Chelsea Clinton ran into an immediate buzz-saw of internal opposition when she attempted to get a prestigious law firm to undertake an unprecedented “governance review” of the Clinton Foundation, according to a WikiLeaks email made public Thursday.
The first daughter said she was trying to “professionalize” the foundation, but that apparently sounded like a death sentence to old-time Clinton loyalists like Doug Band, who was trying to mount a back-door effort to thwart Chelsea even after the law firm, Simpson Thacher, was retained.
Prior to 2011 when Chelsea joined as a foundation director, only a tiny circle of veteran Bill Clinton cronies had served in the same capacity. According to the foundation’s tax filings, the organization was led in 2010 by only two directors as its net assets mushroomed to $181 million, operating 19 overseas offices.
One of those directors was Terry McAuliffe, Bill Clinton’s most prolific presidential campaign fundraiser and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. McAuliffe is now Virginia’s Democratic governor. McAuliffe gave the Clintons’ $1.35 million to enable them to purchase their 11-room mansion in Chappaqua, N.Y. in 1999.
The other director was “Skip” Rutherford who originally established the foundation solely for the mission of building and operating the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark., where Clinton served as governor before entering the White House.
As previously reported by The Daily Caller News Foundation, nonpartisan, good-governance organizations such as the Independent Sector urge the use of independent boards, stating, “A substantial majority of the board of a public charity, usually meaning at least two-thirds of its members, should be independent.”
Chelsea’s chief critic was Band, Bill Clinton’s so-called “body man” or “fixer” at the White House, who later co-founded a consulting company called Teneo that trades on its access to the former president and other world government, corporate and philanthropic leaders.
Teneo sought to profit from foundation relationships with thousands of wealthy donors, including Arab sheiks and Eastern European tycoons. Bill was a Teneo adviser and client.
Chelsea’s choice of Simpson Thacher was a warning shot to the cronies because it is one of the leading law firms in the nation advising foundations and charities.
Chelsea was able to get Victoria Bjorklund to come out of retirement from the firm to head the investigative team. Bjorklund is among the nation’s top-ranked legal experts on philanthropic, good-governance and was named “2014 Nonprofit Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyers Magazine.
But the investigation ran into immediate resistance from Band and his aide, Justin Cooper, another entrenched Bill Clinton loyalist.
In a defensive Nov. 3, 2011 email, Chelsea told long-time Clinton aide John Podesta that “Doug (Band) apparently kept telling my dad I was trying to push him out, take over.”
Chelsea wrote when her father met with Band and Cooper the previous evening, he “listened to them calmly,” then later told them that “we should not make any decisions until we had the report – written and verbal – from Victoria.”
She said her father challenged Band to provide evidence she was trying to remove him. “Dad kept asking him,” Chelsea wrote, “has she said that to you? To anyone?”
Chelsea reminded Podesta that the foundation’s leadership “had agreed to a corporate audit to help professionalize the Foundation.”
She also raised the issue of getting a new chief operating officer, saying “all [we] should be thinking about is what a strong COO would look like because everyone knew the foundation would need that.”
She added, “my only objectives were to help to take stock, professionalize the foundation, build it for the future and build it in such a way that supported his work and mom’s.”
Eventually, Chelsea, who rose to the rank of vice chair of the foundation, was able to bring in Eric Braverman, a former colleague from McKinsey & Company, as the foundation’s CEO.
During Braverman’s brief stint, the foundation fired its long-time accounting firm — a small regional company — and replaced it with one of the nation’s largest auditing firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
PwC also undertook a review of the foundation’s federal tax filings, which resulted in “restatements” of the the organization’s revenue and spending for four years. The restatements included posting some new foreign government revenues and revealing the six-figure income Bill Clinton received for his speeches.
But Braverman left the Clinton Foundation only one month after signing a $395,000 employment contract. It is unclear whether he left because of what he discovered within the foundation or if he was pushed out by Chelsea’s antagonists.
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