The Irish man at the centre of Clinton money storm
Journalist-turned-PR man Declan Kelly helped get millions for Bill Clinton and charity
Donald Trump: Clinton’s campaign has attacked the Wikileaks exposé as the work of Russian hackers aimed at handing the election to the Republican. Photograph: Paul J Richards/AFP/Getty Images
What do Bill Clinton, the Clinton Foundation and the Gaelic Players Association have in common? They have all benefited from the efforts of New York-based Irish PR man Declan Kelly and his client, UBS banker Bob McCann.
Three weeks before Wikileaks showed Kelly and his business partner Doug Band at the centre of a lucrative fundraising operation for Clinton and his family’s charity (courtesy of corporate clients of the Kelly-Band consultancy Teneo), the Irish journalist-turned-PR man was helping to host Irish sports stars.
The GPA held their Ireland-US Gaelic Heritage Awards Gala in New York’s plush Plaza Hotel on October 6th, a fundraising effort to ask the Irish sons and daughters of America to dig deep for the cause of Gaelic sports.
Kelly, Teneo’s chairman and chief executive, spoke. So too did McCann, head of wealth management at UBS, as the recipient of the “Ireland-US Gaelic Heritage Award”. RTE’s Marty Morrissey interviewed two GAA stars on stage about the “Mind Our Men” campaign to raise awareness about mental health. It was an evening of bonhomie, raising money for a good cause.
These kinds of events are common in Manhattan’s Irish-American community and an effective way to raise funds for Irish charities from well-connected, rich donors. Kelly, the brother of former Labour minister Alan, has fronted many. The former Tipperary Star reporter, who made his fortune selling public relations firms, is a big mover and shaker on New York’s philanthropic scene.
Events, like the one hosted by the GPA, throw up opportunities for master networkers like Kelly and their clients. This was evidenced in Band’s leaked “Bill Clinton, Inc” memo – hacked from the email of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager – that surfaced on Wikileaks on Wednesday.
The memo stems from an internal Clinton Camp dispute dating back five years. Chelsea Clinton had raised concerns that Kelly/Band/Teneo were using their connections with her father to benefit themselves.
Band, an aide that was so close to Bill Clinton he was considered a surrogate son, offered the case for the defence in a 12-page memo written in November 2011. The former aide, who had helped to build Clinton’s lucrative post-presidential business, drafted the document for New York lawyers hired to review the connections between the foundation and its affiliates.
His case was in essence: we (Band, Kelly and Teneo) have helped you to raise so much money that you would be crazy to shut us out. He dropped in enticing figures: $50 million (€45.5 million) in “for-profit activity” for Bill Clinton and $66 million over nine years in future contracts “should he choose to continue with those arrangements”.
Kelly figures prominently at the crossroads between the Clinton family’s charitable and personal financial interests. Band outlines in his memo how his Irish colleague introduced several clients to Clinton and encouraged those clients to give money to the foundation and the former president in paid speeches.
One lucrative connection that Band boasts about was Kelly’s introduction of McCann, the head of UBS Wealth Management, to Clinton at an American Ireland Fund event in 2009.
“Mr Kelly subsequently asked Mr McCann to support the foundation, which he did . . ,” Band wrote. “Mr Kelly also encouraged Mr McCann to invite President Clinton to give several paid speeches, which he has done.”
Those speeches were worth $900,000 to Clinton and were based on a concept Kelly “developed with Bob McCann for the firm’s clients,” Band wrote. A further $540,000 went from UBS to the foundation.
Band wrote that Kelly “retained and continued to provide services to three paying clients” – Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical and UBS – and one pro bono client, Allstate, while he was working as Mrs Clinton’s US economic envoy to Northern Ireland from 2009 to 2011. This arrangement was consistent with his “ethics agreement of his uncompensated special government employee appointment at the State Department, ” wrote Band.
It was in place during the same year Kelly introduced McCann to Clinton and when Band was working for Kelly’s DK Consulting (founded in 2009 and subsumed into Teneo in 2011) servicing these clients.
The hefty commitments from UBS, arising from that introduction at that Irish-American event, and others illustrate the “blurred” lines between Clinton family business and their charity – at a time when Hillary Clinton was US secretary of state – that Republican president candidate Donald Trump has attacked her on this week.
Clinton’s campaign has argued, in addition to attacking the Wikileaks exposé as the work of Russian hackers aimed at handing the election to Trump, that there is no evidence that the money influenced any of Hillary Clinton’s policy decisions at the State Department. Teneo said this week Band’s memo shows that the firm never received “any financial benefit or benefit of any kind” from encouraging clients to support the Clinton Foundation.
Still, the arrangements raise questions around the “unorthodox” nature, as Band put it, of Teneo’s role, and not just politically motivated ones either.