Diary

With Friends Like These: Dennis Cheng

This is part 4 of a continuing series looking at Clinton campaign operatives.  Today, we examine Dennis Cheng who was project manager and fundraiser for the Clinton Foundation from 2011 to 2015 when he resigned to join the Hillary campaign as a key fundraiser and finance director of the campaign.  As a member of the Clinton Foundation, he has developed a fine base of donors with which to work.  Before joining the Foundation, Cheng was Clinton’s finance director for her failed 2008 presidential run, but was rewarded when she hired him as deputy chief of protocol at the State Department.  In that role, he served as Clinton’s gatekeeper when it came to meeting with dignitaries of foreign governments.

Cheng also was a chief fundraiser in Clinton’s battle for the Senate in New York, so their ties are deep.  In the time he was with the Clinton Foundation (2011-2015), he is credited with raising over $248 million.  Before we look at the potential problems here, let’s dispel this perception that the Clinton Foundation is some great philanthropic organization doing good throughout the world.  From 2009 to 2012 while Hillary was Secretary of State (and…wink wink…she and Bill never discussed the Clinton Foundation), they raised over $500 million from a variety of sources.  Only 15%- or $75 million- was actually granted to organizations to alleviate worldwide poverty or improve access to healthcare in developing nations.  Instead, we find that $25 million went to travel expenses while another $110 million went to employee salaries and benefits and the final $290 million listed as “other expenses.”

Since we are talking about Dennis Cheng here, in 2013 he helped raise $140 million, but only $9 million went to direct aid for any philanthropic cause.  Their cover is their purported atypical business model which allows the Clinton Foundation to avoid scrutiny from watchdog groups looking into charitable organizations.  Some have simply characterized the Clinton Foundation as a campaign fundraising group which makes sense since Hillary has pretty much been a candidate for President since her husband gave up the White House.

And there are some disturbing trends under Cheng’s tenure at the Clinton Foundation that should raise ethical red flags for her campaign.  Of course, if these flags are raised, a compliant liberal press is at the ready to dismiss them while Clinton herself hides.  For example, Rilin Enterprises, a Chinese conglomerate with deep ties to the Chinese government, donated $2 million in 2013 alone and were a major contractor on the Chinese Embassy in Washington.  They also spent over $1.4 million for lobbying Congress.  Cheng has, since Clinton left the State Department, solicited first time donations from countries like Qatar, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Germany- many of these countries with pending business before the United States that a future President must address.  Saudi Arabia, perhaps the largest foreign donor, resumed donations immediately after Clinton left the State Department.

Furthermore, more than half the major donors to the Clinton Foundation are also major donors to Ready For Hillary, a group formed in anticipation of a presidential run while more than 50% of major donors to the Foundation were also major donors to her failed 2008 presidential effort.  Susan Tompkins Buell- the founder of the Esprit clothes brand and staunch liberal- has donated to both the Clinton political efforts and $10 million to the Foundation.  Haim Saban- a media mogul rated the 143rd richest man in America- has donated to Clinton political campaigns and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation.

The State Department annually issues a prestigious Corporate Excellence Award.  If you want to increase your chances of being a finalist and Hillary Clinton is the Secretary of State, donate to the Clinton Foundation.  Seven of the 12 finalists in 2011 gave to the Foundation with one winner- Proctor and Gamble- donating $1-5 million.  The 2012 winner- Intel- donated $500,000 while eight of the 12 finalists were also Foundation donors.  Even a spokesman for a somewhat liberal organization- The Sunlight Foundation- Bill Allison stated: “It seems like the Clinton Foundation acts as a slush fund for the Clintons.”  Charity Navigator, an organization that tracks charitable outlets refuses to rate the Clinton Foundation given their inability to adequately scrutinize them.  In short, the “atypical business model” is a great cover for the Clinton Foundation.

And for four years, Dennis Cheng as project director headed this fundraising machine.  He will fill that same role in the Clinton campaign.  Described as quiet, private, guarded and discreet, he is supposed to exemplify the no-drama aspect of a 2016 campaign.  He is in direct contrast to Clinton’s 2008 finance director, Jonathan Mantz, who often angered staffers for leaving the office to travel with Hillary.  Chances are you will not see Cheng at a fundraiser, but working behind the scenes.  There also will not be a national finance chairman for the campaign.  Instead, Cheng will oversee a group of eight regional committee members.

Only two are from Clinton’s 2008 campaign: Yael Ouzillou who most recently worked for Obama’s OFA who will oversee the South Central portion of the country and operate out of Texas, and Jon Adrabi who will oversee the Southeast out of Florida.  The other regional deputies are Kathy Gasperine in the Northeast and an OFA operative, Marcus Switzer who worked on the Obama campaign in 2012 in the Midwest, Angelique Cannon in the Middle Atlantic region and a DSCC fundraiser, Lindsay Roitman in the Northwest who worked for [mc_name name=’Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C000127′ ], and Stephanie Daley in the Southwest who last worked on LA Mayor Garcetti’s campaign.

He has also brought in Lisa Hernandez Gioia to help in the New Jersey-New York-Connecticut tri-state area.  She has deep ties to New York City politicians and especially to Huma Abedin.  Many believe that the inclusion of Ms. Hernandez-Gioia reflects the importance and influence of Abedin in the Hillary campaign.

Given his ties to the Clinton Foundation and his role there and despite the quiet demeanor and discreetness, Dennis Cheng at age 35 has quickly learned the dynamics of sleaze.  With Hillary Clinton as a mentor, she has done well.