Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, and ranking Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada notified Senate leaders of their review in a letter distributed yesterday.

The committee has received "requests from the public" seeking changes in the rule, said the letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

Republican leadership aides confirmed the review is the result of Mrs. Clinton's book deal.

"Recent news reports have included discussion about the possibility of amending Senate rules of federal law to subject senators-elect to the limits of the Senate gift rules," the letter said.

"There has also been speculation about the possibility of having the Senate modify its rules to be consistent with the rules of the House of Representatives respecting the advance payment of copyright royalties," the letter said.

Mrs. Clinton said she would favor extending the rule if the Ethics Committee determines it is warranted.

"I have said repeatedly I would support that," the New York Democrat said.

Senate rules set a cap for income earned outside of Senate work, but Mrs. Clinton had not been sworn in. Advance payments are not considered outside income but must be made "in accordance with usual and customary contractual terms."

As a senator, Mrs. Clinton and her husband are also barred from accepting individual gifts worth $50 or more, or a total value of $100 from a single source. Ethics rules ban such gifts to protect public officials from conflict of interest and influence-peddling by wealthy business interests.

Mrs. Clinton signed the book deal with publisher Simon & Schuster on Dec. 15. Her tell-all biography won't be published until 2003.

The deal was signed five weeks after she was elected to the Senate, but three weeks before being sworn into office on Jan. 3.

President and Mrs. Clinton also accepted nearly $190,000 in gifts before vacating the White House, according to Judicial Watch. The Clintons have since agreed to pay for half of the gifts.

Similar legislation dubbed the "Hillary ban" is already moving through the House Judiciary Committee.

"The purpose of that is to stop a future Hillary Clinton from escaping the restrictions on giving gifts to members of Congress between the election and the time when members of Congress are sworn in," said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Judicial Watch filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee regarding the book deal and gifts Mrs. Clinton accepted before leaving the White House.

"As a candidate, she cannot accept gifts; as a senator, she cannot accept gifts, and she did so as both," said Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president.

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