Clinton charity funds questioned

Donor aided by senator gave to foundation

An upstate New York developer donated $100,000 to former President Bill Clinton's foundation in November 2004, about the same time that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton helped secure millions of dollars in federal assistance for the businessman's mall project.

Hillary Clinton helped enact legislation allowing the developer, Robert J. Congel, to use tax-free bonds to help finance the construction of the Destiny USA entertainment and shopping complex, an expansion of the Carousel Center in Syracuse, N.Y.

Hillary Clinton also helped secure an earmark in a highway bill that set aside $5 million for Destiny USA roadway construction.

The bill with the tax-free bonds provision became law in October 2004, weeks before the donation was made, and the highway bill with the earmark became law in August 2005, about nine months after the donation was made.

Congel and Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton, both said there was no connection between his donation and her legislative work on his project's behalf.

Hillary Clinton supported the expansion of Carousel mall "purely as part of her unwavering commitment to improving upstate New York's struggling economy, and nothing more," Reines said.

Bill Clinton set up his foundation as he was leaving the White House and as his wife was transforming herself from first lady to U.S. senator from New York. The William J. Clinton Foundation finances his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., as well as programs that work on AIDS, poverty, climate change and other causes worldwide.

Donations to causes and charities favored by lawmakers have been an ethics flashpoint in Congress in recent months, particularly the controversy over Rep. Charles B. Rangel's fundraising for a center at the City College of New York from businesses with interests before the House Ways and Means Committee, which he leads.

Unlike campaign contribution regulations, there is no federal law requiring former presidents or their spouses to disclose money they collect for their foundations.

But the Clintons last month revealed the identity of donors to Bill Clinton's foundation as part of an agreement with President-elect Barack Obama, who selected Hillary Clinton as his nominee for secretary of state.

Most of the attention on the disclosure list has focused on millions of dollars donated by foreign tycoons and Middle Eastern governments, like Saudi Arabia, which have an interest in the U.S. foreign policy that Hillary Clinton would direct as the nation's chief diplomat (Charlie Savage, New York Times, 1.04.2009)