Hillary's Longtime Aides Got Pay Bumps From Her 'Resistance' Group Even as Revenues Plummeted

Onward Together experienced a $2 million reduction in revenues as its executives' pay doubled

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May 13, 2020

As revenue fell by millions at Hillary Clinton's "resistance" nonprofit during its second year in operation, the longtime Clinton aides that run the group pocketed substantially bigger paychecks.

Clinton created Onward Together, a "social welfare" nonprofit, following her 2016 defeat. She said the group would allow her to be a "part of the resistance" against President Donald Trump. The nonprofit raised $2.3 million between April 1, 2018, and March 31, 2019, according to its most recent tax forms—a $900,000 fall in donations from the total it hauled in during its inaugural year. The group's total revenue also fell by more than $2 million.

As the group's revenues plummeted, Clinton's confidantes nearly doubled their compensation packages. Dennis Cheng, the group's finance director and former chief development officer of the Clinton Foundation, was paid $126,172 during Onward Together's 2018 fiscal year—$66,172 more than what he collected throughout 2017. Kelly Mehlenbacher, the group's chief operating officer who later joined Sen. Kamala Harris's (D., Calif.) and Michael Bloomberg's presidential campaigns, took in just over $101,355—a $66,355 increase over her 2017 compensation. Longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, an officer at the group, was paid $87,081—a $42,000 increase over her prior year's compensation.

All three garnered tens of thousands more despite not working full-time at the nonprofit. Cheng spent 30 hours per week on the group's operations, while Mehlenbacher and Abedin clocked 20 hours per week, according to the forms. Onward Together did not respond to a request for comment.

Clinton's group experienced the dip in donations even as other progressive organizations headed by less recognizable figures have seen donations grow, signaling that liberal donors have less faith in Onward Together to effectively push back against the president's agenda. Unlike many other liberal nonprofits, Clinton's group tends to act as a conduit that collects and disburses money to other groups, rather than fund its own initiatives.

According to its tax forms, Onward Together sent over $2 million in grants to dozens of liberal entities including EMILY's List, Stacey Abrams's Fair Fight Action, Color of Change, and the State Engagement Fund, a dark money group with ties to the Democracy Alliance, a millionaire and billionaire donor club cofounded by George Soros. It spent $709,000 on political campaign activities, which went towards polling for an unnamed gubernatorial race.

Marc Elias, Clinton's former campaign lawyer, incorporated Onward Together in April 2017. It currently partners with 15 other progressive organizations including Demand Justice, a dark money group led by Brian Fallon—Clinton's former campaign press secretary—that pushes back against Trump's judicial nominations.

Clinton's group also has an affiliated political action committee it uses to send money to Democratic candidates. The PAC is operated by Charles Baker, the president and cofounder of the Dewey Square Group, who was the chief administrative officer of Hillary for America.

Like the nonprofit, the PAC has struggled to raise cash. The Onward Together Committee reported just $146,351 in total receipts so far for the 2020 election cycle. The PAC handed out just $15,000 to other committees. South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison—who received $5,000 from the PAC—is the only politician seeking federal office who has been given money from Clinton.