The Obama campaign Sunday called Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton a "veteran of non-disclosure" and, opening a new front, challenged her to release information about her income taxes, Bill Clinton's foundation and library donors, earmark requests and first lady records. The Clinton team said raising questions about her integrity is a "personal attack."
While Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama were cordial when they met on the Senate floor Thursday -- Clinton said they talked about keeping their hotly contested primary fight on the issues -- the top strategists and spokesmen for their respective campaigns in conference calls Sunday were anxious to deal with more contentious matters of ethics and transparency.
As I wrote in my Sunday column, Obama's team is finally free to launch an ethics offensive against Clinton because after declining for more than a year, he granted extensive interviews with the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune on Friday to discuss his relationship with fund-raiser Tony Rezko, who is on trial in Chicago on federal corruption charges.
The Obama team is trying to dilute Clinton's claim that because she and former President Bill Clinton have been investigated through the years -- from Whitewater to impeachment to campaign finance scandals -- she is "fully vetted."
David Axelrod, Obama's top strategist, said, "Sen. Clinton and her campaign says she is fully vetted, but the truth is that she is a veteran of non-disclosure. In this campaign, we have set a standard. Sen. Obama has released his tax returns, he has released his earmark requests, and he has been forthcoming on these and other issues."
Clinton chief spokesman Howard Wolfson said in reply, "They are running a campaign that is designed to tear down Sen. Clinton's character using Republican talking points." He added that "when you accuse somebody of being disingenuous and question their integrity and their honesty, as they are doing, that constitutes a personal attack."
Obama communications chief Robert Gibbs called for Clinton's income tax returns and schedules, earmark requests, donors to the Clinton presidential library and foundation, and to expedite release of her first lady records. "What is Sen. Clinton hiding and what is lurking in those documents that she believes voters don't have a right to know?" Gibbs asked
The Clintons did release tax returns for the years Bill Clinton was governor and in the White House. The Clintons have not since, a period in which they have earned millions of dollars from their books and, for the former president, from his speaking and business interests. Hillary Clinton and Obama -- as with all federal candidates -- must disclose income sources. Clinton has promised to disclose all post-White House tax returns on or about April 15.
The Clinton team asked Obama to release tax returns for his entire public career. He has for last year. He has shown returns for some prior years to news outlets. An Obama spokesman said they will soon disclose Obama's returns for several years before 2006.