Ethics When Spouses Earn Paychecks

As politicians' wives increasingly forge careers of their own, questions about conflicts of interest inevitably arise

The presidential campaign completed one full revolution when Bill Clinton found himself standing by his woman on national television. The moment came during a debate before the Illinois and Michigan primaries, when rival candidate Jerry Brown accused the Governor of steering state business to his wife Hillary's Arkansas law firm. "You," the furious Clinton replied, "ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumping on my wife."

Conflict-of-interest charges are nothing new for political spouses, especially wives. They are easy to make and hard to refute, and can obscure a hidden intent to put an uppity woman in her place. "This is...