Gifts of china, cutlery and furniture worth about $75,000 (£50,000) were accepted by Hillary Clinton between her election to the US Senate in November 2000 and taking office in January, a congressional hearing in Washington was told yesterday.
Representative Doug Ose, who is spearheading an effort for new regulations curbing gift-giving to serving US presidents, said that the sudden rush of presents to the former first lady came at a time when she and her husband, Bill Clinton, were preparing to set up two new homes.
While questions about gifts to the Clintons spurred a huge controversy in the weeks after the White House was passed over to President George Bush, this is the first time that investigators have focused on the issue of timing. Once seated in the Senate, Mrs Clinton was barred from accepting gifts worth more than $50.
"The current system is broken and needs fixing," Mr Ose said. He described the fact that so many gifts arrived in the period before Mrs Clinton took office as "disturbing at best".
He also revealed that his investigators had found many of the gifts sent to the White House in that period had been undervalued.
He alleged the Clintons had listed an Yves Saint Laurent suit as being worth $249, one dollar less than the threshold for public disclosure.
The investigators also found items had been labelled lost or misplaced, including a $4,200, 18-carat gold, saxophone lapel pin and a $2,100 rug from Pakistan. Joe Lockhart, the former White House spokesman, said: "This is really kind of sad. The core right wing of the Republican party is refusing to let go of an issue that was fully resolved last year."Reuse content