Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager had deep reservations about hiring a longtime lobbyist as the campaign’s treasurer because of conflicts of interest he had at the Clinton State Department, newly released emails show.
Robby Mook identified the red flags after the campaign conducted research on Jose Villarreal, a lobbyist with Akin Gump who served as deputy campaign manager on Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign and helped raise money for Hillary’s 2008 campaign.
“I want to wait to formally consider Jose until we have our framing research done, but I worry this vet is death by a few too many cuts,” Mook wrote in a Jan. 12, 2015 email to John Podesta, who would become Clinton’s campaign chairman.
The email was hacked from Podesta’s Gmail account and released on Sunday by WikiLeaks. (RELATED: Campaign Manager Says ‘Clinton Had Little Consideration For Ethics’)
“Again, I don’t want to reach any conclusions until we have a framework within which to decide what truly threatens her brand, but I see numerous flags here (if it was just one of these things, I wouldn’t be as worried).”
Mook was mostly concerned with research on Villarreal’s work at the State Department. In June 2009, Hillary Clinton created a special fundraising position for Villarreal in which he helped raise $61 million from corporations to finance the U.S. exhibition at the 2010 World Expo, held in Shanghai.
Several of Villarreal’s clients at Akin Gump contributed to the effort, which Clinton later touted as one of the crowning achievements of her State Department tenure. Boeing and Dow Chemical, two Villarreal clients at Akin Gump, gave to the expo.
Emails released by the State Department show that some Shanghai Expo donors were granted access to Clinton. A Sept. 22, 2009 email shows that the CEOs of Honeywell and Blackstone Group, which gave to the expo, met with Clinton and demanded special favors to help their companies. The Washington Post also detailed favors that Boeing received after its contributions to the expo.
Mook followed up with a March 11, 2015 email to Podesta detailing his concerns about Villarreal.
“So, not to be a complete pain in the ass, but I found a potential flag about Jose Villarreal,” Mook wrote, noting that after re-reading the self-research documents “it looks like he’s snared up in the conflict of interest stuff at State.”
Mook wrote that the conflicts were “not the WORST thing in the world, but there’s a real argument here that he was at the nexus of foundation/state issues.”
“Mostly trumped up, but I’d question if we want him as an officer.”
Despite those concerns, Villarreal was named Clinton’s campaign treasurer. The position is disclosed on Villarreal’s biography on the Akin Gump website.
Mook’s emails to Podesta also reveal that the Clinton campaign worried that the candidate had ethical issues related to the Shanghai expo.
“When soliciting contributions, Clinton had little consideration for ethics, as the corporations who were featured in Shanghai also contributed to her foundation and received accolades from the State Department,” reads part of the research document that Mook cited to Podesta.
Among the concerns were that the expo’s biggest corporate donors “received favorable treatment from the State Department,” according to the document cited by Mook.