February 1, 2015: Clinton’s staff asks the New York Times and Wall Street Journal to report Hillary’s economic policies in a “progressive” light.

Clinton campaign press secretary Nick Merrill writes an email to several Clinton staffers, describing two stories the Wall Street Journal and New York Times are preparing to publish that will be covering Clinton’s economic policies.

Nick Merrill holds an umbrella for Clinton, as Jennifer Palmieri looks on, in Ashland, Ohio, on August 1, 2016. (Credit: Andrew Harnick / The Associated Press)

Merrill writes, “Both will have a dose of personnel name-gaming, and I’ve spoken to both to steer them towards progressive names, which they seem to both have on their own. I want to give both stories something on the record that addresses the core of the story, but also speaks some of the things we all felt needed a little proactive addressing, like inevitability and timing.”

Merrill then suggests the core of the stories will be about, “Increasing access to opportunity and fighting for upward mobility has been an uninterrupted pursuit of hers in every job she’s held. You heard it from her on the campaign trail last fall, where she laid out the challenges we face. She’s casting a wide net, talking to a wide range of people on a range of specific topics. There’s no red X on a calendar somewhere, but make no mistake, if she runs, she will take nothing for granted, she’ll present bold ideas, and she will fight for every vote.” (Wikileaks, 10/24/2016)

Amy Chozick (Credit: Google Plus)

Amy Chozick (Credit: Google Plus)

One week later, the New York Times publishes an article by Amy Chozick, entitled “Economic Plan is a Quandry for Hillary Clinton’s Campaign.” As hoped, the core of the story Merrill mentions in his email is covered in the article and is included as a quote by Bill Clinton’s previous treasury secretary:

“’It’s not enough to address upward mobility without addressing inequality,’ said Lawrence H. Summers, a Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration who is among those talking with Mrs. Clinton. ‘The challenge, though, is to address inequality without embracing a politics of envy.’”

Chozick then “steers” readers to several other “progressive names” and writes, “Several of Mr. Clinton’s former advisers, including Alan S. Blinder, Robert E. Rubin and Mr. Summers, maintain influence. But Mrs. Clinton has cast a wide net that also includes Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics who has written extensively about inequality; Alan B. Krueger, a professor at Princeton and co-author of ‘Inequality in America’; and Peter R. Orszag, a former director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Obama. Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist who focuses on retirement issues, is also playing a prominent role.” (New York Times, 2/7/2015)

Laura Meckler (Credit: Tout)

Laura Meckler (Credit: Tout)

A few days after that, The Wall Street Journal publishes an article by Laura Meckler entitled, “Hillary Clinton Economic Plan to Chart Center-Left Course.” The article appears to be less “steered” by the Clinton campaign, it doesn’t include “a dose of personnel name-gaming” and offers a more balanced approach between what the liberal base of the Democratic party hopes for, as opposed to Clinton’s more centrist economic positions. (Wall Street Journal, 2/12/2015)

Because one of the recipients of this email is Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, it will be released by Wikileaks in October 2016.

February 2015: The State Department finally begins archiving the emails of its top officials.

The State Department begins using a system that automatically keeps the emails of high-ranking officials, such as deputy secretary of state, and under and assistant secretaries. Secretary of State John Kerry’s emails have been automatically retained since around the time he took office in 2013.

Patrice McDermott (Credit: Freedom of Information Summit)

Patrice McDermott (Credit: Freedom of Information Summit)

In 2012, an Obama administration directive mandated that departments must devise a system for retaining and preserving email records by the end of 2016, but some departments are slow to adapt.

Patrice McDermott, director of the transparency watchdog group OpenTheGovernment.org, says, “It really is chaos across the government in terms of what agencies do, what individuals do, and people understand that they can decide what they save and what they don’t. If you leave it up to the agency, some are going to behave properly and take it seriously, and some are going to see it as carte blanche to whitewash the record.” (The New York Times, 3/13/2015)

February 18, 2015: Most major donors to the Clinton Foundation are foreigners or political supporters of the Clintons.

Dennis Cheng (Credit: public domain)

Dennis Cheng (Credit: public domain)

The Washington Post reports that nearly half of the major donors who are backing Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, as well as nearly half of the bundlers for her 2008 presidential campaign, have given at least $10,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Additionally, “many of the foundation’s biggest donors are foreigners who are legally barred from giving to US political candidates. A third of foundation donors who have given more than $1 million are foreign governments or other entities based outside the United States, and foreign donors make up more than half of those who have given more than $5 million.”

The high percentage of donations from overseas is considered “especially unusual” for a US-based charity. The Post comments that many foreign donors “are likely to have interests before a potential Clinton administration—and yet are ineligible to give to US political campaigns.” The Post also notes, “The overlap between the Clintons’ political network and their charitable work was apparent [on February 13, 2013], when Dennis Cheng stepped down as the foundation’s chief development officer ahead of his expected role as a key fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.” (The Washington Post, 2/18/2015)

February 25, 2015: Bill Clinton won’t tell the State Department how much he’s being offered to give speeches, making it difficult for the department to reject any offers.

Richard Painter (Credit: Harvard Center for Ethics)

Richard Painter (Credit: Harvard Center for Ethics)

Politico reports, “In hundreds of documents released to Politico under the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA], not a single case appears where the State Department explicitly rejected a Bill Clinton speech.” They raised serious questions about only two speech proposals. “Instead, the records show State Department lawyers acted on sparse information about business proposals and speech requests and were under the gun to approve the proposals promptly.”

The Clintons made a deal with the White House to require State Department ethics officials to give their approval of all of Bill Clinton’s paid speech offers. However, the deal didn’t require Clinton to reveal how much he would be paid for any speech, and he didn’t voluntarily disclose this, so the officials were unable to judge if he was being overpaid and thus essentially bribed. He also didn’t reveal potential conflicts of interests with those paying for the speeches, such as donations to the Clinton Foundation or other relationships with the Clintons.

Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer, says that since the department officials didn’t know the specific speech fees in advance, he doesn’t see how they could have fairly judged whether to approve the speech or not. “That would be a gap if they didn’t find out at all.” (Politico, 2/25/2015)