Caroline Kennedy Refuses To Disclose Financial Records, Basic Information
by MumbaiBurns, Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 07:15:02 PM EST
My feelings about her being anointed as a senator are well known around these parts. I'm just wondering how was it that she sat on the transition team for obama and demanded records of future team members ( appointed and not elected in some cases) and now refuses to hand over hers. In the NY times article below she says IF ( read as AFTER I'm chosen) I'm chosen * cough * anointed , then ONLY shall I show you my financial records or any records.Missed in all of this recent hoopla and by practically everyone were reports weeks ago that Uncle Ted Kennedy offered a Blago like deal to Paterson, stating that by having her anointed, it would mean great things for Paterson in 2010 (indirectly)- because more money would be freed up for his reelection run in 2010. Now, it was not as juicy as blago's rant on tape but it was the same level of cronyism.
If she were applying to be, say, an undersecretary of education in Barack Obama's new administration, Caroline Kennedy would have to fill out a 63-item confidential questionnaire disclosing potentially embarrassing text messages and diary entries, the immigration status of her household staff, even copies of every résumé she used in the last 10 years.Caroline Kennedy is actively seeking appointment to the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
If she were running for election to the Senate, Ms. Kennedy would have to file a 10-part, publicly available report disclosing her financial assets, credit card debts, mortgages, book deals and the sources of any payments greater than $5,000 in the last three years.
But Ms. Kennedy, who has asked Gov. David A. Paterson to appoint her to succeed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton -- and who helped oversee the vetting process for Mr. Obama's possible running mates -- is declining to provide a variety of basic data, including companies she has a stake in and whether she has ever been charged with a crime.
Ms. Kennedy declined on Monday to reply to those and other questions posed by The New York Times about any potential ethical, legal and financial entanglements. Through a spokesman, she said she would not disclose that kind of information unless and until she becomes a senator.
"If Governor Paterson were to choose Caroline, she would, of course, comply with all disclosure requirements," said the spokesman, Stefan Friedman.
Mr. Paterson's office said his choice for the Senate would undergo the same background check as any cabinet-level officer in Albany, including verification of employment and education, a review of tax returns, and a criminal background check by the State Police. The governor's vetting process drew criticism this fall when it surfaced that his top aide at the time, Charles O'Byrne, had failed to pay income taxes for five years. The Paterson administration has since said it is requiring more extensive background checks.
The Senate's self-imposed ethics rules do not require any disclosure by potential appointees, although sitting senators are required to file financial disclosure statements by May 15 each year. (The latest filing by Ms. Kennedy's uncle, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, showed a net worth of at least $43.8 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which ranked him the seventh richest senator.)
But several ethics experts, good-government advocates and scholars, who called Ms. Kennedy's situation highly unusual -- because of her overt pursuit of the job, her celebrity and her lack of previous political experience -- urged her to reveal information on her finances now, if only for appearances' sake.
Ms. Kennedy made headlines around the world last week after alerting the governor that she wanted the job. She then began a public tour, meeting with political leaders around the state, and quickly cemented herself as the dominant contender for the seat.
"Precisely because there is no campaign or election, she should be more willing to disclose and subject herself to a greater level of public scrutiny than is required," said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a nonpartisan watchdog group. He noted that other major contenders for the Senate seat -- officeholders like the attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, and Representative Kirsten Gillibrand -- have mounted runs for office and filed public disclosures before.
Others wonder if Ms. Kennedy's unwillingness to disclose personal information suggests she lacks the stomach for the kind of intrusive questions that could come her way as a candidate in 2010.
"If this were an open primary, and all the people seeking that position had to run, she'd have to make all those disclosures, so why not in the appointment process?" said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, a watchdog group that lobbies for tighter ethics rules. "She can't simply ride in on her name recognition or place in history. The voters and people of New York deserve that full disclosure."
Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, another watchdog group, warned that requiring financial disclosure by "anyone who is speculated about" for such a vacancy could be untenable. "I would think it would be up to her," he said. But he called Ms. Kennedy's campaign for the appointment "kind of unique."
So far, on her tour, Ms. Kennedy has taken just 11 questions from reporters, has granted no interviews, and responded only in writing to inquiries about her positions on significant issues.
"She needs to deepen the public's idea of who she is," said Paul Light, a professor at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service. "To the extent she can be more transparent, she dispels the notion that it's all about her name. We obviously know that she's quite wealthy, but beyond that, we don't know much about where she gets her income, how she's invested, whether she has followed her own principles in her investing activities, and so forth. That would be very useful to know."
Ms. Kennedy also has not had to disclose the names and salaries of the people working for her in her bid for the appointment. Lawyers have assured her that federal campaign-finance rules do not apply in this situation, her aides have said.
Ms. Kennedy also avoided disclosing any information about her finances while working as chief fund-raiser for the New York City Department of Education. She took the three-day-a-week job -- director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships -- in October 2002 at $1 a year, intending at the time to step up to a $90,000-a-year salary, but she later decided to forgo the salary. Taking it would have required her to file disclosures with the city's Conflicts of Interests Board, officials said.
Since then, Ms. Kennedy has been a vice chairwoman of the Fund for Public Schools, the nonprofit arm of the strategic partnerships office. A 2006 state law required that the board members of all nonprofits "affiliated, sponsored by or created by" a city government submit detailed disclosure forms. But on Dec. 10, the city told an Assembly committee that the Fund for Public Schools would be exempt from the law, reasoning that the Department of Education is, legally speaking, a school district, not a city agency -- even though the mayor has control over the schools.