Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department was listed as a director at the Clinton Foundation in its corporate records for more than three years after joining the administration, highlighting concerns that Clinton’s aides were too close to the foundation during her tenure.
The "William J. Clinton Foundation Corporation" named Cheryl Mills as one its three directors when it applied for nonprofit corporate status in Florida in June 2009—five months after Mills began serving as Clinton’s chief of staff and counsel at the State Department.
The organization continued to list Mills as a director in its annual state filings in 2010, 2011, and 2012. During this time, the foundation updated its office address and registered agent on the same documents. Chelsea Clinton replaced Mills in the March 2013 report.
The Florida filings highlight the cozy relationship between Clinton’s inner circle at the State Department and the Clinton Foundation, which has come under scrutiny from watchdog groups for accepting money from foreign governments and donors.
Huma Abedin, another close Clinton aide, received a waiver in 2012 that allowed her to do part-time consulting for the foundation while working for the government. She did not publicly acknowledge the work until it was revealed by the New York Times.
Earlier this month, the conservative group Citizens United sued the State Department to release emails between Mills and Clinton Foundation officials.
Legal experts said Mills’ inclusion in the Florida filings could have been an inadvertent error. She had previously served on the foundation’s board beginning in 2001, and is not named in the Clinton Foundation’s federal tax disclosures between 2010 and 2013.
Nonprofit corporations in the state of Florida are required to have a minimum of three directors. In addition to Mills, the foundation also listed Terrence McAuliffe, now the governor of Virginia, and James "Skip" Rutherford.
The articles of incorporation were submitted by Rutherford, and the annual reports were signed by Andrew Kessel, the Clinton Foundation’s chief financial officer.
A spokesperson for the Clinton Foundation did not respond to request for comment on when Mills officially left the organization. Mills said in her own financial disclosures that she stepped down in March of 2009, a little more than a month after she became chief of staff. During that time, Mills was included in correspondence about the State Department’s vetting process for Bill Clinton’s consultancy gigs.
Richard Painter, chief White House ethics counsel under President George W. Bush, said that there could be legal implications if Mills’ role at the Clinton Foundation overlapped with her time at the State Department. Officials are encouraged to step down from any nonprofit boards before joining the government due to the conflict of interest statute.
"It would be highly problematic if she was a director of the foundation and she was participating in State Department decisions that could have a financial benefit to the foundation," Painter said. "If you did do something that had a direct and predictable financial benefit for the foundation, you get into criminal statutes."
Painter said officials who keep their roles with a nonprofit are required to recuse themselves from any decisions that could benefit the group.
Mills served as Clinton’s point person on Haiti, helping to direct U.S. funding to economic recovery projects. Bill Clinton was appointed UN envoy to Haiti in 2009, and the Clinton Foundation promoted numerous projects in the country, including ones that involved major foundation donors.
Mills, who left the State Department in 2013, is listed as a current member of the Clinton Foundation board on its website.
Update: Craig Minassian, a spokesperson for the Clinton Foundation, said the filing was "definitely a mistake" that they would look into. He said Mills resigned from the board at the end of 2008 before Clinton took office.
Mills said in her own financial disclosures that she stepped down in March of 2009, a little over a month after she became chief of staff. During that time, Mills was included in correspondence about the State Department’s vetting process for Bill Clinton’s consultancy gigs.