Hillary Clinton padded the membership of a newly-created advisory board at the State Department with friends and donors, federal records show.
The Foreign Affairs Advisory Board, which Clinton commissioned in 2011 to provide "independent, informed advice and opinion concerning matters of U.S. foreign policy," was founded with 15 appointments to individuals who had donated personally to the Clinton Foundation and her political campaigns, or were affiliated with groups that had.
The appointments fit the pattern of preferential treatment for donors that has come to characterize much of Clinton's time at the State Department.
Of the 511 appointments on State Department advisory boards, 194 were filled with Clinton donors during her tenure, a Washington Examiner review of federal records found.
The Foreign Affairs Advisory Board fell entirely under Clinton's purview as the secretary of state who created it, allowing her to control who got each of the 25 positions that made up the panel.
Some of the appointments went to well-qualified experts and even Republicans, including Stephen Hadley, who served as President George W. Bush's national security advisor, and Rachel Kleinfeld, an international affairs expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
But others went to longtime friends and donors who had already used their relationships with Clinton to push for favors or access
Marisa McAuliffe, the niece of longtime Clinton ally and current Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, served as the "designated federal officer" associated with the foreign affairs board.
McAuliffe was listed as Clinton's point of contact for the panel when it held its inaugural meeting on Dec. 28, 2011, schedules made public through the Freedom of Information Act show.
Clinton personally attended the board's first meetings and played a prominent and personal role in deciding who would serve on the panel.
Strobe Talbott has been a friend of the Clinton's since the 1970s, when he worked on George McGovern's doomed presidential bid alongside both Clintons and David Kendall, the attorney who shepherded Bill Clinton through his impeachment proceedings and represented Hillary Clinton throughout the legal imbroglio over her emails.
Talbott was appointed to chair the Foreign Affairs Advisory Board.
Bill Clinton named Talbott, a former journalist with Time magazine, as an ambassador-at-large to Russia upon entering the White House and elevated him to deputy secretary of state in 1994.
In addition to his role as president of the Brookings Institute, a position he has held since 2002, Talbott is a member of the Aspen Institute, which has donated to the Clinton Foundation.
Talbott donated to Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate bid and to her 2008 presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The longtime Clinton confidante remained close to Hillary Clinton throughout her State Department tenure, emails show.
For example, in Dec. 2011 — the same month he was selected as chair of the Foreign Affairs Policy Board — Talbott advised the former secretary of state to "go beyond the usual bounds in setting her agenda and the usual scope of SecState's [sic] activity" due to what he perceived as her "huge political clout."
Talbott, mentioning a conversation with fellow Foreign Affairs Policy Board member and Clinton donor Liaquat Ahamed, cited the "non-negligible possibility that she might still be president" as a reason for Hillary Clinton's international success as secretary of state.
The Brookings Institute president leaned on his relationship with Hillary Clinton in June 2012, when he reached out to Lona Valmoro, her longtime scheduler, and Mills in an effort to lure the secretary to an event his think tank was hosting.
When Hillary Clinton couldn't fit the original event onto her calendar, Talbott made a second request.
"I'd still very, very much hope that S would be willing to do a relaxed, conversation-style event at Brookings — both retrospective/reflective and looking ahead— some time before she completes her tenure at State," Talbott wrote to Mills and Valmoro on June 19, 2012.
Mills let him know she would try to facilitate the event.
She then forwarded his email to Huma Abedin, Jake Sullivan and Philippe Reines, three of Hillary Clinton's top aides at the State Department.
"Let's not lose sight of doing this given all he has does as FAPB Chair, and more," Mills said of the event. Sullivan agreed.
Reines, however, highlighted the insider access they were providing Talbott.
"I'll know when I've made it when years from now I'll email the equivalent of the 5 of us, and ask Hrc to attend my neighbor's cousin's bar mitzvah," Reines joked, using Hillary Clinton's initials. "And those 5 new people will say 'We have to do this, it's Philippe asking.'"
Thomas "Mack" McLarty served as a chief of staff to Bill Clinton and, along with his wife, has personally given up to $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary Clinton offered McLarty a position on her foreign affairs panel in Dec. 2011.
But McLarty had already worked his ties to the Clinton State Department to his advantage.
In March 2010, for example, McLarty asked Mills to connect him with Hillary Clinton so he could ask for a favor that was "personal not business" in nature.
"I try to be very judicious about these types of requests," McLarty said.
In May 2011, McLarty asked Mills for an invitation to a State Department event given his "substantial family investment in the automotive sector" in China.
Mills quickly responded by informing him that "the Secretary is hosting a dinner tomorrow evening at State that we would welcome you attending."
McLarty wrote back the day after the event thanking Hillary Clinton's team for inviting him to the dinner, which he described as a "productive" evening.
Referencing his son, Mark, and their business ventures in China, McLarty said the dinner allowed him to "make some new [friendships] with Chinese government officials who deal directly with the private sector, which is of course important to Mark and our automotive activities in China."
Jane Harman, a former Democratic congresswoman from California, was also placed on the foreign affairs panel. She is presently the CEO of the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., which honored Hillary Clinton with an award in April 2012.
Harman is a longtime Clinton backer who has donated to Clinton's 2000 Senate and 2008 presidential campaigns. Her husband, Sidney Harman, owned Newsweek until his death in 2011 and gave up to $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation, donor records show.
Together, Sidney and Jane Harman gave $450,000 to Democratic causes and candidates between 1990 and 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Hillary Clinton started receiving running lists of potential appointees for the Foreign Affairs Policy Board in May 2011 — months before the panel's official membership was made public.
Emails suggest she was closely involved in the selection process, although the State Department redacted most of her deliberations with staff.
In Aug. 2011, Abedin instructed Clinton to call nine of the 25 future members and personally invite them to serve on the panel.
Members of the Foreign Affairs Policy Board were given security clearances, emails sent between Hillary Clinton and Abedin show. Topics of discussion at the board's three annual meetings were to be classified, and members would be compensated for travel, lodging and per diem when they attended the gatherings in Washington, D.C.
The board was expected to cost taxpayers $206,504 a year, records show.
A State Department spokesman did not return a request for comment about the appointments to the Foreign Affairs Policy Board.
Hillary Clinton has denied providing special access to anyone at her agency.
However, the Democratic nominee has weathered fierce criticism over the potential conflicts of interest that flourished under the blurred lines separating her political, financial and philanthropic pursuits.