The Rumpled, Ragtag Career of Hugh Rodham

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Hugh Rodham during his 1994 run for one of the U.S. Senate seats from Florida

Hillary Rodham Clinton's jowly brother Hugh faced a nation of raised eyebrows Thursday for his part in two successful pardon pleas. The sartorially impaired sometime golfing partner of the ex-president is taking heat for pocketing $400,000 in legal fees after two of his clients, Carlos Vignali Jr. and Almon Glenn Braswell, were granted last-minute pardons. Hugh's salad days were short; Bill and Hillary demanded that he return the cash, and he obliged quickly.

And while all this fuss about his potentially improper involvement in pardon-seeking has Hugh blinking like a none-too-swift deer caught in exceptionally bright headlights, this 50-year-old lawyer has weathered criticism — and, yes, even embarrassment — before. Chances are good he'll make it through this latest flap as well.

1994: Hugh Rodham, Dade County public defender, makes a run at one of the U.S. Senate seats from Florida. While he stomps all over his primary opponent (an "X-Files" junkie who suspected the government of a massive alien-related cover-up), he eventually loses by a gaping margin to incumbent Republican, Connie Mack.

1995: Hugh decides to take on the tobacco lobby, along with several other well-connected plaintiff attorneys. He has never tried a major case before, but manages to stick with the lucrative suit until a settlement is reached in 1997. However, the $365 billion deal failed to get the required congressional approval.

1999: In what is perhaps his weirdest scheme, Hugh teams up with younger brother Tony in an enterprise to grow and export hazelnuts from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. The $118 million venture comes to a screeching halt when Bill and Hillary discover that the brothers' business partner also happens to be the chief political rival of Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze, a key U.S. ally. Months later, Hugh and Tony were back in the headlines — the brothers reportedly thought it might be OK if they stopped actually growing the nuts and just kept exporting them. Once again, the White House was not amused.

2001: Back in the present day, it doesn't look like Rodham did anything illegal, per se, when he got involved in the two pardon pleas. But according to research by, Rodham does not appear in either the Federal Lobbyist Directory or in the registry on the Center for Responsive Politics site. And while the FLD and Open Secrets are not by any means an exhaustive listing of registered lobbyists, Rodham's absence from both lists indicates he might be eligible for civil charges as specified by federal law. After all, as a supporter of two pardon seekers, Rodham fits the official criteria (the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 defines lobbyists as individuals who (1) spend at least 20 percent of their time for a particular client on lobbying activities; (2) have multiple contacts with legislative staff, members of Congress, or high-level executive branch officials; and (3) work for a client paying more than $5,000 over six months for that service). This means he can officially be called a "lobbyist." It also means he's subject to a few rules: According to the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, "Whoever knowingly fails to comply with any... provision of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, may be subject to a civil fine of not more than $50,000."

He may be needing that $400,000 fee after all.