In 1958, Congress passed the "Former Presidents Act" (FPA) which entitled former presidents to certain taxpayer-funded benefits after leaving office. The benefits include a pension for the former president, lifetime secret service protection, transition expenses to a new office after leaving the White House and funding for the president's staff. All expenses are explicitly intended to be used specifically for the benefit of the former President. But like many things with the Clintons, discoveries from a Politico FOIA request imply that rules under the Former Presidents Act were seemingly viewed by Bill as more of a "suggestion" rather than explicit guidance on how taxpayer dollars could be appropriated.
According to a report published by Kenneth Vogel of Politico, Bill Clinton seemed to ignore the rules of his FPA funding and instead used it to at least partially fund the salaries of Clinton Foundation staff and to purchase IT equipment for the Foundation. Per a FOIA request, Politico found that Bill Clinton requested allocations totaling $16 million under the FPA since leaving office in 2001, more than any other living president over that same time period. While that number is staggering, what's more disturbing is the level of overlap between Clinton's official staff (i.e. those eligible for FPA salaries) and the Clinton Foundation staff. Per Politico:
An analysis of the records provided by GSA, combined with Clinton Foundation tax returns, found that at least 13 of the 22 staffers who have been paid by GSA to work for Clinton’s personal office also worked for the Clinton Foundation.
While staffers to former presidents certainly aren't getting rich off their efforts, Politico points out the the key reason for adding so many many people to the president's official staff is so they become eligible for "full federal employee benefits" which include "health and life insurance and pensions." In fact, Politico points out that Bill's staffers who did work for the Clinton Foundation "almost never" received benefits from the Clinton Foundation.
A GSA spokesperson declined to comment on specific employees, but said ex-presidents have broad discretion over how they choose to divvy up the $96,600 they are provided each year for staffing. They can give the entire sum to a single employee or divide it among multiple employees.
The key reason for adding staffers to the GSA payroll, according to two people familiar with the Clintons’ staffing arrangements, was that each employee became eligible for full federal employee benefits, including health and life insurance and pensions. The two people familiar with Bill Clinton’s staffing said the employees on his GSA payroll almost never received benefits from either the Clinton Foundation or the CESC.
To be fair, an aide to Bill Clinton assured Political that Bill's use of the GSA program was "entirely consistent with the Former Presidents Act."
Generally, the aide explained that Clinton “wears several hats — among them being former President of the United States and the founder of the Clinton Foundation. His staffing reflects those roles.”
The aide added “there is no legal prohibition that would preclude the former president’s staff from receiving compensation from other sources or doing personal work for the former presidents. We are unaware of any legal prohibition that would preclude these activities.”
Yes, we're sure that while adding 22 people to your personal staff, when George Bush somehow finds a way to survive with just 4, primarily so they can get access to taxpayer funded benefits, isn't "technically" illegal (a seemingly frequent argument of the Clintons lately...see "How The Hillary 'Victory Fund' Uses State Democratic Committees To Launder Money To The DNC") it certainly seems to not be entirely consistent with the "intent" of the funding either.
And then there is the computer equipment. Politico found that, in several cases, GSA officials raised questions about whether requested furniture and IT equipment including servers were intended for the Clinton Foundation, rather than Clinton’s personal office. In at least one instance, GSA paid to purchase and maintain a specialty Lockheed Martin database system called Intranet Quorom, the supporting systems for which were housed at one time at the Clinton Foundation’s offices, and used by both foundation staff and Bill Clinton’s personal office staff to store and process his correspondence.
And then there is the following request for reimbursement from the GSA for a Dell server purchased through "MNJ Technologies Direct." Oddly enough, the invoice from MNJ clearly indicates that the bill should be sent to the "Office of Former Pres. Clinton" while the equipment should be shipped to "The Clinton Foundation." Does that seem reasonable to everyone?
When questioned about the expenditures by the GSA, the Clinton Foundation pointed out that the server needed to be housed at their office due to "better air conditioning." Yes, we're sure that Bill's office was just sweltering. Per Politico:
Clinton Foundation officials explained to the GSA that they wanted the Dell server housed at foundation headquarters rather than at Clinton’s personal office. They explained in an email that the foundation office had better air conditioning, allowing it to support “about 10-15 more servers,” and also it was where IT staff were based, so “trouble shooting with the servers can be done ASAP.”
Oddly enough, the GSA claims they disputed this specific purchase and ultimately did not provide reimbursement....
“Consistent with the support we provide to every former President, GSA does not approve purchases for entities other than the offices of former Presidents,” the spokesman said. “In this case, GSA staff sought clarification about the intended use of proposed purchases. Ultimately, the referenced server was not purchased.”
While a Clinton aide insisted that, in fact, the GSA did purchase the server...
But, perhaps highlighting the confusion caused by the overlapping spheres in the Clinton’s universe, the Clinton aide offered a different recollection. “We believe that the information GSA provided you with is incomplete. Our files show that GSA purchased the Dell server..."
Might we suggest just taking the small victories when they're handed to you?