By Patricia H Kushlis
You have to hand it to Senator Grassley for challenging the State Department’s claim that Hillary Clinton’s trip planner and scheduler, Huma Abedin had expertise that was “irreplaceable” and that as a consequence, she was worthy of a contract as a special State Department employee while also employed as a consultant with Teneo a consulting firm close to the Clintons that has Coca Cola as one client, the Clinton Foundation and for Mrs. Clinton personally. This, reportedly, so that she could live in New York with her wayward husband, Anthony Weiner, and new born son.
I’m not sure which of the two - husband or baby - takes more adult supervision but I have my suspicions. The August 19, 2013 New York Times article which reported the story did not indicate the kind of contract State issued Abedin but the Washington Post described her re-employment as a SGE (Special Government Employee).
This is different from longer term Schedule B and C political appointments whose occupants are employed at the behest of a senior political figure and who are supposedly required to resign and leave the agency once their political patron does. A SGEr is a “temporary” employee who can only work for the federal government 130 days out of 365 and is supposed to have some kind of special skill that is so important to the operation of the US government that he or she can simultaneously draw a salary from a private entity – or entities - as well as the USG.
Exactly what special qualifications did Huma Abedin offer the State Department aside from her knowledge of Hillary’s likes and dislikes? And how could her SGE contract have lasted from June 3, 2012 - February 1, 2013 without breaking the law?
Meanwhile, according to a study conducted by the American
Foreign Service Association earlier this summer, the number of political appointees in the State
Department has proliferated over the past decade. I think AFSA was only counting Schedule B and C appointments not SGEs but this category should be added to the mix if it's not already there.
Seems to me that the use of SGEs should also be investigated by Congress especially in light of its belt-tightening sequester policy – but since both political parties use political positions to reward wealthy and not so wealthy supporters – that’s not likely to happen any time soon.
But back to the 37 year old Huma. Puh-leese. An irreplaceable scheduler?
A Deputy Secretary who made $135,000 annually in 2012 from the USG (according to Wikipedia) on top of a private consulting income of $355,000 which she and her husband reported on their income taxes? There seems to be another question about substantial travel funds but I don't know if this sum was supposedly spent all in one year or over the course of her State Department employment. Hillary, after all, did travel a lot and she took Huma with her.
Who’s kidding whom?
Excuse me - but aren’t personal schedulers usually mid-grade civil servants or shouldn't they be? Or perhaps if a civil servant couldn’t be found to take on the thankless task perhaps a junior officer from the Operations Center might have filled the bill. Better than stamping visas in a consular section's visa mill or weeks of endless grueling 24/7 shift work sifting through cables on the Watch.