By Dick Morris on February 11, 2008

Published on on February 8, 2008.

Hillary Clinton’s decision to lend her presidential campaign $5 million raises a key question: Where did the money come from?

Hillary says it’s all her money. But, is it?

The Clintons had a negative net worth when they left the White House. They had lucrative book deals for their memoirs. Together, they pocketed an estimated $20 million in advances and royalties during the past seven years, before federal and New York state taxes. But, they’ve also spent a lot of it: they’ve purchased two homes valued at over $5 million, commissioned an addition of over $1 million to the D.C. mansion that Hillary shares with her mother, paid over $4 million in legal fees, and, in addition to taxes, presumably paid normal living expenses.

According to Hillary’s financial statements, the remainder of their income, apart from her Senate salary of $162,500, comes from Bill’s speeches (many to foreign audiences and corporations doing business with foreign countries), $3.3 million from InfoUSA (a company reportedly under investigation for providing lists of vulnerable elderly to criminal con artists), and a reported $10 million a year from a partnership with supermarket magnate Ron Burkle and the Emir of Dubai to manage the Sheikh’s investments.

Their substantial income from foreign sources makes it appropriate to ask if the funds now flowing into the Clinton campaign from their joint personal finances are just laundered overseas money which could not be given directly to Hillary’s treasury.

Unlike previous presidential candidates, like Bill, Hillary has refused to release her income tax returns and won’t indicate how much her husband gets from his partnership with the Emir of Dubai. On her disclosure form she only indicates, as required, that it comes to more than $1,000 a year.

But newspaper reports suggest that, in addition to the $10 million given to Bill annually, he is seeking a buyout of his share of the partnership for an additional $20 million. Could that windfall be funding Hillary’s campaign? And, if it is, is the Emir passing money through Bill to help Hillary get elected?

Foreigners are not allowed to contribute to presidential campaigns. But Bill’s 1996 campaign was accused of taking funds from the Chinese government passed through James Riady and through Al Gore’s visit to a Buddhist temple.

The Emir of Dubai must be smarting from the rejection of his efforts to take over security for key American ports and one can easily imagine that a desire for political acceptance by the next president may have been behind his generosity to Bill Clinton over this decade. Dubai has been gobbling up U.S. businesses. It recently bought a 20 percent stake in Nasdaq, Barney’s, Loehmann’s, it bought the Essex House Hotel, a 4 percent stake in Chrysler, a $5 million stake in MGM Mirage. In other words, Dubai is here to stay and may need help and permission for further investments from the federal government. Is it too much of a leap to speculate that the Emir might want to protect his investment by buying out Bill so that he can lend much needed cash to Hillary at a crucial moment in her campaign?

Especially at a time when Dubai and other foreign sovereign wealth funds are seeking to buy significant shares of cash-poor American banks, the major infusion of money into the Clinton campaign from the Middle East could become an important campaign issue.

Hillary and Bill could clear all this up by simply releasing the details of their personal finances as it was once customary for candidates to do. Unlike Mitt Romney who is funding his campaign with personal wealth that is both inherited and amassed over the years, the Clintons’ wealth is of very recent origin and much of it may represent the fruits of influence seeking by wealthy foreigners like the Emir of Dubai.

As long as Hillary and Bill’s personal finances were, indeed, personal, questions about the source of their newfound wealth were on the periphery of the campaign. But now that this personal money is funding her campaign, voters are entitled to answers about what they made from who and where the $5 million comes from.

It’s time for the Clintons to release their tax returns – as Obama has done – and disclose all of the contributors to the Library.

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