Hillary Clinton email scandal: Fundraiser who joined her at State Department under scrutiny - Washington Times - Liar Liar!
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Hillary Clinton email scandal: Fundraiser who joined her at State Department under scrutiny - Washington Times

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Throughout their time in the spotlight, Bill and Hillary Clinton have been dogged by questions about a blurred line between political fundraising and official actions. From Buddhist monks, White House coffees and the Lincoln Bedroom to fundraising bundlers and Whitewater investment partners who went to prison, the questions have persisted for two decades.

Mrs. Clinton’s impending second run for president in 2016 opens a new chapter in that saga, as questions mount about the connections between her husband’s massive private Clinton Foundation fundraising and her work as the secretary of state.

The scrutiny has already piqued interest in a fresh example of a fundraising revolving door through which a long-trusted aide has passed.

Dennis Cheng was a key fundraiser for Mrs. Clinton’s successful campaign for Senate and her 2008 presidential campaign, then followed her to the State Department, where he served as a key gatekeeper for foreign dignitaries and heads of state who sought visits with the president and secretary of state.

After two years as the deputy chief of protocol at State, Mr. Cheng moved to the Clinton Foundation to serve as its chief of development, essentially the chief fundraiser. And now many expect he is leaving the foundation to become a key player in Mrs. Clinton’s next campaign.

A private group that has demanded access to Mrs. Clinton’s records as secretary of state says it wants to know what Mr. Cheng did during his State Department tenure and whether he had contact with the agency before and after he went to the Clinton Foundation.

“He’s a very interesting actor in the relationship, with his role at the Department of State and then raising money from foreign leaders and countries at the foundation,” said Matthew G. Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney from Iowa who now runs the watchdog group the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT).

“As a former prosecutor, we need to conduct our investigation before we draw any conclusions. But we are interested in what his role might have been,” he added.

FACT last week drew attention to Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email account at the State Department, demanding a formal Justice Department probe. This week it filed a request for all records from State detailing Mr. Cheng’s work and contacts at the agency.

State Department officials declined to provide The Washington Times any information on Mr. Cheng’s day-to-day activities at State or whether he had contacts with the agency after he left.

Mr. Cheng did not return calls to the Clinton Foundation seeking comment from him.

The Clinton Foundation has been rocked by charges of influence in the last several weeks following a Wall Street Journal report that it had taken money from such regimes as those in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Algeria, albeit mostly after Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. While she was America’s chief diplomat, the foundation banned foreign contributions.

To date, no one has made any suggestion of any wrongdoing. But curiosity is rising, and even Clinton insiders acknowledge the revolving door story will likely raise questions about appearances, even as they describe Mr. Cheng as a trusted, reliable aide whose work at the foundation focused on helping poor citizens across the globe.

“Despite what the optics may be — that Mr. Cheng used to work at the State Department — he’s now working for the foundation doing good for countries around the world, whether it’s combatting cholera in Haiti or HIV in Africa. There’s really nothing wrong here, only good works,” said a source close to the Clinton Foundation, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor and longtime ethics watcher in Washington, said that she saw nothing wrong in Mr. Cheng’s placement at State, but acknowledged that, in retrospect, it could draw more fire to Mrs. Clinton.

 

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