APRIL 30, 2015
“Machine politics”—today the phrase seems quaint, evoking a bygone Gilded Age of Tammany Hall, cigar smoke and burly ward bosses getting out the vote. But as investigative journalists focus on the torrent of cash generated by “Clinton Inc.”—and the growing evidence of the influence obtained by that cash—it’s becoming clear that this is something new. Whether by design or happenstance, Bill and Hillary Clinton have created the first truly 21st century political machine.
Partly a philanthropy (the Clinton Foundation), partly a platform for post-presidential private enterprise (Bill’s speeches and consulting), at one time a presidential campaign-in-waiting (Hillary at the State Department and after), Clinton Inc. is everywhere and nowhere. It zooms across borders—Bill is in Africa! Hillary is teleconferencing in New York! Chelsea is speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations!—a creature of the digital age and global ambition, powered by celebrity, image and spin, relentlessly raking in money. It includes the Clinton Global Initiative, a glitzy stage for big money pledges to various Clinton endeavors presided over by the Big Dog himself, the Clinton Global Initiative University and the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. Under the auspices of the foundation, there is the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Clinton Climate Initiative, the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, the Clinton Development Initiative, the Clinton Economic Opportunity Initiative, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Just last week, Chelsea emailed me an update on the foundation’s “No Ceilings” initiative. Chelsea urged me to “donate before midnight to help my family’s foundation change lives.”
Then there is Teneo Holdings, a global consulting firm with deep Clinton connections. Teneo serves as a kind of private-enterprise satellite to Clinton Inc. Doug Band, Mr. Clinton’s right-hand man for many years, is a Teneo founder. Huma Abedin, Mrs. Clinton’s right-hand woman for many years, was a senior advisor to Teneo at the same time she held a top position as part of Mrs. Clinton’s inner circle at the State Department. Bill Clinton was both a paid adviser to Teneo and a client. Secretary of State Clinton’s former Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly, is a Teneo co-founder and CEO.
Teneo boasts of a vast reach across international arenas, partnering “exclusively with the CEOs and senior leaders of many of the world’s largest and most complex companies and organizations.” In a Clintonian claim of cosmic proportions, Teneo says the firm addresses a “range of financial, reputational and transformational challenges and opportunities by combining the disciplines of strategic communications, investor relations, investment banking, financial analytics, executive recruiting, digital analytics, corporate governance, government affairs, business intelligence, management consulting and corporate restructuring on an integrated basis.”
Got that? In fact, Teneo is rather shadowy, with only a few known corporate clients. It is best known for its relation with the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation. Journalists so far have seemed unwilling or unable to penetrate much further into Teneo. But that appears to have changed with Mrs. Clinton’s formal entry into the presidential race and the dawning realization among media types that the Clinton Foundation, Teneo and the disappearing State Dept. emails really do signal that some sort of gigantic sleazy game is afoot.
Still, the task is daunting. Where to begin? The Clinton Method of old, honed in the media wars of the 1990s, was a relentless parry of deny, deflect and defame. Today, most mainstream journalistic organizations do not have the patience or the money for the kind of sustained journalistic digging that is needed for serious investigative reporting. Advantage, Clintons.
But the wild card here, of course, is the new media. This isn’t your mama’s 1990s-style Fourth Estate. Times have changed. Today, social media can create a story tsunami in a matter of hours, even minutes. No one can control it. The legacy media still plays a critical role, but the fact is, it’s the Wild West out there, with thousands of independent operators, including serious investigative reporters, many with little more institutional support than a laptop and a website.
Reporter Ron Brynaert is one example of this new breed of investigative gunslinger. A former executive editor for Raw Story, Brynaert has been digging deep into the Teneo connection and publishing his findings at his blog, “-gate news” and on Twitter. While the media focus on former Clinton aide Doug Band as the key Teneo founder, Brynaert has explored the extensive Clinton ties of Declan Kelly, the Teneo co-founder and CEO. Based on Brynaert’s reporting, Kelly seems to be the real brains behind the operation.
Brynaert pays close attention to the timelines. Kelly served as U.S. Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland from September 2009 to May 2011. Brynaert asks, “When exactly was Teneo founded? If Declan Kelly helped found the firm while he was also envoy, that might complicate Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign even more.”
The official line from Teneo is that it was founded in 2011. But Brynaert reports that Teneo appears to have been registered as a business as early as 2009. “According to the New York State Corporation & Business Entity Database,” Brynaert writes, “Teneo Strategy Consulting LLC was registered on November 18, 2009, which was two months after Declan Kelly was appointed to the No. Ireland envoy post.” Brynaert notes as well that the website www.TeneoStrategyConsulting.com was registered on November 20, 2009, and began redirecting to www.TeneoHoldings.com on September 30, 2011.
Teneo is filled with former associates of the Clintons. At one time, the Teneo roster included Justin Cooper, a former Clinton aide who has been linked to registration documents for the private email server at the center of Mrs. Clinton’s State Department emails controversy. “Cooper’s bio was scrubbed from Teneo’s website,” Brynaert reports, “but a cache link reveals it once noted, ‘In addition to his role with Teneo, Mr. Cooper serves as Senior Advisor to President William J. Clinton. Mr. Cooper advises President Clinton on a broad range of issues, including finances, business matters, public affairs and politics. Additionally, Mr. Cooper advises and assists in operating the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Family Foundation.’” Five State Department officials from the Economic Envoy’s office also followed Kelly to Teneo, Brynaert reports: Stephen Meahl, Therese O’Higgins, Monica Milton, Steven Sullivan and Jacqueline Wilson.
In another post, Brynaert turns up new details on Mrs. Clinton’s longtime aide, Huma Abedin. Brynaert closely examines Teneo’s role in a December 7, 2012, event in Belfast, Northern Ireland, honoring Secretary of State Clinton. The trip appears to be one of those peculiarly Clintonian mixtures of self-aggrandizement, shmooze and money. Abedin was along for the ride. By then, Brynaert notes, Abedin was serving in dual capacities as a State Department employee and an adviser to Teneo, roles that later attracted considerable controversy.
Brynaert pushes hard on the Abedin affair. He digs up an 2012 Teneo brochure featuring her as a “Senior Adviser,” here:
And a photo of her at the Northern Ireland event, sitting behind Secretary Clinton, here:
Mrs. Clinton flew to Ireland to be honored by the Worldwide Ireland Funds, which describes itself as an “international philanthropic network” that has raised over $430 million for worthy causes around the world. It’s mission is to be “the largest network of friends of Ireland,” according to press release issued for the Clinton event. Teneo played a role in coordinating the Belfast event and Kelly met Secretary Clinton at the airport. Brynaert has the video. [Editor’s Note: Brynaert updates and corrects here.] In promotional material for the event, a Teneo employee, Brendan Murphy, is listed as a contact person.
At the time of the December 2012 event, Kelly was long gone from the State Department. But Abedin was not. It is an archetypal Clinton moment. Abedin is being paid by both the State Department and Teneo Holdings. Money and politics are flowing freely. Who is Huma Abedin representing? Teneo? The Government of the United States in the person of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Or the soon-to-be presidential candidate in the person of Hillary Clinton?
Aficionados of the machine can guess where this is going. Declan Kelly, of course, is a major Clinton fundraiser. Brynaert reports that Kelly raised “at least $1.5 million” for Senator Clinton in 2007 and 2008. “All events were held on behalf of a group called ‘Irish-Americans for Hillary.’” Kelly, it should be noted, is no slouch in the international consulting business. Before joining Mrs. Clinton’s State Department, he was an executive vice president of FTI Consulting, an international advisory firm.
As for Abedin, her dual roles have attracted the attention of Senator Chuck Grassley, who wrote the State Department in June 2013 requesting clarification. The State Department and Abedin did not provide Grassley with “a single document,” the senator later said, complaining that a “stone wall” had been put up. Abedin did not reply to Grassley, but wrote State Department officials that “I was not asked, nor did I undertake, any work on Teneo’s behalf before the State Department (and I should note that it is my understanding that Teneo does not conduct business with the Department of State). I also was not asked, nor did I provide, insights about the Department, my work with the Secretary, or any government information to which I may have had access.”
In her letter to State Department officials, linked by Brynaert, Abedin notes that from June 2012 to February 2013, her paying jobs included: work at the State Department as “a part-time consultant;” assisting Secretary Clinton “in her personal capacity…prepare for transition from public service;” work for the Clinton Foundation assessing programs and helping plan for Mrs. Clinton’s “post-State philanthropic activities;” and work for Teneo Holdings providing “strategic advice and consulting services.”
Thus, at the time of the December 2012 event in Belfast, Brynaert notes, Abedin was simultaneously employed by “the State Department, Teneo, the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton” in a personal capacity.
Citing possible misconduct and misrepresentation, Judicial Watch has asked a federal judge to reopen a Freedom of Information lawsuit that sought records related to Abedin’s multiple roles at the State Department and with Teneo.