Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, last year signed a $7,000-a-month contract with the foundation of a major Clinton donor who made a fortune selling a type of mortgage that some critics say contributed to the housing collapse, hacked emails show.
In February of last year, as Podesta was working to lay the groundwork for Clinton’s soon-to-launch campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, he signed the contract with the Sandler Foundation, which was started by Herb Sandler and his late wife Marion Sandler.
The contract — a copy of which was included in emails illegally obtained from Podesta’s Gmail account and disseminated Monday by WikiLeaks — is still active, according to Herb Sandler, who said that it calls for Podesta to provide advice on grant-making and other foundation functions.
It’s unusual for the full-time chairman of a general-election presidential campaign to maintain an active side deal with a major donor to that campaign — let alone to raise money from that donor for the campaign.
But the hacked emails show that Podesta, who does not draw a salary from the Clinton campaign (though he has been paid $58,000 by the campaign for travel and “subsistence”), did both, while also maintaining a close personal relationship with Sandler.
The WikiLeaks cache shows that Podesta provided Sandler with philanthropic advice and assortments of cheeses and pastas as gifts on the holidays, while Sandler offered all manner of political observations and once tried to get Podesta to arrange for former President Bill Clinton to write a blurb for a book written by one of Sandler’s friends.
But Sandler brushed aside any concerns about potential conflicts of interest.
“I have never asked for anything of any political person — zero requests ever,” Sandler said. “If they’re responsive, it’s because they regard me as thoughtful, and a major contributor to Democratic causes,” Sandler said, adding that Podesta “knows that he doesn’t get bullshit from me. He knows I have no hidden agenda. He knows that my values are similar to his and that we care about people and not the billionaires, even though I ended up by some crazy thing to be one.”
Neither Podesta nor the Clinton campaign responded to questions about the contract.
The Clinton campaign instead issued a statement saying it’s “not commenting on the authenticity of any individual emails,” and accusing the Russian government of engineering the hack. Further, Clinton spokesman Glen Caplin urged the FBI “to clearly tell the American people” whether it’s investigating suggestions that associates of Clinton’s Republican rival, Donald Trump, had advance knowledge of the cyberattacks.
Sandler and his children this cycle also have donated nearly $4.4 million to Clinton’s presidential campaign, a supportive super PAC called Priorities USA Action and various Democratic Party committees, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Herb Sandler’s Clinton-related giving picked up last December after a visit from Podesta.
Sandler is “ready to do the 2016 max early in the new year,” Podesta emailed the campaign’s finance team the day after visiting with Sandler in his hometown of San Francisco during a West Coast swing. “Whoever has been dealing with him should call him at the office on the Jan 4 to follow up,” Podesta wrote, adding that Sandler “is also prepared to double down on his Priorities support as well.”