The More Hillary Tries To Explain...

When the White House released new documents detailing Hillary Rodham Clinton's commodities trading in the late '70s, it hoped the disclosure would end the media's hunt for improprieties. Sorry. The material--trading records from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange--raises as many new questions as it answers about the First Lady's foray into


-- Her first trade was to sell short 10 cattle contracts, a bet on falling prices. That seems to contradict Mrs. Clinton's claim at her Apr. 22 press conference that she got into cattle futures because friend James Blair predicted a bull market. The Clintons' personal attorney, David Kendall, says there's no contradiction: "She never said she was just going to trade long positions." But a top Merc official says it's unheard of for a novice to go short on a first trade.

-- It was widely reported that Mrs. Clinton's initial stake of $1,000 was less than 10% of normal margin requirements. But overlooked was the fact that half of that should have gone for commissions. That meant her stake could have been wiped out by a mere blip in the volatile cattle market. Lucky for her, the investment swelled to $6,300 the next day. Kendall says Mrs. Clinton "fully understood" the risks and would have made good on losses had the market moved against her.

-- The Merc has not released all the records it has on Mrs. Clinton's trades. Thomas Tyler Jr., a former Commodity Futures Trading Commission attorney who reviewed the latest disclosures for BUSINESS WEEK, notes that key information is missing. Tyler believes the Merc could match up customers on the other end of Mrs. Clinton's trades, possibly proving Merc insiders' claims that she got preferential treatment from her broker, Robert "Red" Bone. A Merc attorney says the exchange--which prepared its own report before the White House asked for the records--didn't match up trades since that would have been time-consuming and costly.