In the wake of last week’s much-discussed New York Times investigative report detailing cronyism and mismanagement inside the Clinton Foundation, former president Bill Clinton issued an open letter in an attempt to stem the public relations backlash. Clinton’s letter challenged a couple of the Times’ assertions that his nonprofit had run deficits.
Curiously, Clinton’s letter left unchallenged the Times’ more troubling reporting–based on over two dozen interviews with Clinton Foundation insiders–that the nonprofit is rife with cronyism and conflicts of interest that leverage access and power to benefit for-profit ventures like Teneo, a consultancy co-founded by Bill Clinton’s “surrogate son” and former Clinton Foundation aide Douglas Band. Teneo, whose earliest clients included the now-defunct MF Global headed up by Obama bundler Jon Corzine, has also hired Hillary Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin, wife of mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner.
That placed Media Matters in the awkward position of defending Hillary and Bill Clinton from the liberalNew York Times. Media Matters blogger Emily Arrowood filed a blog post chastising the New York Timesfor its “misleading Times story, which apparently failed to perform due diligence in reporting on the accounting requirements for foundations.”
Oddly, Arrowood went on to scold conservative media outlets for having the temerity to cite the New York Times reportage.
“Predictably, conservative media did not wait to learn these facts surrounding the Clinton Foundation, preferring to cite the initial Times story to decry imaginary scandals and lob both new and old attacks at Hillary Clinton,” wrote Arrowood. She blasted Fox News host Eric Bolling, The Blaze, The London Telegraph (sic), former New York Times Magazine editor-in-chief Ed Klein, and The Atlantic as being part of a “right-wing noise machine” that was “scrambling to find a new Hillary scandal.”
Like Bill Clinton’s letter, however, Arrowood’s blog post sidestepped the Times’ more serious charges of cronyism and conflicts of interest and ducked altogether the Breitbart News report last week featured on Drudge Report that chronicled additional Clinton Foundation conflicts of interest not included in theTimes’ original report. As Breitbart News reported, by 2008, the Clinton Foundation raised at least $46 million from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Brunei, Oman, and other foreign governments with whom Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would later negotiate. In her role as a New York Senator, Hillary Clinton also reportedly helped New York developer Robert Congel win millions of dollars in federal assistance after Congel donated $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation.
Then there is the case of Teneo. According to the Times, the Clintons, Band, Teneo, and the Foundation were entangled in a web of crony alliances and conflicts of interest:
Mr. Band poached executives from Wall Street, recruited other Clinton aides to join as employees or advisers and set up shop in a Midtown office formerly belonging to one of the country’s top hedge funds.
By 2011, the firm had added a third partner, Declan Kelly, a former State Department envoy for Mrs. Clinton. And Mr. Clinton had signed up as a paid adviser to the firm.
Teneo worked on retainer, charging monthly fees as high as $250,000, according to current and former clients. The firm recruited clients who were also Clinton Foundation donors, while Mr. Band and Mr. Kelly encouraged others to become new foundation donors. Its marketing materials highlighted Mr. Band’s relationship with Mr. Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, where Mr. Band sat on the board of directors through 2011 and remains an adviser. Some Clinton aides and foundation employees began to wonder where the foundation ended and Teneo began.
The crony connections between Teneo, Douglas Band, and the Clintons had grown so alarming, reports theTimes, that Chelsea Clinton “became increasingly concerned with the negative impact Mr. Band’s outside business might have on her father’s work and that she cited concerns raised during the internal review about potential conflicts of interest involving Teneo.”
The Media Matters piece made no mention of Teneo, Douglas Band, Robert Congel, or Chelsea Clinton’s concerns over crony capitalist conflicts of interest.
Instead, following Bill Clinton’s lead, Media Matters dodged the New York Times‘ most serious revelations and quibbled over “context”–a risky tactic that may encourage the Times to dig deeper.
Indeed, just one day after Bill Clinton and Media Matters’s retort, liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd followed up the Times’ Clinton Foundation cronyism report with this: “If Americans are worried about money in politics, there is no larger concern than the Clintons…Clintonworld is a galaxy where personal enrichment and political advancement blend seamlessly, and where a cast of jarringly familiar characters pad their pockets every which way to Sunday.”
Dowd added, “The most egregious nest of conflicts was a firm founded by Doug Band called Teneo, a scammy blend of corporate consulting, public relations and merchant banking. Band, a surrogate son to Bill, put Huma, a surrogate daughter to Hillary, on the payroll. Even Big Daddy Bill was a paid adviser.”
No word yet from Media Matters on Maureen Dowd’s newly minted allegiance with the “right-wing noise machine.”