Both Clintons Will Be Subject to Strict Ethics Rules of Senate

Article excerpt

When they leave the White House tomorrow, Bill Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, will be subject to Senate ethics rules designed to protect the public from conflict of interest and influence-peddling by wealthy business interests.

As New York's junior Democratic senator, Mrs. Clinton and her soon-to-be ex-president spouse can no longer enjoy a regal existence paid for by others. Senate ethics rules preclude lavish dinners and expensive weekends with powerful tycoons wanting to curry favor with big political donors.

Even Mr. Clinton's future endeavors will be put under the spotlight. From now on, as the spouse of a senator, all his income over $1,000 from any source must be itemized in Mrs. Clinton's yearly Senate financial-disclosure reports.

This is the first time a former president has left office to return to the private sector while his wife remained an elected federal officeholder, so Mr. and Mrs. Clinton will continue to make history, said Marc E. Miller, a Washington ethics lawyer who has written a book about the careers of political spouses.

"It seems to me that [their] situation is so unique that we're probably going to see some of these issues looked at in a whole new way," said Mr. Miller.

Susan B. Bayh, wife of Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat, had some advice for Mr. Clinton in a recently published open letter.

"Most of the spouse ethics rules were written for wives with big causes and little jobs," said Mrs. Bayh, an environmental lawyer and Clinton-appointed member of the International Joint Commission between the United States and Canada.

"You will get used to the $49.99 dinners and sports tickets and the $99.99 gifts," she said, referring to Senate rules barring the Clintons from accepting individual gifts worth $50 or more, or a total value of $100 from a single source.

"Accumulate evidence to prove that anyone whom you wish to exceed these limits with is a `true friend,' " Mrs. Bayh cautioned, referring to another rule that says senators can only accept gifts exceeding the $99.99 limit from a close friend, such as a fiancee.

Mrs. Bayh also warned Mr. Clinton that ". . . before you take an interesting new challenge, you'd better check whether there's a `conflict of interest' with [Mrs. Clinton's] job."

Mrs. Clinton was assigned to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees funding of the federal interstate road system, along with getting two other seats on the Education, Health and Pensions Committee, and the Senate Budget Committee.

While the Senate rules do not directly restrict Mr. …