Senator Chuck Grassley is continuing his investigation into how political intelligence is gathered in Washington DC – this time bringing Huma Abedin, the long suffering wife of Anthony “Carlos Danger” Weiner, into his crosshairs.
A few weeks ago, a story broke that Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was investigating Huma Abedin’s consulting activities while she worked as a “special government employee” on the staff of then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Ms. Abedin is also the wife of Anthony Weiner, former member of Congress and current Democratic mayoral candidate for New York City.
In June 2012 Ms. Abedin left her full-time position as the deputy chief of staff for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and became a “special government employee”, a contractor who could take on private clients in addition to their government jobs.
The outside clients in Ms. Abedin’s case included the William J. Clinton Foundation and Teneo Holdings, a strategic consulting firm and independent investment bank run by Doug Band, who worked in the White House counsel’s office under President Bill Clinton. Teneo also employs a number of other well-connected former government heavyweights.
The reason for the investigation is that Senator Grassley believes that Ms. Abedin’s work for Teneo Holdings was to collect information from her Washington DC contacts to help advise the firm’s investor clients.
“It appears that Teneo may have been compensating Ms. Abedin for gathering information from government sources for the purpose of informing investment decisions of her clients — or in other words, political intelligence,” wrote Senator Grassley in a letter dated June 13.
Grassley is also trying to determine whether the program overseeing “special government employees” is being misused more broadly to provide access to “political intelligence”.
“The purpose of my inquiry is to shed light on whether the program is being used as intended, not just by Ms. Abedin, but more broadly, as well. The State Department and Ms. Abedin should be willing to show the documents involved in administering the program to demonstrate good stewardship of tax dollars and the public interest,” Sen. Grassley explained.
Abedin said her job at Teneo involved “providing strategic advice and consulting services to the firm’s management team”. In addition she helped to organize an annual event. Abedin said her work for Teneo did not involve the State Department.
“I was not asked, nor did I undertake, any work on Teneo’s behalf before the State Department (and I should note that it is my understanding that Teneo does not conduct business with the Department of State). I also was not asked, nor did I provide, insights about the Department, my work with the Secretary, or any government information to which I may have had access,” Abedin explained in a written response to the State Department.
Grassley Not Satisfied
Senator Grassley was not satisfied by the response from the State Department and Ms. Abedin. In a written statement he pledged to continue to look into the arrangement between Teneo and Abedin, demanded more thorough answers, and said that the use of “special government employees” needed a more comprehensive.
As part of his investigation into the matter, Grassley has asked for a record of communications between Teneo and the State Department, as well as a record of communications between the State Department and any clients represented by Teneo.
Senator Grassley’s investigation in this case is not surprising given his extreme interest in the whole topic of political intelligence, involving several federal agencies and financial and lobby firms.
Grassley and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) have pushed for more disclosure from the political intelligence industry. Last year, the Senate added a provision by Grassley to the STOCK Act that would have required individuals involved in collecting political intelligence to register as lobbyists. That provision was later stripped from the bill in the House. Both Grassley and Slaughter have vowed to reintroduce legislation requiring registration from the industry.
Senator Grassley has repeatedly explained that he is not looking to shut down the political intelligence business, rather he is seeking to promote greater transparency about who is collecting information about developments in Washington DC to inform their investment decisions.
Important Issues to Consider
The Abedin investigation is interesting as it reveals that Senator Grassley has not given up in his crusade to bring transparency to the collection of political intelligence. And while few on Capitol Hill currently give Senator Grassley’s proposed legislation much of a chance of passing, the more scandals that are unearthed, the greater the political pressure Grassley and Slaughter can apply to their colleagues on the Hill to support their efforts. I guess we will just have to wait and see how this plays out.