- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2002

The Clintons kept thousands of gifts when they left the White House, including lavish presents solicited by then-Sen.-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to a House report released yesterday.
"Public servants, including the president, should not be able to enrich themselves with lavish gifts. The current system is clearly broken and needs to be fixed," said Rep. Doug Ose, California Republican and chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee on energy policy, natural resources and regulatory affairs.
Former President Bill Clinton reported keeping $360,000 worth of gifts, and White House staffers lost gifts, failed to report others, and undervalued the cost of some gifts, Mr. Ose said.
The investigation found that the former president and Mrs. Clinton, who is now a U.S. senator from New York, kept $173,000 in art objects and books, $69,000 in furniture, $26,000 of golf items, and $24,000 in clothing.
There are no caps on gifts, but gifts worth $260 or more must be reported to government auditors. All gifts must be logged in by the concerned federal offices and agencies.
Spokesmen for the Clintons called the investigation partisan and unnecessary.
"Congressman Ose's attempt to [renew] a year-old story has cost far more than the American people want to pay during this time of deficits and urgent national needs," said Jim Kennedy, spokesman for Mrs. Clinton.
Joe Lockhart, a former White House press secretary, told CNN "the core right-wing of the Republican Party is refusing to let go of an issue that was fully resolved last year."
Mr. Ose said the subcommittee's hearing was not intended as a witch hunt, but to show gifts are not being accurately reported.
Gregory S. Walden, associate counsel to former President George Bush, testified that the findings are serious enough to warrant review by the Justice Department. "The investigation this subcommittee conducted reveals the Clinton White House failed to register gifts, failed to report gifts, and undervalued gifts," Mr. Walden said.
"There is evidence that gifts may have been solicited, federal property converted, and false statements made on the president's public financial reports."
After she won her Senate race, Mrs. Clinton registered at Borsheim's, an upscale Omaha, Neb., bridal store, and received 11 gifts of china and sterling silver. The gifts did not violate Senate rules because they were accepted before she was sworn into office, but Mr. Ose said he found the actions "disturbing, at best."
Mr. Kennedy did not respond to a follow-up question regarding Mrs. Clinton's need for 137 five-piece china settings representing five patterns and costing $38,000.
The investigation found many gifts were not reported in White House gift records, including 22 presents from former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Miss Lewinsky gave Mr. Clinton 25 items, according to a report by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, but only three were listed. Other lost or misplaced gifts include a $1,200 Oriental rug and a $270 silver Tiffany box.
"The fact that gifts were misplaced or lost shows sloppy management and maybe more," Mr. Ose said.
The undervaluation of several gifts put in question the total dollar amount of the 94,000 gifts sent to the Clintons.
An Yves Saint Laurent suit was valued at $249, slightly below the threshold for triggering public reporting. "I have trouble going to J.C. Penney's and buying a suit for less than $240," said Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, Ohio Republican.
A Ferragamo coat worth $1,350 was valued at $800, a set of men's Spalding golf clubs and canvas bag accepted at a $200 value were worth $500 to $600, and a Tiffany silver necklace listed at $150 was worth $450 to $1,000, the report said.
Undisclosed gifts valued at less than $260 included a Coach leather travel bag evaluated at $200 and Gucci and Hermes ties for $40. "The fact that so many gifts were undervalued raises many questions, including whether some were undervalued deliberately," Mr. Ose said.
No presidential family has ever been held responsible for gift valuation, according to a statement issued by Mr. Clinton's office.
The report does not mention that "despite the fact that the Clintons followed all the rules which the report only indirectly and begrudgingly acknowledges the Clintons took the unprecedented step of paying $86,000 for certain gifts in 2000, including china and sterling silver gift items, for which they were in no way obligated to pay," the statement said.
Former President George Bush, whose presidency ended in 1993, received 41,000 gifts during his one term in office, and was required to report all gifts valued at more then $100.
White House gifts are governed by several laws involving six federal offices and agencies. Mr. Ose is pushing legislation to make the National Archives responsible for oversight.


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