Secretary Clinton’s top aide was paid to negotiate a private deal.
Oct. 16, 2015 7:09 p.m. ET
Last week the Washington Post reported that Cheryl Mills, who served as Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department, was simultaneously being paid by a private organization to negotiate with a foreign government. And that foreign government has been particularly generous to the Clintons.
In 2009, while Ms. Mills held the second most powerful job at State, she also represented New York University as it negotiated with officials from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The school was preparing to open a campus there funded by the Abu Dhabi government. The campus opened in 2010 and welcomed Bill Clinton as a speaker at its inaugural commencement ceremony in 2014.
According to the Post, Ms. Mills was not paid by the U.S. government during the early months of the new Obama Administration, but was instead “officially designated as a temporary expert-consultant—a status that allowed her to continue to collect outside income while serving as chief of staff.” Outside of the Clintons and their staff, who else thinks it’s a good idea for senior State Department officials to be paid by private institutions to cut side deals with Middle Eastern dictatorships—or any foreign governments?
The Post also reports that Ms. Mills says she “received $330,000 in vacation and severance payments when she left the school’s payroll in May 2009.” That’s odd, because NYU policy clearly states that employees who leave voluntarily are not entitled to severance pay.
The school tells us that it normally “does not discuss the specifics of individual employee’s compensation,” but says the payment to Ms. Mills “was not severance in the customary or conventional sense, such as described in the University policy.” NYU adds that “the lump-sum payment to Ms. Mills included both unused, accrued vacation, and payments stipulated in her employment agreement meant to incentivize longer-term service to the University.”
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Assistant Editorial Page Editor James Freeman on Hillary Clinton’s former State Department chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and her ties to New York University. Photo credit: Associated Press.
Our guess is that the no-severance-for-quitters policy was written for the little people who clean rest rooms, not for Democratic big shots who use NYU as a landing spot between Washington or Wall Street postings. The generosity of NYU compensation is an issue for the students and parents who pay its tuition bills.
The question for the country is whether to again tolerate Clinton-size conflicts of interest in government officials. Ms. Mills’s defenders present her sideline negotiating with the Emirate as merely a theoretical conflict, but the UAE is a major player in the Middle East that had to figure in Mrs. Clinton’s policy considerations. A confederation of petro-kingdoms, the UAE is a U.S. ally and heavy purchaser of U.S. weapons but also a serial violator of human rights and home to various violators of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
The Emirates appear multiple times in Mrs. Clinton’s emails—at least the ones she didn’t destroy—including a November 2012 missive from Ms. Mills. The chief of staff was sharing with Mrs. Clinton a Wall Street Journal editorial that noted the UAE’s supply of money and arms to groups vying for control of Libya. Mrs. Clinton asked for a printed copy.
Speaking of Clintonian conflicts, while at State Ms. Mills was among those who reviewed the paid speaking engagements of her former boss Bill Clinton. And based on an interview she gave to the Post, Ms. Mills started performing this role at State while she was still serving on the board of the Clinton Foundation. During Mrs. Clinton’s time at State, the department gave Bill Clinton the green light to rake in cash in the Emirates.
Mr. Clinton’s standard speaking fee in the petro-kingdoms seems to be $500,000. That’s what he collected for a 2010 speech in the UAE, according to CNN, and for a 2011 Abu Dhabi speech, according to Politifact. He received the same figure for a 2013 speech in Abu Dhabi, according to the Clinton campaign. The website Arabian Business reported in August that he has been paid a total of $5.6 million since 2011 by Dubai’s GEMS Education, for speech-making and other services.
The UAE government has given between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, and the UAE’s powerful Zayed family has given a similar amount. And so has GEMS. And so has the Dubai Foundation. Dollar Bill Clinton seems to have drilled every well of cash on the Arabian peninsula.
With her debate performance this week against a weak field, Hillary Clinton has again become the favorite for the Democratic nomination. That’s all the more reason for Americans to focus again on the ethical corner-cutting of the Clintons and their entourage.