Hillary Clinton, Democrats' undisputed if undeclared presidential frontrunner heading into 2016, is the subject of two new magazine cover stories.
In New York, reporter Joe Hagan asks Clinton if she thinks about running for president. "I do," she responds, later adding, "I will just continue to weigh what the factors are that would influence me making a decision one way or the other."
It's the exact sort of evasion and vaguery we've come to expect from Clinton. And it's a strategy that's presumably meant to keep the press at bay and to prevent stories like the feature by the New Republic's Alec MacGillis on former Bill Clinton aide Doug Band.
Band was briefly mentioned last month in a profile on the Clinton Foundation by The New York Times. A former "body man" for Bill Clinton (i.e. a personal aide who made sure the president was on time, and who kept pens and Diet Coke handy), Band eventually oversaw the Clinton Global Initiative —the shiny face of the Clinton Foundation centered around an annual conference with a ticket price of $20,000 — and went on to start his own corporate consulting firm, Teneo.
The Clinton Global Initiative, which has attracted $74 billion in pledges, gets corporations and wealthy individuals to donate cash with the aim of solving problems in developing countries. As MacGillis writes, "celebrity is the main currency" at the organization's fundraisers. But corporate CEOs aren't just looking for a grip-and-grin. Indeed, a Clinton critic might sniff a bit of quid pro quo, suggests MacGillis:
For corporations, attaching Clinton's brand to their social investments offered a major PR boost. As further incentive, they could hope for a kind word from Clinton the next time they landed in a sticky spot. "Coca-Cola or Dow or whoever would come to the president," explains a former White House colleague of Band's, "and say, 'We need your help on this.'" Negotiating these relationships, and the trade-offs they required, could involve some gray areas. But for that, Clinton had Band. [New Republic]
How close was Band to Clinton? MacGillis describes their relationship during and after Clinton's presidency:
Band was with him almost constantly. By his tally, he has accompanied the former president to nearly 125 countries and 2,000 cities. He was at Clinton's bedside when he had heart bypass surgery in 2004. On the rare occasions when they weren't together, they were known to speak on the phone dozens of times a day … Band and Clinton were so inseparable that Band sometimes framed requests to colleagues using the royal "us" or "we." [New Republic]
Band might have "only" received a salary of $110,000 for working at the Clinton Foundation, but, as MacGillis reports, he made plenty of money in business deals with people he met through the Clinton Foundation. He was, as a former White House colleague told the New Republic, "a gatekeeper who charged tolls."
Band later formed Teneo, which paid Bill Clinton and longtime Hillary Clinton aide (and wife of disgraced mayoral loser Anthony Weiner) Huma Abedin as advisers.
"What is striking is the extent to which Teneo's business model depends on his relationship with Clinton," writes MacGillis, noting that a former White House colleague of Band's called the company "essentially a PR firm that is able to charge above-market rates because it persuades executives that Band and the ties he brings are an essential service."
Now, what does this all have to do with a potential Hillary '16 run? Well, even before Hillary stepped down as secretary of State, there were questions "about potential conflicts between Teneo's overseas clients and her work."
And lest you think that Hillary, in the eyes of the public, might be free of any potential sins of her husband or his aides, note that the Clinton Foundation recently changed its name to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
As speculation ramps up about Hillary's run in 2016, Band's role with the Clinton Foundation is ramping down, with his place being taken by an increasingly visible Chelsea Clinton, who, according to New York, has "emerged from her chrysalis, a new power center, her father's keeper and, maybe for Hillary … a shadow campaign manager."
Now, according to the New Republic, Bill and Band only see each other every few months, and Hillary and Chelsea seem wary of letting the former aide back into the Clintons' inner circle. While Hillary hasn't commented on Band — or even on whether she is going to run for president — the fact that the Clintons are distancing themselves from him now speaks volumes.
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