Minimal Disclosure

GOP senators dissatisfied by Hagel org’s limited disclosure

Hagel giving Clinton an Atlantic Council award (2010) / AP
February 11, 2013

The Atlantic Council has released the names of foreign governments that contributed to the organization while defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel served as its chairman, but Senate Armed Services Committee Republicans are not satisfied by the limited disclosure.

The foreign governments that have contributed to the Atlantic Council (ACUS) over the past five years include Georgia, Sweden, and Taiwan, as well as oppressive regimes such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Kazakhstan. The ACUS also disclosed the names of corporate donors, including many foreign oil companies.

The information includes neither the amount of the contributions nor the names of individual foreign donors, who can act as a pass-through for government money.

Republicans on the committee have been asking Hagel to disclose more information on foreign governments that funded his organizations and speaking engagements. Sources say the latest ACUS disclosure is not enough.

"It raises more questions than it answers," said a source close to the confirmation process. "It is pro bono activity, but he clearly has professional relationships with the Saudis, the Emirates, and the Qataris—three of the biggest funders of radical Islamic ideology and Islamic terrorist groups."

"Here’s the key question: How has Hagel leveraged these relationships with Middle Eastern figures for his own personal financial benefit? As secretary of defense, he would clearly have extensive interactions across the Arab world."

Another source close to Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee indicated that members would not be satisfied with the information.

"It is not satisfactory," said the source. "You’re giving names, no amounts, no dates. … It is a really lamentable impression that everybody is getting that Sen. Hagel wants to reveal as little as possible."

Democrats on the committee are objecting to the disclosure requests, claiming they are unprecedented and go beyond the minimum requirements for a cabinet nominee.

Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D., Mich.) wrote in a letter to ranking member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.) that the GOP was requesting "financial disclosure requirements that far exceed the standard practices of the Armed Services Committee and go far beyond the financial disclosure required of previous secretaries of defense."

There is some precedent for senators going beyond the basic disclosure requirements when there is evidence of potential conflicts of interest.

Before Hillary Clinton was confirmed as secretary of state, former President Bill Clinton provided detailed information on foreign donors for the Clinton Global Initiative, and agreed to disclose future funding of his speeches.

While this went beyond minimum disclosure, it was seen as a safeguard against the perception that her husband’s financial associations might influence her as secretary of state.

Henry Kissinger resigned as chairman of the 9/11 Commission in 2002 after the Senate Ethics Committee decided that commission appointees had to comply with legislative disclosure requirements.

The Bush administration had argued the position was an executive appointment not subject to disclosure rules. However, Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who led the charge against Kissinger, said at the time there were ''too many conflicts of interest for him to lead this task."

Democrats pressed former Sen. John Tower (R., Texas), a defense secretary nominee, in 1989 to provide information on his financial ties with defense contractors, beyond the legal requirements at the time.

Levin said during the hearings that there was a "growing cloud" above the nomination "arising from Sen. Tower's prior conduct and his handling of possible conflicts of interest." Tower lost confirmation in the Senate, 53 to 47.