Bill's Business May be Barrier to State Post for Hillary

Barack Obama isn’t likely to offer the Secretary of State post to Hillary Clinton unless he’s given assurances Bill Clinton’s global charitable foundation won’t create future conflicts of interest with foreign governments, according to a person familiar with the situation.

It’s not clear why the foundation issue has emerged as a potential barrier just now: During the primary campaign, Clinton’s team made it clear Bill Clinton would serve as a goodwill ambassador, but would significantly curtail his overseas fundraising if his wife won the White House.

The Clinton Global Initiative has earned widespread plaudits for its efforts to eradicate AIDS, malaria and poverty in Africa. But it could prove problematic for Obama if the former president continues to seek donations from foreign countries – at the same time his wife is asking them for diplomatic concessions as Secretary of State.

Spokesmen for Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and Obama had no comment.

The Clinton Global initiative, which has raised more than $30 billion since 2005, has solicited major donations from a handful of foreign governments, including a $1 billion pledge from Norway in 2007.

Obama’s vetting team expressed similar worries about Bill Clinton’s overseas fundraising when Hillary Clinton was briefly considered for the vice-presidency, former Clinton aides say.

At that time, Obama’s team was more concerned about the former president’s business ties, especially reports that he advised officials in Dubai on their controversial proposals to take over a company that runs ports in several U.S. cities.

Obama's transition team is now reviewing Bill Clinton’s finances and the operations of his 800-employee foundation to see if there is anything that precludes his wife from a high-level administration appointment.

Obama has apparently favored Hillary Clinton, his former rival, as frontrunner for the State Department job since before the Nov. 4 election, one Democratic official said.

It’s not clear if the Clinton foundation was directly discussed during the Obama’s meeting with the former first lady last Thursday. Obama has reportedly also considered New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry for the State Department post.

In April, the Clintons released their 2000-2008 tax returns under pressure from Obama. They also liquidated a blind trust to eliminate any potential corporate conflicts of interest.

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