Chaffetz Challenges Ethics Office’s Ethics Over Clinton Speeches

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Rep. [crscore]Jason Chaffetz[/crscore] is questioning the Office of Government Ethics’ (OGE) own ethics — or at least work ethic — for possibly giving the Clintons a pass on conflict-of-interest laws.

Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wants to know why OGE’s director isn’t investigating former President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton for not disclosing millions of dollars they received from public speaking while the latter was secretary of state.

The Ethics in Government Act requires public figures to report any outside income above $200 to OGE, but spokesman Vincent Salamone claimed earlier this year the “disclosure of speaking fees is not required when a public filer or the filer’s spouse is acting as an agent of an organization and payment is made directly to that organization.”

The Clintons claimed they directed their speaking fees to the Clinton Foundation, but OGE Director Walter Shaub couldn’t provide Congress with that exemption reference when he testified before Congress earlier this month.

So now Chaffetz wants Shaub to provide information about the exemption his spokesman cited and documents from OGE’s interactions with the Clintons about their speaking engagements.

“It is not clear whether Clinton, the Department of State, or the Clinton Foundation consulted with OGE on the unreported speaking fees, or if OGE provided advice on whether the speeches were given in the Clinton’s personal capacities or as agents of the Clinton Foundation,” Chaffetz told Shaub in a Dec. 23, 2015, letter.

“The agency also declined to comment when asked by the press whether this exception has previously appeared in the agency’s public guidance or regulations,” Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz said government ethics experts “disagree that the Clintons’ speeches fall within the exception, stating that there is little evidence the speeches had anything to do with the Clinton Foundation. Experts are further concerned that, under this exception, an official or spouse who is an agent of a nonprofit does not need to report payments directed to that nonprofit, creating conflict of interest questions.”

Chaffetz told Shaub he wants to see the exact exemption the OGE spokesman referenced, the factors OGE considers in deciding whether someone acts as an agent of an organization or in a personal capacity, and all communications between OGE and the Clinton Foundation related to the Ethics in Government Act, among other things.

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