Hillary Clinton's top campaign official may have dodged a requirement to disclose some of the compensation he received from a tech firm connected to the Kremlin by diverting shares in the company to his daughter in California, documents published by WikiLeaks revealed.
Campaign chairman John Podesta dumped more than 33,000 shares in Joule Global Holdings by transferring it to Leonidio Holdings LLC, run by his daughter, Megan Rouse, according to a Jan. 3, 2014 transfer letter he retained in his personal Gmail account. Podesta served as a White House advisor to President Obama from Jan. 2014 to Feb. 2015, during which he was required to file financial disclosure forms.
A Jan. 6, 2014 email from Mark Solakian, a senior vice president and general counsel at the company, expressed Solakian's impression that Podesta transferred an even greater number of shares to Leonidio.
"It is my understanding that John transferred the ... 75,000 common shares from the option exercise to the Leonidio LLC. As such, we would need to edit the Transfer of Share Agreement to reflect the transfer of 75,000 common shares to the LLC," Solakian wrote in the message, which was addressed to a Podesta assistant and subsequently forwarded to him.
San Francisco's East Bay Times, based about 30 miles from where Podesta's daughter serves on a local school board, was first to discover the connection. Reached by phone by the publication, Rouse declined to comment.
Clinton's campaign emphasized that Podesta had followed disclosure rules. "When Podesta went back to the work at the White House, he worked with White House counsel to personally divest from Joule and ensure he was in full compliance with all government ethics rules," said Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for the campaign.
"He transferred the entirety of his holdings to his adult children, resigned all positions with the company and filed the appropriate forms which were then certified by the appropriate ethics officials. As an additional step, he recused himself from all matters pertaining to Joule for the duration of his time at the White House," Schwerin added.
It was previously known Podesta had been associated with Joule. The company announced in a 2011 press release that he was joining its board of directors in order to provide what the company referred to as his "considerable expertise … in the realm of public policy."
It had not been clear why Podesta appeared to omit some of the compensation he received from the financial disclosure forms White House officials are required to submit. He filed disclosure papers related to two of the company's affiliates, the Massachusetts-based Joule Unlimited and its holding company, Joule Global Holdings, based in the in the Netherlands. He did not submit papers for compensation received for a controlling entity, Joule Global Stichting.
The omission raised eyebrows due to a perception that Joule benefitted from Podesta's connections, particularly because of investment connected to the Russian government. The company received a $35 million payday from Rusnano, an investment fund backed by the Kremlin, two months after Podesta joined its board.
Podesta's flirtation with funds connected to the Russian government also drew attention in March. Registration forms for a Washington lobbying outfit run by Podesta and his brother, Anthony Podesta, revealed the firm signed up that month to advocate on behalf of companies tied to the state-backed Sberbank of Russia.
Those companies included the Luxembourg-based SB International, Cyprus-based SBGB and the Troika Dialogue Group, located in the Cayman Islands. The Panama Papers, illegally obtained from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca in April, revealed sources close to Russian President Vladimir Putin used the firms to funnel funds around the globe.
Podesta served as a White House chief of staff to President Bill Clinton from 1998-01, and signed on as Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman in April 2015. WikiLeaks as of Friday had published 25,000 emails obtained from Podesta's personal Gmail account, with as many as 25,000 more thought to be coming.