During her time as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton sought to arrange Pentagon and State Department consulting contracts for a close friend of her daughter Chelsea. So reports Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon, based on recently released emails from Clinton’s private server.
The emails show that in 2009, Clinton arranged meetings between Jacqueline Newmyer Deal, whom Chelsea has described as her best friend, and Pentagon officials. Deal was the head of the defense consulting group Long Term Strategy Group.
Emails show that her meetings with Pentagon officials involved discussions about contracting. Emails also suggest that Clinton also tried to help Deal obtain consulting work with the State Department’s director of policy planning.
Clinton’s intervention raises obvious ethical concerns. As Gertz explains:
Government cronyism, or the use of senior positions to help family friends, is not illegal. However, the practice appears to violate federal ethics rules that prohibit partiality, or creating the appearance of conflicts of interest.
Specifically, the Code of Federal Ethics states that government employees “shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private organization or individual.” Pentagon ethics guidelines also call for avoiding actions that would create even the appearance of improper behavior or conflicts of interest. . . .
Both federal government and Pentagon ethics regulations state that “an employee shall not use or permit the use of his government position or title or any authority associated with his public office in a manner that is intended to coerce or induce another person, including a subordinate, to provide any benefit, financial or otherwise, to himself or to friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.”
The facts reported by Gertz suggest that Clinton may well have violated these rules. Initially, Clinton arranged a meeting between Deal and Michele Flournoy, the newly installed undersecretary of defense for policy. The well-regarded Flournoy is now considered the favorite to become Secretary of Defense in a Hillary Clinton administration.
Flournoy reportedly was seeking young women to mentor. One might have thought there were enough young women to mentor without “mentoring” someone looking for defense contracts. In this case, though, the potential defense contractor was referred by the U.S. Secretary of State.
Even so, referring a friend for mentoring would not seem problematic except perhaps on an overly literal view of the ethics regulations. In this case, though, the “mentoring” spilled over into talk with a Flournoy aide about contracting, according to the emails. In thanking Clinton for her assistance, Deal wrote:
I met with Michele’s other deputy yesterday, and we had a productive discussion about Iran and developments in maritime Asia. We also discussed contract vehicles and mapped out what we need to do so that we can go to work! I am very grateful for everything you have done.
A little later, Deal informed Clinton:
Happily, Michele Flournoy’s office is reaching out and has asked me to participate in a wargame next week for the [Quadrennial Defense Review], which I hope will build the foundation for a contract between her office and LTSG. I am extremely grateful to you for helping me find opportunities to serve our government.
Deal’s company went on to obtain a series of Defense Department contracts, according to Gertz.
In my view, Clinton’s intervention on behalf of Deal is arguably a case of “an employee [using her] government position or title. . .in a manner that is intended to. . .induce another person. . .to provide a benefit, financial or otherwise, to. . .friends.” Access that leads to the award of contracts where the official who facilitates the access knows the friend is trying to obtain contracts through the access may well fall within this description of prohibited conduct. The emails show that Clinton had this knowledge.
Clinton also tried to help Deal out at the State Department, the emails suggest. The Department’s director of policy planning, Anne-Marie Slaughter, turned down a proposal from Deal for a contract to do work for her office. But if Clinton secured access for Deal to Slaughter knowing that the access would be used to attempt to win contracts, it may not matter that the attempt failed.
Even without State Department contracts, Deal’s company has done quite well with the Obama administration. Gertz estimates the total value of its contracts with the Pentagon to be around $6 million since 2009.
There are famous exceptions, but generally it pays to be a friend of the Clintons.