A former Peace Corps senior executive who helped steer lucrative Department of State-funded contracts to a nonprofit run by Secretary of State John Kerry’s daughter has deep ties to the Clintons, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group has learned.
Former Peace Corps Associate Director Esther Benjamin was one of three high-ranking agency officials who helped establish the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) – a Peace Corps-run and State Department-funded program Dr. Vanessa Kerry proposed, TheDCNF previously reported.
Benjamin helped pave the way for Kerry’s nonprofit – called Seed Global Health – to burrow into the program and secure more than $9 million in non-competed contracts. She later joined the charity’s board of trustees.
Benjamin’s political ties run deep. Her connections to the Clintons range from a 1999 political appointment to her current CEO position at a highly-scrutinized for-profit university that paid former President Bill Clinton $17.6 million for an honorary position. She also has at least a minor link to the Enron scandal.
Benjamin served on the the 2008 presidential transition team and focused on foreign assistance before President Barack Obama appointed her to the Peace Corps, where she stayed until 2013, according to Seed’s website. Her tenure coincides with Hillary Clinton’s at the State Department.
At least one memo sent to Benjamin detailed the scheme that would funnel State Department funds to Seed through Peace Corps contracts. She also signed off on several documents that allocated money from Clinton’s State Department to the Peace Corps for GHSP.
It was Benjamin who authorized the Peace Corps to fund international and domestic trips for Kerry’s staff to meet with officials to establish the program.
Benjamin joined Laureate Education as CEO for Africa Operations after leaving the Peace Corps. The for-profit university has faced scrutiny for leaving students with huge debts and questionable diplomas and has been criticized for its involvement with the Clintons.
Laureate paid Bill Clinton $17.6 million as honorary chancellor between 2010 and 2015 and donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, which has faced mutliple pay-to-play allegations.
The U.S. Agency for International Development – an arm of the State Department – also awarded $55 million to the International Youth Foundation (IYF) where David Becker, Laureate’s founder and CEO and Clinton donor, sits on the board of directors. Benjamin was a high-ranking executive at the foundation from 2001 to 2007.
The Clinton Foundation, IYF and Laureate have also participated in joint programs.
Laureate attended Clinton Global Initiative meetings and mingled with high-powered attendees, which include heads of state, emails released by WikiLeaks show. The for-profit university operates in 100 campuses in 28 countries and boasts its political connections to boost its authenticity.
Laureate officials did not respond to requests for comment. Spokesmen previously denied quid pro quo allegations. The Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton have pledged to scrutinize for-profit universities.
But Laureate isn’t Benjamin’s only tie to the Clintons.
President Clinton appointed her as a White House fellow in 1999, where she worked for then-Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman. Benjamin also was a United Nations humanitarian affairs officer for Somalia in 1994.
Additionally, Benjamin worked for Arthur Andersen, an accounting firm that crumbled in the wake of the Enron scandal. It’s unclear when Benjamin worked for the group, but a gap in her work history that is available on LinkedIn suggests it was around 2001 when the scandal was revealed.
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