Friday, February 23, 2007

Did Hillary return the money?

Even Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois Governor with the stickiest fundraising fingers in the Midwest, returned the money (after the press hounded him).

What about Hillary?

We're talking about money from executives at a company with a checkered past, International Profit Associates, headquartered in suburban Chicago. In today's front page story in the Washington Post about Bill Clinton's nationwide speaking tour that has raised millions, IPA is mentioned as a company that has been good to both Bill and Hillary Clinton over the years. According to the NY Times, IPA's execs have given Hillary's political organizations more than $150,000.

In the last several years, however, a series of revelations have caused politicians, including Blagojevich, to return most of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions given by IPA. The Chicago Tribune, in an editorial last year, discussed why:
The campaign also learned that (company founder John) Burgess pleaded guilty to patronizing a 16-year-old prostitute and that two business partners at International Profit Associates had criminal records.

More recently, the 1,800-employee firm has been at the center of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of 101 women staffers against 50 male employees, including Burgess. Oprah Winfrey had some of the women on her show in September to talk about sexual harassment in the workplace.
The background of IPA and Burgess is even more sordid. Burgess was disbarred as a lawyer and has an attempted grand larcenary conviction, and IPA has left behind a long trail of consumer complaints and state investigations, published reports show.

Hillary certainly knew this because the N.Y. Times did a lengthy profile on Burgess last year and quoted her campaign as saying that the issue of returning the contributons "will be reviewed."
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has collected more than $150,000 in contributions from executives of International Profit Associates, some as recently as September, and spoke at a company event in 2004. As a group, company officials and their spouses are one of the largest sources of contributions to Mrs. Clinton's re-election campaign.

Mr. Bush, Mr. Clinton and Mrs. Clinton all say they were not aware of problems with the company, known as I.P.A., or with Mr. Burgess when they took the money, though some problems were documented as early as 1997 in newspapers, magazines and on the Internet.

Other politicians have returned money to I.P.A. upon learning of Mr. Burgess's history, among them Rod Blagojevich, the Democratic governor of Illinois, and Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat running for attorney general of New York. Mr. Cuomo gave back $20,000 in 2002, when he was running for governor, and Mr. Blagojevich returned $125,000 the same year. Just last month, Wisconsin's governor, Jim Doyle, and attorney general, Peg Lautenschlager, said they would return $35,000 in I.P.A. contributions.

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Clinton said her campaign "will be reviewing" the I.P.A. contributions.
In light of today's Post story, it's time to ask if that review is complete.

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