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Husband's Fundraising a Knotty Problem' in Clinton Nomination
"It certainly is, I think, problematic enough that if she becomes secretary of state, Bill Clinton ought to be expected to look for ways to separate himself from the foundation," said Dennis Thompson, director emeritus of Harvard University's ethics center.
"It's hard to know how they could disentangle this interest from her duties as secretary of state," agreed Michael J. Smith, a University of Virginia politics professor.
Stanley Brand, a former counsel for House Democrats, said it is a "knotty problem" in part because "President Clinton, in his inimitable style, has raised the bar on what a former president has done."
But a complicated situation -- such as the Giustra donation -- may have an easy solution, he said. "There's only one way, which is draconian, which is to void the bequest. . . . I don't how else you remedy it."
A spokesman for the Clinton Foundation declined to comment. A spokesman for Giustra did not respond to written questions.
Bill Clinton's dealings with Giustra already have posed a public relations problem for his wife, in large part because, by accompanying Giustra on foreign business trips, the former president may have appeared to lend his stature to Giustra's mining ventures.
In 2005, Clinton flew with Giustra to Kazakhstan, where the two dined with the president of the former Soviet republic just as Giustra was preparing to buy into uranium mining projects controlled by a state-owned company. The same year, they traveled to Colombia as one of Giustra's firms brokered a coal mining venture there.
After those trips, Giustra expanded his charitable giving. In June 2007, the two men launched the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative -- a project that aims to bring sustainable growth to a number of countries, including those where Giustra has had mining interests. The former president told reporters, "I am very humbled by his gift and grateful for his support."