Can­di­dates urged to lay out ethics com­mit­ments

In­tegrity ad­vo­cates say Clin­ton has been more open in cam­paign than Trump

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Fre­dreka Schouten @fschouten

Pres­i­dent Obama’s al­lies of­ten tout his record on ethics and trans­parency in the White House.

He limited hires of fed­eral lob­by­ists, and he barred them from fund­ing his cam­paigns and in­au­gu­ral events. He broke ground by pub­licly re­leas­ing the logs of who vis­its the White House.

It’s not clear whether ei­ther can­di­date vy­ing to suc­ceed him would main­tain those stan­dards.

Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton ac­cepts cam­paign money from lob­by­ists and re­lies on them to col­lect po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions from oth­ers. In all, fed­eral lob­by­ists have raised a lit­tle more than $7 mil­lion on her be­half through the end of June. Clin­ton dis­closes the names of peo­ple who raise money on her be­half. Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump has not.

In an elec­tion that has seen every­one from Trump to Clin­ton’s van­quished ri­val, Sen. Bernie Sanders, rail against a “rigged” sys­tem in Washington, govern­ment-in­tegrity ad­vo­cates say Clin­ton has far ex­ceeded Trump’s level of dis­clo­sure on ev­ery­thing from tax re­turns to top fundrais­ers. They’d like the can­di­dates to de­tail the ethics poli­cies they would en­act if elected.

“It’s re­mark­able that post-La­bor Day, we don’t have a com­mit­ment from ei­ther can­di­date on these mean­ing­ful trans­parency is­sues,” said Mered­ith McGe­hee, pol­icy di­rec­tor of the non-par­ti­san Cam­paign Le­gal Cen­ter.

Nei­ther cam­paign re­sponded to in­ter­view re­quests on the topic — even as they face fresh trans­parency ques­tions this week.

Clin­ton, 68, fell ill Sun­day, and her aides ac­knowl­edged they mis­han­dled the sit­u­a­tion by wait­ing two days to dis­close a pneu­mo­nia di­ag­no­sis. Clin­ton’s camp promised to re­lease more med­i­cal de­tails in the com­ing days. So has Trump, who said he un­der­went a med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion in the past week. He is sched­uled to do an hour-long in­ter­view on the topic Thurs­day on The Dr. Oz Show.

Pre­vi­ous de­tails about Trump’s health came from a four-para­graph let­ter from his physi­cian, Harold Born­stein, which said the 70-year-old would be “the health­i­est in­di­vid­ual ever elected to the pres­i­dency.”

“It’s re­mark­able that post-La­bor Day, we don’t have a com­mit­ment from ei­ther can­di­date on these mean­ing­ful trans­parency is­sues.” Mered­ith McGe­hee, Cam­paign Le­gal Cen­ter

Last year, Clin­ton re­leased a nearly two-page let­ter from her doc­tor that pro­nounced her in “ex­cel­lent phys­i­cal con­di­tion” and spelled out test re­sults and a num­ber of con­di­tions, such hy­per­thy­roidism.

Eight years ago, Ari­zona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, let re­porters view more than 1,100 pages of his med­i­cal his­tory to quell con­cerns about his health. McCain is a can­cer sur­vivor who spent more than five years as a pris­oner of war in North Viet­nam.

In 2008, a theme of Obama’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign was a drive to re­duce the in­flu­ence of lob­by­ists in Washington and create a more open govern­ment. On his first day in of­fice, Obama signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that barred for­mer fed­eral lob­by­ists from work­ing for agen­cies they had lob­bied dur­ing the pre­vi­ous two years. He barred his ap­pointees from lob­by­ing their ex-col­leagues for two years af­ter leav­ing the govern­ment, although crit­ics note that hasn’t stopped a stream of for­mer aides from tak­ing lu­cra­tive govern­ment-af­fairs jobs.

“One can cer­tainly crit­i­cize his trans­parency record, but you can’t say it wasn’t part of his agenda,” said John Won­der­lich of the non-profit Sun­light Foun­da­tion. This year, he said, “trans­parency is com­ing up in a neg­a­tive, ac­cusatory as­pect, rather than: ‘How we can we run the govern­ment bet­ter?’ ”

Clin­ton, who has re­leased nearly 40 years of tax re­turns, has ham­mered Trump over his re­fusal to re­lease his. He has cited an on­go­ing IRS au­dit as the ob­sta­cle. Pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates aren’t re­quired to re­lease their tax re­turns, but every ma­jor-party nom­i­nee has done so for the past four decades.

Tues­day, Trump cam­paign man­ager Kellyanne Con­way told CNN that Trump would make his taxes pub­lic “when his lawyers and his ac­coun­tants tell him that he should re­lease them.”

Trump’s camp rou­tinely casts Clin­ton as cor­rupt, slam­ming her for erasing thou­sands of emails on the pri­vate server she used as sec­re­tary of State and grant­ing State Depart­ment ac­cess to Clin­ton Foun­da­tion donors.

McGe­hee, other govern­ment watch­dogs and Clin­ton al­lies say the for­mer sec­re­tary of State re­mains far ahead of Trump on trans­parency.

“It doesn’t com­pare,” said Nor­man Eisen, who served as Obama’s top ethics lawyer in the White House. “Hil­lary Clin­ton has promised to re­dress Ci­ti­zens United, and Mr. Trump has brought the head of Ci­ti­zens United into his cam­paign!” he said, re­fer­ring to the ap­point­ment of vet­eran con­ser­va­tive ac­tivist David Bossie as Trump’s deputy cam­paign man­ager.

Un­til re­cently, Bossie ran Ci­ti­zens United, the group whose case be­fore the Supreme Court led to a block­buster de­ci­sion in 2010 al­low­ing un­lim­ited cor­po­rate and union money in can­di­date elec­tions.

Obama’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der on ethics will re­main in force af­ter he leaves of­fice, but the next pres­i­dent can opt to re­scind it or re­place it with his or her own ethics pol­icy. There are signs that Clin­ton aides are de­vis­ing one. Her camp has reached out to watch­dogs to gather more ideas on ethics, McGe­hee said.

Trump has made blan­ket state­ments about Obama’s or­ders, and in a speech Mon­day, he pledged to “im­me­di­ately ter­mi­nate every sin­gle un­con­sti­tu­tional ex­ec­u­tive or­der” Obama has signed.

AP

Don­ald Trump

AP

Hil­lary Clin­ton

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