After Irish-American business consultant Declan Kelly was appointed the U.S. Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009, he hired five members who later left the State Department with him to help formally launch public relations firm Teneo Holdings in 2011.
In November 2011, after the firm announced that former President Bill Clinton would be joining Teneo — co-founded by Clinton Global Initiative co-creator Doug Band and Hillary Clinton fundraiser Paul Keary — Kelly told Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim that he hired five staff members “on his own dime.”
However, the Irish Echo had reported, months before, in August, that a U.S. State Department official said the agency “did provide administrative support and reimbursement for travel expenses.”
Kelly told Grim that he was only “afforded one staffer,” but a State Department spokesperson “didn’t respond to requests for comment,” so the Huffington Post journalist was unable to explain this discrepancy.
Shortly after, Bill Clinton announced that he was no longer being paid by Teneo to consult but that he would still retain them to handle his business, after a controversy broke out about its contract with MF Global. In March 2012, the New York Post reported that “the breakup came at Hillary’s direction.”
“I did not sever my financial relationship with Teneo. I changed it,” Clinton told the media in 2012. “Because of the invaluable help I continue to receive with my business relationships and speaking engagements, as well as with CGI and other philanthropic activities, like the Ireland investment conference, I felt that I should be paying them, not the other way around.”
No media outlet has ever identified all five members who followed Kelly from the State Department to Teneo, which has now grown into one of the most powerful PR firms in the world.
According to his LinkedIn resume, Stephen W. Meahl was an advisor to the Office of the U.S. Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland from January 2010 to May 2011, then became a senior associate at Teneo Holdings in June 2011, vice president in 2012, and senior vice president in December of 2014.
Although Meahl’s Aug. 14, 2016 wedding announcement in the New York Times claimed that he was still “senior vice president and the chief of staff at Teneo Holdings,” his bio is no longer on the firm’s website.
“Prior to joining Teneo, Mr. Meahl worked for the US Department of State’s Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland where he was responsible for executing a number special initiatives to help drive economic development in support of the ongoing peace process,” the bio once stated. “In his role, Mr. Meahl was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the office including all media and communications.”
It added, “He was also responsible for relationship management with key State Department and foreign officials, and coordinated the development of major initiatives within the office.”
Therese O’Higgins’ bio has also been expunged from Teneo’s website, but, according to her LinkedIn resume, she was a V.P. for the firm, who had “worked at the Office of the US State Department’s Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland where she worked closely with the Ireland Funds and Northern Ireland Science Park to set up the US–NI Mentorship Program.”
“The US-NI Mentorship Program is a planned one-year work placement for recent graduates from Northern Ireland to work with leading corporations in the US,” the resume adds. “Therese continues to run this program in collaboration with the aforementioned parties.”
Former Teneo senior associate Monica Milton’s bio is also no longer viewable at its website, but it once stated that she “joined Teneo after working with Declan Kelly during his appointment as the U.S. Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland for the U.S. Department of State.”
“In that role, she was responsible for coordination with the U.S. Government including organizing official events, and conferences working with senior State Department officials and representatives from foreign governments,” Milton’s Teneo bio added.
According to his Teneo biography, Steven Sullivan, the current chief administration officer and chief financial officer “served as Deputy to the U.S. State Department’s Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland, helping to drive investment to the region from U.S. corporations and facilitate bi-lateral trade.”
“In this position, Mr. Sullivan was responsible for relationship management and communications,” it adds.
Jacqueline Wilson was once the senior managing director at Teneo Strategy, but the firm’s biography now just lists her as “senior advisor.” It states, “Prior to joining Teneo, Dr. Wilson was Senior Counsel to the U.S. State Department’s Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly.”
“For over 20 years Jacqueline Wilson has been providing communications, reputation management, and government relations counsel to corporate, nonprofit, and government clients, with an emphasis on international engagements,” Wilson’s bio continues. “Her nonprofit clients have included academic institutions, associations, and international philanthropic and relief organizations.”
It adds, “Government clients have included leaders of cities, states, and countries across the Americas and Europe.”
Teneo has a long history of ignoring media requests for comments, and it hasn’t responded to one for this story. Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide Huma Abedin — and now her 2016 presidential campaign vice chairperson — worked for the State Department, Teneo and the Clinton Foundation at the same time from 2012 to 2013, but has given few specifics to U.S. senators and journalists about what exactly she did for the PR firm.