The Man at the Center of 'Bill Clinton Inc.'
Doug Band helped everyone get rich in the post-presidential empire, but his re-emergence in the WikiLeaks hack is another headache for Hillary.
Who is Doug Band, and what did he do for Bill Clinton?
A little bit of everything, it turns out.
He helped launch the Clinton Foundation, came up with the idea for the Clinton Global Initiative, brokered deals for paid speeches that enriched Clinton, and then started a private consulting firm called Teneo that made the Foundation, Bill Clinton, and Band himself even wealthier.
All of that became clear in the latest batch of hacked emails released by WikiLeaks, which include messages from Band and a 12-page memo that he wrote both explaining and defending his and his company’s work on Clinton’s behalf. For Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the publication of the Band memo is yet another WikiLeaks-induced headache, as it provides even more detail into the unsavory-if-not-illegal intersection of interests at the heart of her family’s philanthropic work.
Band, now 44, was to Bill Clinton what Huma Abedin has been to Hillary. He started as a junior staffer in the White House straight out of college in the 1990s, and once the Clintons left office in 2001, he never left Bill’s side.
Here’s how one Clinton loyalist describes Band:
Doug turned down a lucrative job at Goldman Sachs to help the President transition into private life, even in the midst of a difficult time when President Clinton’s approval rating was lower than it had ever been, and many had left the President’s side for greener pastures. The decision Doug made to stick with the President was made out of loyalty, and I always admired that.
But in a very short period of time, and at an astonishingly young age, Doug not only helped build and guide the Clinton Foundation, he also traveled the world with the President, came up with the idea for the Clinton Global Initiative, and worked to turn it into an entity that has helped literally hundreds of millions of people across the globe.
Those were Band’s own not-so-modest words, taken from a reference letter he wrote for John Podesta to send out in his name in 2013, at a time when news stories were painting a negative portrait of Band’s influence in Hillaryland. The most damaging was a profile by Alec MacGillis in the New Republic that was headlined “Scandal at Clinton Inc.” and identified Band as the cause of the turmoil. The crux of the piece was that after helping to build the Clintons’ philanthropic empire, he was now using it to amass riches for himself through Teneo, the consulting firm he started in 2011 with the Irish businessman Declan Kelly. And the unseemly way in which he was going about it risked tarnishing both Hillary Clinton’s future presidential run and Bill Clinton’s post-presidential brand.
Bill Clinton now leads a sprawling philanthropic empire like no other. The good it achieves is undeniable. It has formed partnerships with multinationals and wealthy individuals to distribute billions of dollars all over the globe. Its many innovative projects include efforts to lower the costs of medicines in developing nations and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in major cities. And yet it’s hard to shake the sense that it’s not all about saving the world. There’s an undertow of transactionalism in the glittering annual dinners, the fixation on celebrity, and a certain contingent of donors whose charitable contributions and business interests occupy an uncomfortable proximity. More than anyone else except Clinton himself, Band is responsible for creating this culture. And not only did he create it; he has thrived in it.
MacGillis’s reporting proved prescient, right down to the use of the phrase “Clinton Inc.” Questions about the ethics of the Clinton Foundation have hovered like a cloud around Hillary’s campaign from the start, never quite turning into a storm but never quite going away, either. Did the Clintons trade access to themselves for donations to the charity? Yes. Did Band mix his work raising money for the foundation with his business interests? Yes. But the revelations have thus far stopped at the government’s door. Neither the emails about a deal with the king of Morocco to host a CGI conference nor Band’s memo about Teneo and his work for Bill Clinton suggest that Hillary Clinton took actions as secretary of state to benefit donors to the Clinton Foundation.
The WikiLeaks hack has confirmed tensions between Chelsea Clinton, who stepped into to try to overhaul and “professionalize” the operation of the foundation, and Band, who bristled at her interference and at one point referred to her as “a spoiled brat.” In one email, Band defends himself against accusations of “a conflict of interest” with Teneo by pointing out that Bill Clinton had also received compensation and gifts from donors to the foundation. And in his 12-page memo, Band argues that through his company and his “unique role” in an “unorthodox” arrangement, he has helped both Bill Clinton and the foundation, in part by soliciting donations from his Teneo corporate clients. The section that stands out the most is the one titled, “For-Profit Activity of President Clinton (i.e. Bill Clinton Inc.).” Band writes of himself and another Clinton aide, Justin Cooper:
Independent of our fundraising and decision-making activities on behalf of the Foundation, we have dedicated ourselves to helping the President secure and engage in for-profit activities – including speeches, books, and advisory service engagements. In that context, we have in effect served as agents, lawyers, managers and implementers to secure speaking, business and advisory service deals. In support of the President’s for-profit activity, we also have solicited and obtained, as appropriate, in-kind services for the President and his family – for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like. Neither Justin nor I are separately compensated for these activities (e.g., we do not receive a fee for, or percentage11 of, the more than $50 million in for-profit activity we have personally helped to secure for President Clinton to date or the $66 million in future contracts, should he
choose to continue with those engagements).
With respect to business deals for his advisory services, Justin and I found, developed and brought to President Clinton multiple arrangements for him to accept or reject. Of his current 4 arrangements, we secured all of them; and, we have helped manage and maintain all of his for-profit business relationships. Since 2001, President Clinton’s business arrangements have yielded more than $30 million for him personally, with $66 million to be paid out over the next nine years should he choose to continue with the current engagements.
How does this all affect Hillary Clinton, the Clinton who is actually running for president? Mostly, it just doesn’t look good. (And thanks to Donald Trump’s endless antics, it probably won’t stop her from winning the election.) Both Clintons have vigorously defended the charitable work they have done over the last 16 years, and while that work may be admirable, the WikiLeaks hack has exposed that the former president’s philanthropy, his personal enrichment, and the business interests of perhaps his closest aide were too closely tied.
The Clinton campaign has made a policy of not commenting on the specific WikiLeaks revelations other than to accuse Russia of stealing Podesta’s emails and suggest that the Trump campaign was involved. In an appearance Thursday on MSNBC, spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said the campaign doesn’t believe “that this is something that voters are going to focus on or voters are going to care about.”
“The foundation, as is known, has done great work,” Palmieri said. “The State Department has looked at this. They have said that there is no decision that Hillary Clinton made as Secretary of State that was based on people who donated to the Clinton Foundation.”
Teneo issued its own statement on Thursday: “As the memo demonstrates, Teneo worked to encourage clients, where appropriate, to support the Clinton Foundation because of the good work that it does around the world. It also clearly shows that Teneo never received any financial benefit or benefit of any kind from doing so.”
The Band memo does not directly involve Hillary, but to Republicans it makes no difference. They have already seized on the WikiLeaks revelations to promise “years” more of hearings and investigations if she wins the presidency.
“The more e-mails Wikileaks releases, the more the lines between the Clinton Foundation, the Secretary of State’s office, and the Clintons’ personal finances are blurred,” Trump said. “Mr. Band called the arrangement 'unorthodox.' The rest of us call it outright corruption.”