Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Hillary Clinton placed dozens of her donors on State Department advisory boards between 2009 and 2012, federal records show.
The former secretary of state's agency appointed 194 donors who had given either to her family's foundation, her political campaigns, or both, or were affiliated with groups that had.
Those donors represented nearly 40 percent of the 511 advisory appointments the State Department made during Clinton's tenure.
The donor appointments do not provide evidence of any illegal activity, nor are they unprecedented in an administration.
In fact, presidents and cabinet secretaries from both parties have long rewarded friends and contributors with high-level appointments.
But Clinton has faced fierce criticism for granting access to donors to her family's foundation while she served as secretary of state. The large number of donors who landed positions on State Department boards raises questions about whether Clinton's preferential treatment of foundation and campaign contributors went beyond providing them access.
Some of the donors who received appointments to State Department boards were well equipped to serve in their advisory roles.
For example, Clinton's agency named executives from UPS and FedEx — two firms that have given generously to the Clinton Foundation — to its postal and delivery advisory board in 2010. Few would question the wisdom of such appointments, regardless of the checks those companies have written to the foundation.
Other donors secured positions for which they seemed ill qualified. Some were closely connected to Clinton's political past.
For example, Clinton's State Department gave a board appointment to Kaki Hockersmith of the Arkansas Governors Mansion Association in Jan. 2010.
Hockersmith was named to the United States National Commission on UNESCO, a panel that "supports worldwide humanitarian development and values," according to the State Department.
Hockersmith is a longtime Clinton supporter and friend, with ties to the family that stretch back to their Arkansas days. An interior designer from Little Rock, Ark., Hockersmith was tapped to decoratethe White House when Clinton's husband won the presidency.
More recently, Hockersmith bundled at least $100,000 in contributions for Clinton's failed 2008 campaign, according to Public Citizen.
Betsy Cohn, another six-figure 2008 bundler, also secured a position on the UNESCO board in 2010.
Cohn is a longtime Clinton donor whose financial support earned her a stay at the White House in the 1990s, when the Clintons weathered fierce controversy over their practice of allowing political donors to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom.
Hockersmith had also enjoyed a night at the White House, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
Cohn's relationship with Clinton landed her a job as vice chair of finance for Clinton's Senate campaign. As a party activist, Cohn served positions in the Democratic National Committee and NARAL, a pro-abortion group that supports Clinton.
Joseph Gergela, head of the Long Island Farm Bureau, became an ally for Clinton when she served as a senator for New York. During her 2008 presidential bid, Gergela campaigned for Clinton in West Virginia and Kentucky.
The New York agriculture representative landed a position on the International Economic Policy advisory board in March 2010 at Clinton's State Department. His appointment came shortly after he and his wife each bundled more than $100,000 for the 2008 campaign.
Ken Miller, a banking executive and member of Clinton's current Asia policy team, also secured a post on the International Economic Policy board in 2010.
Miller, a former Merrill Lynch board member, became a senior adviser at Teneo Holdings during Clinton's State Department tenure. Teneo is a consulting firm whose close ties to the Clintons have invited controversy since the start of the presidential campaign, particularly for the firm's decision to hire Huma Abedin in June 2012.
Abedin collected paychecks simultaneously from Teneo, the State Department and the Clinton Foundation.
In July 2012, Miller reached out to Abedin to seek her advice on whether he should join Teneo, emails made public through the Freedom of Information Act show.
Miller has contributed to Clinton's political efforts dating back to her bid for a U.S. Senate seat in New York, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In May 2011, Clinton named Thomas McLarty to an advisory board aimed at strengthening ties between the U.S. and China.
McLarty's firm, McLarty Associates, has given up to $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation. He and his wife have personally donated up to $500,000 to the foundation.
McLarty served as chief of staff to Bill Clinton during the first year of his administration and has given generously to Clinton's political campaigns, dating back to her Senate bids.
Sara Ehrman, former deputy political director at the Democratic National Committee and a veteran of Bill Clinton's presidential campaign, landed a position on the UNESCO board in Jan. 2011.
Ehrman is currently a senior adviser at the Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. Abraham is himself one of the most generous Clinton Foundation contributors, giving up to $10 million to the well-connected charity.
Hillary Clinton's State Department did not pack every panel under its purview with donors to her campaigns and foundation.
For example, the advisory committee on the U.S. role in the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission had few contributors on its rolls.
But other boards were padded with contributors during Clinton's tenure.
The Foreign Affairs Policy Board, for instance, was filled with donors in Dec. 2011. Thirteen of the 25 appointments to that panel went to Clinton donors that year, while at least two other positions went to advisers at the Center for American Progress — a group closely connected to the Clintons.
Familiar faces who landed posts on the foreign affairs board in Dec. 2011 included John Podesta, the current chair of Clinton's presidential campaign and founder of the Center for American Progress, Strobe Talbott, head of the Brookings Institute and a close confidante of Clinton during her time as the nation's chief diplomat, and McLarty, who had already earned an appointment to a different board earlier that year.
Hillary Clinton appointed nine donors to the Secretary of State's International Council on Women's Business Leadership in Aug. 2011.
One of them was Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation, a donor to the Clinton Foundation and a client of Teneo.
Rodin's relationship to Hillary Clinton drew attention last year following the release of emails that showed a Teneo executive sought Abedin's help in securing a White House appointment for Rodin.
Documents exposed earlier this month through an illegal hack of the DNC's servers suggest officials considered political donations a factor in granting ambassadorships as well.
However, most of those donors and party activists had boosted President Obama during the 2008 and 2012 elections and therefore could have looked to his staff for the appointments. Many of the lower-level positions on State Department advisory boards would not have risen to Obama's desk.
The appointment of one donor to the international security advisory board in 2011 drew enough controversy at the time that Clinton's staff stripped him of his position within days of receiving a media inquiry about the position.
Rajiv Fernando, who has donated up to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation and bundled at least $100,000 for Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign, was named to the elite policy panel despite having little experience in the area given his career as a financial trader. Hillary Clinton's team nonetheless rushed a top secret security clearance for Fernando so he could attend meetings.
Shortly after a reporter from ABC News asked the State Department for a copy of Fernando's resume, Cheryl Mills, Clinton's chief of staff, quietly announced his resignation.
Matthew Whitaker, executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, said the large numbers of donors who received government positions was "not surprising."
"It appears consistent with all of the other disturbing cases where Clinton Foundation and political donors received special access and treatment," Whitaker said. "It would be highly unethical to not only give donors special access to the State Department, but actually give them a board position based upon their donor status."
The Clinton campaign did not return a request for comment.