Bill Clinton Must Spill Secrets Before Hillary Clinton Can Be Secretary, Says Obama Camp

Aides to Obama are already pouring over some of the former president's overseas links.

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By David Saltonstall
Daily News Senior Correspondent

Bubba may soon have to crack open his books, at least if he wants his wife to have a crack at being Secretary of State.

As President-elect Barack Obama mulls appointing Hillary Clinton to be the nation's top diplomat, pressure is rising on husband Bill Clinton to lift the lid on his vast network of business and philanthropic connections around the globe.

Aides to Obama are already pouring over some of the former president's overseas links, which include everything from his giving top dollar speeches to foreign entities, to millions raised by Clinton for his presidential foundation.

The issue is both simple and complex: How to make sure that Bill Clinton's international fundraising — from heads of state and others — would not conflict with his wife's very public duties as the nation's top diplomat.

"That's the first and most important hurdle," one senior adviser to Obama told The New York Times. "He does good work. No one wants it to stop, but a structure to avoid conflicts must be thought of."

Beyond that is the question how to handle differences of opinion that may arise between the two Clintons — one public, the other private — on, say, combatting AIDS in Africa or some other dicey international crisis.

While some information about Clinton's international fundraising has already been made public, the expectation is that the former president will have to cough up more to satisfy worried Obama aides.

"I doubt that they are looking for an excuse to pick someone else," a neutral Democratic official told Politco.com, "but rather are genuinely concerned that Bill Clinton's work, while worthy, would be greatly complicating if she were SecState."

Since leaving the White House, Clinton has raised millions of dollars — much of it from foreign sources — for his William J. Clinton Foundation but has steadfastly refused to detail his donors. Similarly, little is known about backers of his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark.

It's not hard to see how things could get sticky fast, however, based on what has been made public in the past.

Donors to the Clinton Foundation over the years have included the Saudi royal family, the king of Morocco, and the governments of Kuwait and Qatar — all major Middle East players that a Secretary Clinton will need to engage.

Team Obama is apparently trying to pry open some of these Clinton connections through a 63-page vetting document that all potential appointees have been asked to fill out.

One section in particular asks whether there are "any categories of personal financial records . . . that you (or your spouse) will not release publicly if necessary. If so, please identify these records and state the reasons for withholding them."

Interestingly, in the margins of a copy of the application leaked from the transition team to The Washington Post, the word "Clinton" is written next to that paragraph.

After earning $200,000 a year in the White House, the former president has raked in more than $40 million on the speaking circuit. Counting book royalties and everything else, the Clintons have earned a combined $109 million since leaving the White House, records show.