Democratic operatives with Hillary Clinton’s presidential team seriously considered offering liberal billionaire Tom Steyer a fancy official title to entice him to prop up their candidate’s campaign, according to leaked emails published Tuesday.
“Do you think he needs to have title to work hard for campaign? Given that we aren’t giving titles to anyone else right now,” Dennis Cheng, who serves as Clinton’s national finance director, said about Steyer in a 2015 conversation with the former secretary of state’s right-hand man, John Podesta.
Podesta, who also served as chief of staff for former President Bill Clinton, condemned the hacked emails Monday, telling reporters he doesn’t know where the unauthentic emails came from.
The memo was one of 4,000 emails that have been leaked over the course of the election season.
Cheng was serving as the chief development officer for the Clinton Foundation at the time of the hacked email.
“He was prepared to fund NextGen Action and leave it to Ted and Josh to run and stay on the hard $ side,” Podesta said in reply. “I think if we don’t make a move and ask him to do something specific, he’ll stay in the NextGen world.”
Podesta was referring to Steyer’s political super PAC, NextGen Climate, which acts as a political donation clearinghouse for the billionaire’s environmental agenda.
NextGen spent about $20.7 million in independent expenditures in 2014, mostly propping up Democrats and environmental positions. He has spent more than $13 million so far this election year, according to OpenSecrets.org. Steyer has donated about $40 million to Democrats so far this election season.
The email was perhaps part of an overarching effort to find legal ways to wrangle Steyer’s help for Clinton without violating campaign finance laws. Rules bar coordination between political campaigns and outside groups that do independent expenditure work.
“Assume he can’t host an event with her or one of us,” Podesta wrote in a separate spat of leaked emails in an April 2015 email. “Correct?”
“Not easily. If important to do so, let me know and we can come up with our best options (which may not be good),” responded Marc Elias, a lawyer at the firm Perkins Coie. Elias is the campaign’s legal council.
Steyer and Podesta have a chummy relationship that goes back several years.
Podesta, the current chair of ultra liberal think tank Center for American Progress, also tried to get then-president elect Barack Obama in 2008 to choose the billionaire as secretary of energy, according to a separate cache of emails revealed Tuesday by WikiLeaks.
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