The wife of embattled New York Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner is less than forthcoming about her own potential conflict of interest surrounding her work simultaneously with the State Department and a Clinton-tied private consulting firm.
Huma Abedin, an aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was a “special government employee” from June 2012 to February 2013, a status that allowed her to work for Taneo Consulting firm, co-founded by a former aide to former President Bill Clinton. Abedin also worked for the Clinton Foundation and for former Secretary Clinton personally. Abedin would not publicly disclose what she was paid by any of the private sector jobs.
The New York Times reports that, “the State Department has declined to say what role Ms. Clinton played in approved the arrangement.” In fact, the State Department has thus far declined to provide information to either the Times or Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, both of whom are seeking more information into the matter.
Grassley’s questions include: “who in the department specifically authorized the arrangement for Ms. Abedin; who in the department was aware of her outside consulting activities; copies of contracts Ms. Abedin signed with private clients; and the amount she earned from those contracts,” the Times reported. Grassley sent letters to both Secretary of State John Kerry and to Abedin.
“In addition, The New York Times asked the State Department to provide the titles and job descriptions of other individuals the department has permitted to serve in the capacity of special government employee, and whether any of Mrs. Clinton’s other political appointees were given the special designation,” the paper said.
State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach told the Times, “As a general policy, the Department of State does not disclose employee information of this nature.” Gerlach also told the newspaper, “Ms. Abedin was invaluable to the secretary and her entire operation, providing a breadth of broad-based and specific expertise from her years in the White House and at the department that was irreplaceable.”
Federal law allows federal workers designated as “special government employees” to provide an agency flexibility to hire someone with expertise, generally on a temporary basis, the Times said.
Grassley, in a letter to the State Department, said Abedin’s expertise in “advising and participating in planning for the secretary’s schedule and travel” didn’t appear to qualify her for this status.
“Basic information about a special category of employees who earn a government salary shouldn’t be a state secret,” Grassley told the Times. “Disclosure of information builds accountability from the government to the taxpaying public. Agencies that lose sight of transparency also lose public trust.”
Abedin wrote a letter giving a partial response to Grassley’s questions last month, saying that she sought special status because she had a newborn son and wanted to remain in New York City but continue working for the State Department. She said in the letter that in her dealings with private clients, “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.”