UNH Administrator Offered to 'Be Helpful' to Clinton Using Public School's Resources

Director of university's public policy school offered assistance to Clinton campaign chair

Hillary Clinton and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan at the University of New Hampshire / AP
November 4, 2016

A senior faculty member at a public university in New Hampshire proposed using his position to "be helpful" to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, hacked emails show.

Michael Ettlinger, the director of the University of New Hampshire's Carsey School of Public Policy, told campaign chairman John Podesta in a March 2015 email that he was already working to advance Clinton's campaign "in my private capacity."

"But the best place to start is with what I can do formally from heading the Carsey School," Ettlinger wrote in a message from his personal email address. He wanted to know "how I can be helpful from my perch in New Hampshire."

Ettlinger's ideas originated in discussions with Ann O'Leary, then a vice president at the Center for the Next Generation, a nonprofit run by billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer, who has funded extensive political operations in New Hampshire.

A month after Ettlinger's email, O'Leary left Next Generation to join the Clinton campaign as a senior policy adviser, according to her LinkedIn page.

Ettlinger proposed enlisting television producer Marcy Carsey, the Carsey School's benefactor and namesake, in his efforts. "I could also try to get Marcy Carsey involved who, as you know, is supportive," he wrote.

Carsey is a high-dollar donor to Steyer's political group, NextGen Climate Action. Her $600,000 in contributions make her the second largest donor to the group behind Steyer himself. She has also donated to Ready for Hillary and other super PACs supporting Clinton's candidacy.

After his conversation with O'Leary, Ettlinger proposed using his UNH "perch" to host events that could advance the Clinton campaign's efforts.

"Any format would be fine for us," he told Podesta. "We couldn’t formally sponsor an event that was explicitly a fundraiser, but other than that a straight speech, interview style, town hall—any format is fine."

The events would ostensibly be nonpartisan, and Ettlinger described opportunities for multiple "candidates" at UNH, but he framed the potential events as politically beneficial to Clinton

"We could host candidates at venues in nearby Portsmouth which has a large population of influential and well-off progressives who I am getting to know," he wrote. "I’m sure there are other opportunities in Portsmouth of course, but if sponsorship of an event by the Carsey School would be of value, we can make that work."

UNH eventually hosted events with Clinton, her Democratic primary rival Bernie Sanders, and Republican presidential candidates Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Ben Carson. The school also organized an outing to a presidential campaign rally for Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.).

The school's public relations office did not respond to a request for comment on Ettlinger's email, which was released by WikiLeaks on Friday after hackers believed to be acting with the Russian government breached Podesta's email account.

Prior to his position at UNH, Ettlinger was the vice president for economic policy at the Center for American Progress, the left-wing think tank that Podesta founded in 2003.

Ettlinger did not respond to questions about his email.

Update: After publication, a UNH spokesperson emailed the following statement:

The University of New Hampshire has a long history of hosting presidential candidates and debates on its campuses. We invite all candidates and were pleased that Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Green Party candidates visited during this current election cycle. The Carsey School of Public Policy extended invitations to all the major candidates in early 2015. These events provide important opportunities for our students to engage in the political process. University policy appropriately encourages all faculty and staff to be involved in civic affairs, and even to run for and serve in public office.