Hillary Clinton was sworn in this week as Secretary of State. Since her hearings, which took place a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been mulling around in my head the questions she was asked about her husband Bill’s foundation and whether it would pose as a conflict of interest in her own work as Secretary of State.
The questioning revolved around whether Clinton can keep objectivity in some of our greatest diplomatic efforts in the Middle East and in Africa when some of the foundation’s greatest donors are from these areas. Is Mrs. Clinton in danger of a case of quid pro quo by default of her husband’s activities? There seems to be an intrinsic assumption in this argument that Mrs. Clinton is an extension of the work and relationships of Mr. Clinton. So where do you draw the line at an acceptable amount of conflict? We all in our own work in nonprofits are aware of the importance of conflicts of interest with our board and our staff (If you don’t you should check this out). Because of the nature of Mrs. Clinton’s work, should she be held to even stricter rules? Or do the rules even apply to her?
In the end, it obviously was not enough of a conflict to deter her confirmation (Though it did cost her one vote). So what remains in my mind is how do you go about measuring and deciding what is an acceptable "cost" for the benefits we’d receive from having Clinton in this position? In your own work, you have to weigh these decisions all the time, not just in issues of conflicts of interest, but whether to move forward with a certain program or project and whether the benefits will outweigh the cost put into it.