- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2001

By Cleta MitchellThe only possible surprise in the revelations about payments to Hugh Rodham, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's brother, for his "success" in getting pardons for two convicted felons is that there could be someone still left in the universe who can be surprised by another episode of the Clintons' disgraceful conduct.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a statement saying she "knew nothing" about any of it, which is about what we would expect her to say. But there is something Mrs. Clinton could do to really help us out here.

Mrs. Clinton should publicly call for immediate public disclosure by every person, individual or firm who received any payments to represent clients receiving or denied pardons by former President Clinton in the final six months of his presidency. And she should mean it. And devote herself to making sure it happens quickly. That would go a long way to helping sort out and repair the nation's collective disgust with the Clintons' exit strategy.

The existing federal law passed by Congress and signed by Mr. Clinton five years ago requires registration by lobbyists and disclosure of their clients and certain lobbying activities. Certainly no lobbying effort in recent memory has been more in need of the antiseptic of sunshine than those involving these outrageous pardons by Mrs. Clinton's husband.

The Lobby Disclosure Act of 1995 requires any person or firm who has direct contact with the president or an "officer or employee or individual functioning in the capacity of such an officer or employee in the Executive Office of the President" who performs lobbying activities on behalf of a client for compensation to register as a lobbyist and to disclose who the client is, how much the client is paying and what the client is paying to get done.

There are provisions in the law which might provide "wiggle room" for the pardon lobbyists to avoid registration should they be inclined to want to avoid public disclosure of the customary lobbying information.

But to disperse this aura of unseemliness, it would behoove Mrs. Clinton to immediately request all persons who were compensated for lobbying for Clinton pardons to come forward and publicly disclose their clients, their compensation and expenses, and their White House contacts.

Nothing short of full disclosure can possibly quench the stench from this entire sordid affair.

The lobby disclosure law was enacted by Congress because (as the law states) "responsible representative government requires awareness of the efforts of paid lobbyists to influence the public decision making process in both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government … and the effective public disclosure of the identity and extent of the efforts of paid lobbyists to influence federal officials in the conduct of government actions will increase public confidence in the integrity of government."

Mr. Clinton, in signing the law in December of 1995, praised its passage. "Last year, when lobbying reform legislation was filibustered to death, there were lobbyists crowded outside the Senate chamber who literally cheered … today, I sign that bill into law, and that's something for the American people to cheer about."

The president continued: "Lobbying has its rightful place in our system … but ordinary Americans also understand that organized interests too often can hold too much sway in the halls of power."

Mrs. Clinton should echo the former president's statements. She should call for compliance with the spirit of the law, urging these pardon lobbyists to ignore whatever loopholes of which they might wish to avail themselves and disclose publicly, as the law requires.

U.S. senators have a huge national microphone on questions of public importance. The stage available to Mrs. Clinton on this pardon matter is even greater than is normally available to her on other issues, for obvious reasons.

Mrs. Clinton's statement distancing herself from all of this is simply not enough.

Presumably, Mrs. Clinton wanted to serve in public office because she wanted a bully pulpit and the opportunity to speak out on important national issues. This is one. Mrs. Clinton should do herself and the nation a huge favor by stepping forward and asking for disclosure from everyone involved, pledging the resources of the Senate office we pay for to conduct whatever inquiry is necessary to fully and finally disclose everything about the great lobbying campaign of 2000.

Cleta Mitchell is a Washington attorney specializing in campaign-finance, election law and the business and regulation of politics.

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