State Department Staff Used Clinton’s 2008 Campaign Email for Official Business, Group Says

Hillary Clinton and aide Huma Abedin on the campaign trail in 2007. Abedin later worked for Clinton after she became secretary of State. Hillary Clinton and aide Huma Abedin on the campaign trail in 2007. Abedin later worked for Clinton after she became secretary of State. AP file photo

Aides to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the first Obama administration used an email account from her 2008 presidential campaign for government business, according to documents obtained by a conservative legal group.

The Cause of Action Institute, which is representing the conservative website The Daily Caller in Freedom of Information Act requests, announced on Wednesday that it has written to House and Senate committee chairmen asking them to investigate possible violations of the Hatch Act.  

“Former campaign staff used these campaign devices and email accounts to communicate on official channels and co-mingle agency records with their personal communications,” wrote institute Executive Director Daniel Epstein in a Feb. 11 letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa., and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Recently discovered State Department emails allegedly show that Cheryl Mills, a Clinton campaign aide and later State Department employee, emailed Clinton’s former information technology staff specialist, Bryan Pagliano, at his 2008 campaign address to say she had lost her personal BlackBerry, Cause of Action said in a release.

Pagliano is the former Clinton campaign employee who later installed and maintained the family's controversial private email server. Last September, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify during an appearance before the House Select Committee investigating Benghazi.

The Cause of Action Institute said its search of the State Department’s FOIA public reading room “shows that the agency has produced 10 records revealing both Cheryl Mills and another Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, maintained hillaryclinton.com email accounts during their official tenure.”

The hillaryclinton.com domain belongs to the Friends of Hillary campaign committee.

“The use of campaign-funded email accounts for government business raises a host of potential compliance issues,” Epstein said. “The American taxpayers deserve to know how Washington uses their money. Vigilant oversight is necessary to determine why federal officials had access to and control over campaign email accounts and whether these records should be recovered.”

The institute drew a parallel in a 2011 finding by the Office of Special Counsel that employees of the George W. Bush White House in the run-up to the 2006 elections violated the Hatch Act when they used campaign email accounts to coordinate official government policy and travel. It also cited the investigation into circumvention of the Presidential Records Act conducted by then-House Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

The legal group suggests that lawmakers find out whether other related Clinton emails were not preserved and determine who paid for the continuing 2008 Clinton campaign email accounts. They also raised other questions:

What other ex-campaign staffers, if any, employed at the State Department or elsewhere in government continued to use their Hillary Clinton campaign email accounts?

Did an email exchange between Clinton and Mills with the subject line “My candidacy” (found in State’s FOIA public reading room) suggest a Hatch Act violation?

Did Clinton’s 2008 campaign violate the Federal Campaign Election Act “by transferring Mills’ BlackBerry or any other communication devices purchased by the campaign to ex-campaign staffers free of charge?”

A Chaffetz spokeswoman declined comment on the specifics of the Cause of Action details but cited the committee’s ongoing investigation into the State Department’ handling of FOIA requests. In a January letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Chaffetz asked for details on the department’s FOIA fulfillment operations, a more thorough document search and one that links items delivered to language in the committee’s request.

Neither the Clinton 2016 presidential campaign nor Sen. Grassley responded immediately to inquiries.

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