February 25, 2015: Bill Clinton won’t tell the State Department how much he’s being offered to give speeches, making it difficult for the department to reject any offers.

Richard Painter (Credit: Harvard Center for Ethics)

Richard Painter (Credit: Harvard Center for Ethics)

Politico reports, “In hundreds of documents released to Politico under the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA], not a single case appears where the State Department explicitly rejected a Bill Clinton speech.” They raised serious questions about only two speech proposals. “Instead, the records show State Department lawyers acted on sparse information about business proposals and speech requests and were under the gun to approve the proposals promptly.”

The Clintons made a deal with the White House to require State Department ethics officials to give their approval of all of Bill Clinton’s paid speech offers. However, the deal didn’t require Clinton to reveal how much he would be paid for any speech, and he didn’t voluntarily disclose this, so the officials were unable to judge if he was being overpaid and thus essentially bribed. He also didn’t reveal potential conflicts of interests with those paying for the speeches, such as donations to the Clinton Foundation or other relationships with the Clintons.

Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer, says that since the department officials didn’t know the specific speech fees in advance, he doesn’t see how they could have fairly judged whether to approve the speech or not. “That would be a gap if they didn’t find out at all.” (Politico, 2/25/2015)