America Letter: Emails reveal Clintons’ tensions over Irish-linked firm

WikiLeaks draws back curtain on bitter row over Bill Clinton’s connections with Teneo


Aside from disclosing the secret of how to make the perfect risotto, fretting about his socks, and pondering “Why is [CNN anchor] Jake Tapper such a d**k?”, a curious Irish angle surfaced in the leaked emails of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman this week.

The saga of whether Bill Clinton’s long-time aide, Doug Band, and his business partner, Irish journalist-turned-PR man Declan Kelly, used Band’s Clinton connections to advance their business interests and open doors to top contacts and plum contracts has long orbited Planet Clinton.

Campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails that surfaced on WikiLeaks (a result, Podesta claimed, of Russian hackers) shed further light on private tensions in 2011 between Band and Chelsea Clinton, and her concerns that her father was being used by his former White House assistant for their financial benefit.

To give some background: In 2009, Kelly, brother of Labour Party TD for Tipperary and former deputy leader Alan Kelly, was appointed by Hillary Clinton, then US secretary of state, as US economic envoy to Northern Ireland.

Kelly resigned from that role in May 2011. Soon after, he moved to Teneo, a Manhattan consultancy he set up with Band and Paul Keary, a long- standing associate. Bill Clinton was signed up to its advisory board.

Foundation ties

Clinton Foundation

The messy collapse of New York brokerage MF Global, a Teneo client, drew unwelcome publicity to the Clintons and added to the tension.

Chelsea told Podesta in a November 2011 email – posted on WikiLeaks in the Podesta email dump online this week – that during a meeting with her father in relation to the Clinton Foundation, “Doug apparently kept telling my dad I was trying to push him, take over”.

Two days later, a frantic Band emailed Podesta to complain bitterly about Chelsea’s unwillingness to believe his assertion that Teneo and the Clinton Foundation were operating separately. He said that he was “starting to worry that if this story gets out, we are screwed”.

“Dk [Declan Kelly] and I built a business. 65 people work for us who have wives and husbands and kids, they all depend on us,” Band wrote. “Our business has almost nothing to do with the clintons, the foundation or cgi [Clinton Global Initiative, the foundation’s meeting forum] in any way.”

He then opened up on Chelsea.

“I don’t deserve this from her and deserve a tad more respect or at least a direct dialogue for me to explain these things,” he wrote.

“She is acting like a spoiled brat kid who has nothing else to do but create issues to justify what she’s doing because she, as she has said, hasn’t found her way and has a lack of focus in her life.”

A few weeks later, Chelsea still had concerns. In December she emailed Podesta and other senior aides to her parents to say that two people during a trip to London had “separately voiced concerns directly to me about Teneo”.

A Clinton Foundation aide, Ilya Aspis, had been calling members of the British parliament “on behalf of President Clinton” for Teneo clients, she said.

The contacts were being made “inelegantly and ineffectually at best” and “at worst” had people in London making comparisons between Bill Clinton and the “profit motivations” of former prime minister Tony Blair, “which would horrify my father”, wrote Chelsea.

She mentioned that another former White House aide, Sara Latham, had begun working for Teneo more than a year previously and “recently stopped because she was so upset, partly because of what Doug and Declan asked her to do”.

It is not clear from the email what they asked Latham to do.

Raise all this

Podesta replied to the group: “We need to move to a resolution of this quickly.”

In December 2011, Band protested to Podesta that Chelsea was “more concerned” about a “mostly false” New York Post story about MF Global and Teneo rather than the health of two senior Clinton Foundation officials, what she was doing to the organisation, or several stories that have appeared in the Post “about her father and a multitude of women over the years”.

Band said that he had to convince a senior staff member at the Clinton Foundation not to drive her car into the water on Staten Island because of “the stress of all this office crap with wjc [Bill Clinton] and cvc [Chelsea Victoria Clinton] as well as that of her family.”

He said that it was “going to hurt Teneo” not to have Bill Clinton on its advisory board any longer, but that they needed to come up with “a reorg concept for the relationship with wjc and teen that is lower key an handled privately and properly that we should discuss.

“Life is to [sic] short so let’s have a call and get this over with,” he wrote.

Bill Clinton eventually parted company with Teneo in March 2012.

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