No, you don’t have to go to the dictionary to find the definition of “emolument”. I have taken the liberty of doing that for you. You can thank me later.


n. Payment for an office or employment; compensation.

[Middle English, from Latin Ä“molumentum, gain, originally a miller’s fee for grinding grain, from Ä“molere, to grind out :

Now that we’ve got that figured out, I’m sure you’re wondering why Hillary might have a problem with a word most non-lawyers have never heard of, much less used in everyday conversation.

Well, over at Volokh Conspiracy (its actually a law prof blog) they’ve actually read the Constitution and came across a hitherto obscure (at least in my Constitutional knowledge) clause which might trip Hillary up in her bid to become the next Secretary of State. As I’m not a lawyer, nor can I credibly play one even in the blogosphere, I quote from Volokh as he quotes from Professor Michael Stokes Paulsen: (emphasis added)

So, “Is Hillary Clinton Unconstitutional?” In a word, Yes — or, to be more precise, a Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be unconstitutional.

The Emoluments Clause of Article I, section 6 provides “No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time.” As I understand it, President Bush’s executive order from earlier this year “encreased” the “Emoluments” (salary) of the office of Secretary of State. Last I checked, Hillary Clinton was an elected Senator from New York at the time. Were she to be appointed to the civil Office of Secretary of State, she would be being appointed to an office for which “the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased” during the time for which she was elected to serve as Senator. The plain language of the Emoluments Clause would thus appear to bar her appointment … if the Constitution is taken seriously (which it more than occasionally isn’t on these matters, of course).

There’s more Volokh legalese translation on the subject if you feel the need to swim in the details.

Whether or not this little molehill of constitutional minutiae actually becomes a insurmountable mountain between Hillary and Foggy Bottom remains to be seen. Somebody with the time, means, and motivation would have to file suit to challenge Obama’s appointment on constitutional grounds. The wheels of justice turn slowly and are expensive to grease. After all, its just the Constitution.

But wait just a minute! If I remember correctly – and I checked so I am correct – one of the highlights of Obama’s phenomenally thin presidential resume was his claim to be a “Constitutional Scholar”. In order to fit that bill, don’t you think a “constitutional scholar” would have been required to a) read the Constitution and b) at least be familiar with the clauses and limitations associated with said document? I’m not asking for much, as the “Emoluments Clause” is found in Article I, section 6.

Food for thought anyway.

Speaking of food, I need to go buy a turkey.