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State Omitted Clinton’s Chief of Staff From ‘Special Government Employee’ Disclosure List

New information contradicts reports Cheryl Mills only added to SGE list in 2013

Cheryl Mills
Cheryl Mills at an airport in Cap Hatien, Haiti, / AP
• June 24, 2015 1:10 pm

The State Department did not disclose that Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills had a special arrangement in 2009 that allowed her to hold outside positions with the William J. Clinton Foundation, New York University, and an Abu Dhabi-funded group.

The agency came under scrutiny in 2013, after it was reported that Clinton’s close aide Huma Abedin had been granted "special government employee" status under Clinton, which allowed her to work as a part-time consultant for the State Department while also taking private clients that had financial ties to the former First Family.

The State Department said on Wednesday that Mills was also granted special government employee status between Jan. 22 and May 24, 2009. That contradicts previous reports that Mills first became an SGE in 2013, after Clinton left the agency.

Mills was not included on a list of all special government employees for the year 2009, which the State Department released last year in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from ProPublica. She is only included for the year 2013. According to ProPublica, the agency repeatedly delayed the release of the list, which included about 100 employees.

When asked on Wednesday why the information about Mills was omitted from the disclosure, a State Department spokesperson declined to comment.

The Free Beacon first reported on Wednesday that Mills continued to serve as general counsel for NYU and as a board member for the school’s UAE-funded Abu Dhabi campus for four months after she joined the State Department. She was also on the board of the William J. Clinton Foundation until March 2009.

While the board positions were unpaid, Mills received $198,000 from NYU, according to her financial disclosure. The NYU Abu Dhabi campus has drawn criticism from human rights groups for alleged labor abuses.

During this time, Mills was identified as Clinton’s "Chief of Staff and Counsel" in internal State Department memos and cables. She was also involved in discussions with State Department ethics counselors about vetting and approving Bill Clinton’s paid speech requests. Clinton has given numerous paid speeches in the UAE since 2009, and the Clinton Foundation has received between $1 million and $5 million from the UAE government.

Richard Painter, the former chief White House ethics counsel under President George W. Bush, said SGE’s are exempt from certain restrictions that apply to full-time employees.

"[S]he cannot participate in matters that would financially benefit a current employer, for example NYU," Painter said on Tuesday. "Same for anyone else or any foundation she worked for while working at State."

According to Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group, the statute hinges on "whether the executive branch employee is making decisions or playing an important role in a particular matter which involves their other interest."

"Federal of conflict interest statutes are very strict, and they want to ensure that federal employees, especially very senior special employees like Cheryl Mills, do not have any conflicts of interest in any matter that they have a hand in," Boehm told the Free Beacon on Tuesday. "Given her position, the dual position of counselor and chief of staff, presumably she would have access to almost any decision of importance that came out of the State Department."

Mills did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.