Anthony Weiner, who resigned from Congress two years ago this Friday in a side-splitting social-media scandal, is running for mayor of New York? We don’t know why, but we’re now pretty sure it’s not for the money. The New York Post reports that Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, “hauled in as much as $350,000 in outside income on top of Abedin’s $135,000 government salary.”
Far be it from this columnist to begrudge the Weiners their financial success. What’s eyebrow-raising about this, though, is that Abedin, who works for the State Department, is the source of some of that outside income:
Abedin, who served as [Hillary] Clinton’s deputy chief of staff when Clinton was secretary of state, later became a ‘special government employee’ who was able to haul in cash as a private contractor. . . .
One of the clients she did consulting work for while on the government payroll was Teneo Holdings, a firm founded by longtime Bill Clinton aide Doug Band.
The Post reports that Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican the paper describes as “one of the Senate’s most aggressive investigators,” is looking into the matter. In a letter to Abedin and now-Secretary John Kerry, Grassley “wrote that he was concerned Abedin’s status ‘blurs the line between public- and private-sector employees, especially when employees receive full-time salaries for what appears to be part-time work.’ ” Grassley also “suggested Abedin was providing clients ‘political intelligence,’ ” a claim denied by an unnamed “person close to Abedin.”
New York’s Daily News reports that white-knight Weiner “defended his wife” during a Saturday campaign appearance. “I’m proud of my wife and I’m proud of the work she’s done,” he said, adding that “she has done everything completely above-board with approval of the State Department.”
That may well be true–in which case the scandal here may be what’s above board rather than what’s below it. The Post reports that an unnamed State Department official “noted there were 100 such consultants at the agency.”
A hundred Abedin-size salaries would add up to $13.5 million–presumably not counting benefits–being paid to people whose work for the department has to compete with their outside gigs for their time and attention. Are they thoroughly screened for conflicts of interest? If so, that’s an additional expense for the taxpayers. If not, we can’t rule out the possibility that some State Department workers are trading on their access to what Grassley calls “political intelligence.”