Business Insiders by Colin Campbell and Hunter Walker
MAY 16, 2015, 8:00 AM
AP/Marcy NighswanderTony Rodham with Bill Clinton.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s two brothers, Tony and Hugh Rodham, could be a problem for her presidential campaign. Over the years, the pair have been at the center of multiple controversies for their business dealings and Republicans are already using them to attack Clinton.
One aide for a rival 2016 campaign aide told Business Insider Clinton’s brothers will definitely cause issues for her White House bid.
“Will they be a problem? Yes. They underscore everything that people fear and hate about the Clintons,” the aide said. “They’re essentially the id of Bill and Hillary Clinton. A bunch of money-grubbing and opportunistic hillbillies with no sense of ethics, decency, or even legality.”
Indeed, while Hugh Rodham has yet to make headlines this cycle, last weekend, the New York Times published a story delving into Clinton’s youngest brother, Tony Rodham. The paper reported he had repeatedly tried to profit from his connection to the former first family.
The newspaper pointed to a wide range of Tony Rodham’s business activities including a Haitian gold mining venture and speeches he gave before Chinese investor conferences and a California cosmetics company.
“The connections to the Clintons have given Mr. Rodham, a self-described ‘facilitator,’ a unique appeal and a range of opportunities,” The Times’ Steve Eder wrote. “But his business dealings have often invited public scrutiny and uncomfortable questions for the Clintons.”
Earlier this year, Tony Rodham was linked to alleged political favors in a report published by the Department of Homeland Security’s investigator general. The report criticized a top DHS employee for appearing to go out of his way in 2010 and 2011 to assist “a politically connected regional center,” where Tony was listed as the CEO.
The Times cited several other instances where Tony Rodham had tried to use his influence. After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, former President Bill Clinton helped lead the recovery commission. According to the paper, Tony pressured his brother-in-law for funds. Tony himself reportedly discussed the arrangement in court proceedings that “were the result of a lawsuit over unpaid legal bills filed by his lawyer in a child support case.”
“I deal through the Clinton Foundation. That gets me in touch with the Haitian officials,” Tony said. “I hound my brother-in-law, because it’s his fund that we’re going to get our money from. … And he keeps telling me, ‘Oh, it’s going to happen tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.’ Well, tomorrow hasn’t come yet.”
Both Bill Clinton’s office and the Clinton Foundation told The Times that they never helped Tony Rodham with the project, which never ultimately moved forward. However, it does appear Bill Clinton has been willing to help Rodham out with his finances. In the same court proceeding, Rodham reportedly discussed getting help landing a $72,000-a-year job at a company owned by now-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), a longtime Clinton ally.
“I was complaining to my brother-in-law I didn’t have any money. And he asked McAuliffe to give me a job,” Rodham was quoted saying, adding that the job wasn’t enough to pay his bills. “It’s kind of like the job he got me a long time ago when I worked in the prison.”
In a phone conversation on Wednesday, Business Insider asked Tony Rodham whether he was concerned controversies about his various ventures could become an issue in his sister’s campaign.
“I’m not going to talk about that,” he said before hanging up.
Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill sent a statement to Business Insider saying Clinton “loves” her brothers. While Merrill acknowledged Hugh and Tony Rodham have had their “ups and downs,” he said it would be up to them to decide whether they want to address questions about their lives that could come up in the context of her White House bid.
“She loves her family more than anything. Her brothers have always been there for her, and she will always be there for them. Each though have their own lives, their own jobs, their own ups and downs. It is for them to decide how much of their private lives to share publicly in the context of their sister’s campaign,” Merrill said.
Still, Clinton’s rivals are clearly willing to use her brothers against her. Republicans quickly pounced on The Times’ story on Tony Rodham. The national GOP forwarded the article to reporters on Monday morning along with a statement attempting to link Tony to questions about Clinton’s personal finances.
“The New York Times delves into Tony Rodham’s practice using the family name to secure controversial business deals as a ‘facilitator,'” wrote Raj Shah, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “This comes amid scrutiny of Bill Clinton’s six-figure speaking fees, controversial foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation and other eyebrow raising money making endeavors to ‘pay our bills.'”
And Tony Rodham isn’t the only one of Clinton’s siblings who could invite unwanted scrutiny during her White House bid.
Hugh Rodham, the middle sibling, was once described as the “the Billy Carter of the Clinton administration” for a pair of controversies caused by his business ventures.
In one instance, Hugh, who is often called “Hughie,” accepted $400,000 in fees from two felons who were issued pardons by President Bill Clinton. The second issue involved a business venture Hugh and Tony were both reportedly involved in along with a Russian-backed political boss who was a rival to the US-allied government in Georgia. According to the New York Times, President Clinton’s national security adviser asked the brothers to back out of this venture, which the paper described as having “caused trouble for US foreign policy.”
Apart from his business dealings, Hugh’s conduct during visits to the White House was allegedly unbecoming. According to “For Love of Politics,” an account of the Clinton presidency written by author Sally Bedell Smith, Hugh Rodham treated the White House “like a dorm.” Smith quoted Ann McCoy, a longtime friend of the Clinton’s, describing Hugh’s behavior.
“Hughie would show up in the worst outfits. … He would be wearing shorts with golf balls on them and a T-shirt. He would sit in the Solarium, and Hillary wouldn’t bat an eyelash. People would come all dressed up for dinner, and Hughie would waddle up in his shorts and fall asleep,” McCoy was quoted saying.
Hugh Rodham has also tried his hand in the media. During the Clinton administration, he hosted a radio show. More recently, Hugh seems to have tried to revive his media career and some of what he had to say would be decidedly off message for the Clinton campaign. A promotion for an unspecified “radio program” that was posted on YouTube in 2012 features Hugh blasting President Barack Obama, who had Hillary Clinton in his Cabinet at the time. In the clip, Hugh discusses the 2012 election.
“The new radio program that you’re about to listen to, which is on the internet streaming live will tell you, the voters, the unvarnished truth. Let me tell you what’s the importance of this election. If you’re unhappy with the no jobs policy the weak economy and all the rest of the things that the current administration provided you in the last four years and are unhappy with what the challengers have to say then we will try to get down to the nitty gritty of what’s important and what’s important is how you perceive your role as an American,” he says.
During Bill Clinton’s presidency, Hugh also attempted to launch his own political career by challenging former Republican Senator Connie Mack in Florida. Hugh lost that race and along the way he was reportedly accused of campaign finance violations and forced to admit he had a spotty voting record. The Orlando Sentinel quoted one anonymous “leading state Democrat” describing Hugh simply as “an embarrassment” for the party in Florida.
“We in the Florida party had nothing to do with him, wanted nothing to do with him,” they said.
Hugh Rodham did not respond to a message Business Insider left at his Florida law office this week seeking comment on this story.
While the Rodham brothers would not speak to us, lawyer and political consultant Lanny Davis, a longtime Clinton family friend, sent us a comment on their behalf. Davis suggested there were inaccuracies in the various allegations leveled against the Rodhams over the years, but they don’t want to defend themselves due to a desire to protect “their families privacy.” Davis also expressed the brothers’ wish that Clinton’s rivals and members of the media will refrain from targeting her family.
“Tony and Hugh live their own own lives, and while there are plenty of facts to dispute, they are not going to do so as part of a political charade,” Davis said. “They hope this desire for privacy is understood by both the Republicans and the media, but either way they plan on vigorously guarding their family’s privacy by not responding to purely political attacks on relatives who are neither public officials nor running for any office.”