Chelsea Clinton Mother-in-Law Used Charity for Personal Gain

Dem congressional candidate took six-figure salary, leased mansion as head of taxpayer-funded charity
Marjorie Margolies / AP

Marjorie Margolies / AP

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Mother-in-law of Chelsea Clinton and current Democratic congressional candidate Marjorie Margolies doubled her own salary into the six figures as the head of a small taxpayer-funded charity, according to documents obtained by the Huffington Post.

Margolies, who still runs charity group Women’s Campaign International (WCI), used the charity in 2001 following then-husband Democratic Rep. Ed Mezvinsky’s fraud indictment for a variety of self-serving purposes such as leasing and renovating a historic Philadelphia mansion for her to live in.

According to documents obtained by The Huffington Post, as Ed Mezvinsky’s fraud was exposed, Margolies doubled her own salary as head of a small, largely taxpayer-funded charity into the six figures, attempted to have the charity renovate and lease a mansion in which she would live, billed the charity for her automobile lease and other expenses, and required charity staff to assist with her other responsibilities as a faculty member at a local university.

When Margolies founded WCI in 1998, she paid herself $1,000-a-week, but bumped her salary up after securing a $600,000 grant from the Clinton administration’s U.S. Agency for International Development.

When previously questioned by the Huffington Post on the abnormally high salary for Margolies, WCI noted that all compensation decisions are made by the board of directors, not Margolies. Not mentioned was that Margolies was chairman of the board.

The Huffington Post earlier reported that over the past several years, Margolies was paid an unusually large salary given the size of her charity, Women’s Campaign International, whose revenue in recent years was in the very low millions. In defending that salary in December, WCI noted that the charity’s board of directors determines compensation—not Margolies, who still runs the charity.

That explanation, however, elided one critical detail: For the first three years of WCI’s existence, and at a crucial board meeting at which the decision about her salary was made, Margolies was herself the chairman of the board.

On Dec. 9, 2001, Margolies, as chairman, convened a meeting of WCI’s board to discuss salary. Previous minutes date her chairmanship to Dec. 7, 1998, the charity’s first meeting—one month after she lost a bid to become Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor. For WCI’s first three years, its only board members were Margolies, Fredrica Friedman, and her husband, Stephen Friedman. Nonprofit watchdogs consistently warn charities that a husband and wife should not both serve on a board, that they certainly should not make up two-thirds of it, and that the head of the charity should not also be the board’s chairman.

Margolies served in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 1995. She is currently running to regain her old seat in Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district.