Clinton’s Chief of Staff Negotiated for NYU Abu Dhabi

By Moira Donohue

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 14: Counselor and Chief of Staff to Hillary Clinton, Cheryl Mills speaks onstage at the Cinema For Peace event benefitting J/P Haitian Relief Organization in Los Angeles held at Montage Hotel on January 14, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images For J/P Haitian Relief Organization and Cinema For Peace)

According to an article in The Washington Post, Hillary Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl D. Mills played a major role in the negotiating for NYU Abu Dhabi from 2007–2009, the tail end of which overlaps with the time Clinton served as Secretary of State and Mills as her chief of staff.

Unfortunately, while holding high-level positions, government officials are prohibited from working at any other establishments. In order to avoid a conflict of interest, an arrangement was made with the State Department in which Mills would work for the Secretary but remain unpaid while negotiating for NYU Abu Dhabi.

While working with NYU Abu Dhabi, Mills regularly met with Abu Dhabi government officials who helped oversee and fund the project. Her role was essentially to maintain NYU’s image of acceptance within Abu Dhabi by acting as a spokeswoman for same sex couples who would potentially be employed at the university. She also supported free speech for students and faculty members and labor regulations during the construction of the school.

The connections between Mills, the Clintons, and NYU go even deeper: Hillary Clinton spoke at NYU’s 2009 commencement and Bill Clinton was the speaker at NYU Abu Dhabi’s first commencement. According to the Washington Post article, “For Mills, part of the quandary, she said, was that she loved her work for NYU. [Mills’] focus was on opening NYU’s campus in Abu Dhabi.”

While Mills position as Clinton’s chief of staff and an NYUAD negotiator is far from the norm for government officials, it was not unethical and should not threaten her integrity in Washington or here at NYU.

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images