Senate majority leader Harry Reid helped set the precedent for looking into foreign backers when, in 2002, he demanded that Henry Kissinger reveal the source of his funders before serving on the 9/11 Commission. Kissinger refused to release his own documents, and therefore did not serve on the commission.
It's relevant now because Chuck Hagel, who has been nominated as secretary of defense, is not fully disclosing his own foreign financial dealings. This, despite the fact that more than half the Republicans in the Senate sent a letter asking him to do so before they could vote on his confirmation for the job.
“Your refusal to respond to this reasonable request [for more information] suggests either a lack of respect for the Senate’s responsibility to advice and consent or that you are for some reason unwilling to allow this financial disclosure to come to light,” the senators wrote in a letter to Hagel.
“This Committee, and the American people, have a right to know if a nominee for Secretary of Defense has received compensation, directly or indirectly for foreign sources. ... Until the Committee receives full and complete answers, it cannot in good faith determine whether you should be confirmed as Secretary of Defense.”
The Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is trying to give President Obama's nominee to lead the Defense Department some cover. In a letter released to the press, Carl Levin, the chairman of the committee, says that the call to release this information is "unprecedented." He says that the committee asks for a nominee to release "foreign affiliations." Which it does, but it does not ask for foreign financial dealings to be fully disclosed.
Which was Reid's concern about Kissinger in 2002. The difference? Reid called for Kissinger to disclose when a Republican was president, and is now not standing up for full disclosure. Which seems like an odd double standard.
Here is the letter Reid co-wrote to then White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez asking for full disclosure:
Dear Mr. Gonzales:
Section 601 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 provides that
“[t]here is established in the legislative branch the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
Upon the United States” (Commission). Recently, members of the staff of this Committee have
had discussions with attorneys in your office concerning the Commission. During those
discussions, your office raised an issue regarding a commissioner’s obligation under the Ethics in
Government Act (EIG), 5 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., to a financial disclosure report. This letter is
Written to advise you that the Committee has concluded that thedetermination of Whether a
commissioner is a filing individual under the EIG is within the jurisdiction of this Committee.v
As you know, the EIG requires certain federal government officials and employees to ñle
a financial disclosure report with their appropriate agency ethics official. Sub-section
103(h)(l)(A)(ii)(]I) of this statute provides that reports shall be filed with the Secretary of the
Senate in the case of an “officer or employee of the Congress,” as that term is described in sub-
section 101(t)(10), who is employed by a commission established in the legislative branch in an
even numbered calendar year. Thus, officers and employees of the Commission deemed to be
ñling individuals must file their reports with the Secretary of the Senate.1
Sub-section 111(2) provides that the provisions of this title shall be administered by the
Committee with regard to officers and employees described in paragraphs (9) and (10) of section
1010) which, by reference, incorporate sub-section 109(13). Sub-section 109(13)(B)(i) provides
that an “officer or employee of the Congress” means, in addition to certain officers and
employees whose salary is disbursed by the Secretary of the Senate, each or employee of
the legislative branch who, for at least 60 days, occupies a position for which the rate of basic
pay is equal to or greater than 120 percent ofthe minimum rate of basic pay payable for GS-lS of
the General Schedule. Sub-section 109(l 1)(I) defines the term “legislative branch” to include,
among other things, “any other agency, entity, office or commission established in the legislative
branch.” Thus, officers and employees ofthe Commission, deemed under sub-section 109(11)(1)
to be officers and employees ofthe legislative branch, fall Within the definition of “officer or
employee ofthe Congress” under sub-section 109(13)(B)(i) and the Committee’s jurisdiction as
deñned in sub-section 111(2). This conclusion is consistent With the opinions ofthe Office of
Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice. Seg 13 Op. OLC. 285 (1989), Commission on
Railroad Retirement Reform and U.S. Department of Justice, Ofñce of Legal Counsel,
Memorandum for Samuel Morris, Acting General Counsel, General Services Administration,
January 26, 1999, re National Gambling Impact Study Commission.
In sum, the clear language ofthe EIG confers upon the Committee the jurisdiction to
determine Whether an ofñcer or employee of the Commission must ñle a financial disclosure
report. Having made this determination, the Committee intends to exercise its authority to
determine Whether and under What circumstances commissioners must tile financial disclosure