Report: Chelsea Clinton Mother-in-Law Benefited from Own Taxpayer-Funded Charity

Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law, former Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-PA), is under fire for reportedly enriching herself from her taxpayer-funded charity–years after she left Congress. 

Margolies, who is attempting to regain her PA-13 seat and is the frontrunner in the May 20 Democratic primary, established the nonprofit Women's Campaign International (WCI) "in 1998 with the goal of helping women get elected to office in foreign countries" and paid herself a "$1,000-a-week salary to start."

That changed, though, when the charity secured a $600,000 grant from the Clinton Administration's U.S. Agency for International Development, according to reports, and she was facing a myriad of personal problems. Her then-husband, former Rep. Ed Mezvinsky (D-IA), was "indicted for fraud and bound for prison," and she had to file for bankruptcy protection.   

The Huffington Post reported that Margolies then decided to double "her own salary as head of a small, largely taxpayer-funded charity into the six figures, attempted to have the charity renovate and lease a mansion in which she would live, billed the charity for her automobile lease and other expenses, and required charity staff to assist with her other responsibilities as a faculty member at a local university."

To make matters worse, Margolis was the chairman of the board of the charity for the first three years of its existence and, "On Dec. 9, 2001, Margolies, as chairman, convened a meeting of WCI's board to discuss salary." According to minutes the Huffington Post obtained of that meeting: 

The Chairman ... noted that the salaries of certain members of the staff would be increased to a normalized level when the Corporation received certain pending grants. She also explained that her salary, which is currently $1,000 per week, would increase to $114,000 per year at that time, and the Board voted unanimously to approve that salary at that time.

Fredrica Friedman and her husband, Stephen Friedman, were the only board members during those years even though, as the Huffington Post notes, "nonprofit watchdogs consistently warn charities that a husband and wife should not both serve on a board." Furthermore, the charity reportedly leased a car for Margolies until 2006, and her salary was as high as $164,000 in 2011–even though the median salary for CEOs of charities with budgets from $1 million to $2.5 million is $94,924, according to data from a group that tracks nonprofits. 

Five years before Clinton's USAID awarded her charity with a $600,000 grant, Margolies-Mezvinsky broke her promise to her constituents that she would not vote for new taxes in order to vote for President Bill Clinton's budget in 1993, which raised taxes on the middle class. As she was casting the deciding vote, she was jeered with chants of, "Nah Nah Nah, Nah Nah Nah, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye."

The next year, voters in her district booted her out, as Republicans swept to power in the 1994 "Contract with America" midterm elections. A lot has changed since then. 

Jake Tapper, her press secretary at that time, now anchors CNN's The Lead. Her son, Marc, married Chelsea Clinton. Then-First Lady Hillary Clinton has been a New York Senator, failed presidential candidate, Secretary of State, and is the Democratic frontrunner for 2016. Margolies divorced her husband, the former Iowa Rep., in 2007. 

Bill Clinton, who has been active for his allies like Virginia's Terry McAuliffe and New York City's Bill de Blasio ahead of a potential presidential run by his wife, is scheduled to campaign and fundraise for Margolies on April 10.


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