Conservative group asks probe of Clinton move for son-in-law

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2015 12:40 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A conservative watchdog group has asked the U.S. government's ethics agency to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's intervention in a request for help by a deep-sea mining company after one of the firm's investors contacted her son-in-law. Clinton, then secretary of state, told a senior State Department official to look into the matter.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust asked the U.S. Office of Government Ethics on Monday to investigate whether Clinton gave Neptune Minerals Inc. preferential treatment after an investor asked Marc Mezvinsky, the husband of Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, for help in 2012. The investor wanted to meet with Clinton or other department officials.

Emails the State Department released in recent months and four years of Clinton calendars obtained by The Associated Press do not show any meetings with Neptune's executives or investors. But after Clinton told a senior State Department official to look into the request, the official responded: "I'll get on it."

The AP repeatedly sought for more than a week an explanation about the incident from Clinton campaign officials, Neptune executives, Mezvinsky and his wife and others involved in the matter. A campaign spokesman and a spokesman for the hedge fund where Mezvinsky is a co-partner declined to comment.

In a letter to the ethics agency's director, Walter Shaub, FACT executive director Matthew G. Whittaker cited federal ethics rules that government officials should not accord preferential treatment while performing official duties and from acting to benefit someone based on personal or business relationships.

The episode began with a May 2012 email to Mezvinsky from Harry Siklas, a friend and former Goldwyn Sachs co-worker. Siklas said an executive with Neptune, a Florida firm he had invested in, was seeking to meet with Clinton or other State Department officials to discuss the firm's ocean mining interests. Clinton had recently pressed for the Senate passage of the Law of the Sea Treaty, which would have enabled the U.S. to sponsor mining firms involved in deep-sea scouring for minerals. The Senate has yet to approve the treaty.

A Clinton email chain released earlier this month does not show any reply from Mezvinsky in 2012. But in August 2012, three months after Siklas sent the email to Mezvinsky, Clinton relayed a copy of Siklas' email to Thomas Nides, then deputy secretary of state for management, who agreed to look into the matter.

Whittaker asked Shaub for "a full investigation into these communications and a determination of whether any laws were broken."