Accounting 101: The Clintons

Hillary and Bill Clinton are not nearly as wealthy as, say, Mitt Romney, but her recent $5 million emergency loan to her own presidential campaign has made one thing clear: the Clintons are doing just fine, thanks. Other matters related to the loan are less clear. For starters, where did Hillary Clinton find the cash? Her aides were reluctant to provide details. In e-mail responses to NEWSWEEK, campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson wrote that she "didn't borrow any money" and noted that she "has made considerably more than" $5 million from her 2003 memoir, "Living History." The loan itself, Wolfson wrote, "came from Senator Clinton's [50 percent] share" of joint resources with her husband.

Clinton, unlike rival Barack Obama, has not released her tax returns. But disclosure forms that Clinton filed with the Senate provide some clues to her family finances. They show Bill Clinton has earned tens of millions of dollars in recent years giving speeches at rates of up to $450,000 apiece. During one week in 2006, the former president collected $1.7 million for talks in Europe and South Africa. (He also collected speaking fees from Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, the Mortgage Bankers Association and other big firms.) The documents are more circumspect about other Clinton financial interests, including his annual income as a "partner" in billionaire pal Ron Burkle's businesses and from Vinod Gupta's InfoUSA. Both payouts are listed as "over $1,000"—a description that is legally adequate but not very enlightening. Clinton spokespeople recently said the former president is preparing to sever his dealings with Burkle and Gupta "should Senator Clinton become the Democratic nominee," in order to avoid any conflicts. But Gupta, whose firm has paid Bill at least $3.3 million since 2003, told NEWSWEEK that he is still paying fees to him; Burkle's spokesman could not be reached for comment.

When the Clintons left the White House, they were drowning in legal bills. But by last year, they had sufficient cash flow to pay off the mortgage on their home in Washington, D.C. According to local property records, they took out a 30-year, $1.995 million mortgage in 2001 but paid it off in full last November. (The Clintons also own a home in Chappaqua, N.Y., but there is no record of a similar mortgage payoff.) Election-law experts say that it is legal for candidates to make unlimited loans—or outright donations—to their own campaigns, as long as they do not seek public campaign subsidies. Candidates can even charge their campaigns interest, as John Kerry did in 2004. But a Clinton campaign adviser, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters, said that fund-raisers have been told that Hillary's loan is interest-free. Wolfson wrote that the campaign had signed a promissory note for the loan and that Clinton could forgive the debt if she wishes, though the campaign adviser said "she expects to get paid back when this is over."