Just as I predicted he would, Chuck Hagel has tried to get by with a skimpy disclosure to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan organization, released a list of foreign government donors that include many of the nations most active in funding American think tanks, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as countries with a special interest in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, such as Georgia and Turkey.
The release doesn’t include the amount of money donated by the foreign governments and doesn’t include the names of individual foreign donors, and falls short of what senators have demanded, according to Republican aides.
One of those senators displeased with the ongoing game of hide-the-ball is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). His communications director, Sean Rushton, e-mails me, “When Henry Kissinger was named by George W. Bush to the 9/11 Commission, Harry Reid demanded to know any and all foreign funds he might have received, asking ‘What are they trying to hide?’ Now, when the nominee is for Secretary of Defense — the civilian leader of our entire military, rather than just an advisory commission — Democrats are suddenly declaring it is irrelevant whether he has been paid substantial sums by foreign governments, lobbyists, corporations, or individuals?” He makes clear there is unanimity among the committee Republicans: “Twelve members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have asked for reasonable financial disclosures, namely what compensation Chuck Hagel has received in the last five years and what foreign funds have paid indirectly for the substantial fees that he has received in the financial sector. If Hagel refuses to disclose whether he has foreign financial conflicts of interest, he will make it impossible for the Committee or the full Senate to make a fair and informed decision about his nomination.”
The Democrats’ hypocrisy here is stunning. While Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger and were both required to fork over the full array of financial data, Hagel’s protectors seem to think he is above that sort of thing. In refusing to provide the requested information on foreign affiliations or financial data (he still won’t turn over a list of those who paid him for his speeches, for example), Hagel is daring the Senate to rebuff his nomination. At a time when another senator is tied up in knots over his ties to a shady donor, doesn’t it behoove the Senate to get to the bottom of Hagel’s finances?
This lack of cooperation repeats a pattern we saw in the Senate when he refused to comply with the Ethics Committee’s demands for information on the McCarthy Group Inc. In a report titled, “Hagel’s ethics filings pose disclosure issue,” The Hill reported, “Hagel had reported a financial stake worth $1 million to $5 million in the privately held firm. But he did not report the company’s underlying assets, choosing instead to cite his holdings as an ‘excepted investment fund,’ and therefore exempt from detailed disclosure rules. . . . [S]everal disclosure law experts said financial institutions set up in the same fashion as the McCarthy Group Inc. do not appear to meet the definition of an ‘excepted investment fund.’ ” In other words, Hagel has never disclosed some of this information to the Senate, either while in the Senate or while he is now seeking confirmation.
It may be that patience is wearing thin even among Democrats. Foreign Policy’s Situation Report observes:
The White House may now be contemplating if it wants to go through with Hagel, who at best will arrive in the Pentagon a wounded Washington warrior. A friend of Situation Report notes that two others who were in the running to be Pentagon chief had notable public appearances this week: The friend e-mails: “Just after Hagel has a very poor confirmation hearing, the two runners up for the nomination are stepping out: [Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash] Carter the program/budget/management guru goes on an international trip (including Israel of all places) burnishing his foreign policy/strategy credentials; [Michele] Flournoy, the ‘global commons’ policy/strategy guru, publishes an op-ed in the WSJ touting a set of management/budget proposals. Just saying …”
Hagel showed himself to be intellectually and verbally deficient in his confirmation hearing. Now he’s preventing the Senate from finding out if he is just as deficient when it comes to financial propriety. Meanwhile, much more qualified and confirmable nominees are circling overhead as if waiting for a stalled aircraft to be removed from the runway so the can land.