POLITICS SEPTEMBER 22, 2013
One Thursday evening last September, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Tony Blair met in New York to conduct what was supposed to be a high-minded discourse on terrorism, geopolitics, and the global economy. The setting was elegant—the beaux arts ballroom of the Essex House, an iconic tower on Central Park South. The 78-person VIP guest list included Harvey Weinstein, Eli Broad, Blackstone co-founders Steve Schwarzman and Pete Peterson, Silicon Valley impresario Sean Parker, Billie Jean King, George Pataki, and New York City police chief Ray Kelly, along with CEOs and top executives from companies like Dow Chemical, Coca-Cola, BP, and Bank of America. Somehow, these onetime world leaders, corporate titans, and other notable personages converged in the center of New York without the event ever being noticed by the press.
The guests had been wrangled, persuaded, flattered, and otherwise enticed to attend by Doug Band, a tall man with genial, unmemorable features and a deferential demeanor. In fact, the gathering was taking place in his own building, underneath his expansive eighth-floor apartment, and it represented a major triumph for him.
Twelve years earlier, at the age of 27, Band had entered Clinton’s orbit as that lowliest of Washington archetypes: the body man. He was the all-purpose aide who carried the bags, provided the pen, watched the clock, kept the cigars close, and ensured the Diet Cokes were always chilled. And after the inglorious end of Clinton’s presidency, Band had stayed on. It was he who had engineered Clinton’s transformation into a philanthropist-king, and over the years, the pair had formed a bond that was more like father and son than boss and factotum. “The most important thing about Doug is that he sort of took control of President Clinton’s career at a moment when he was dropping from about sixty percent [favorability] to thirty-nine percent,” says Paul Begala, the former Clinton adviser. “You look up today and Bill is in a league inhabited only by himself and Nelson Mandela and the Pope. He’s one of the most beloved people on the planet and an American political colossus as well. That’s just astonishing—and Doug’s been central to that.”
Now, at long last, Band was striking out alone. In 2011, he and Irish businessman Declan Kelly had launched Teneo, a corporate advisory firm that was hosting the Essex House event. As the guests of honor arrived—Bush looking trim in a royal-blue suit and lemon-yellow tie, Clinton in conservative dark gray—they were whisked upstairs for an unscheduled photo shoot with Band’s friends and family, including his wife, Lily Rafii, a stylish investment banker–turned–handbag designer, and their two young children, Max and Sophie. The detour made Clinton, Bush, and Blair late for their pre-dinner obligation—a photo line with no fewer than 60 attendees.
The main event was set for 7 p.m. sharp, and protocol decreed that the three principals must not be made to wait. They were brought backstage for their entrance, and Declan Kelly took the stage. But instead of introducing his distinguished guests, he launched into a long-winded sales pitch. Teneo was the next big thing in executive consulting, he informed the audience. He played a promotional video about the firm. He introduced the heads of Teneo’s divisions, describing their résumés and asking each to stand in turn. Meanwhile, the onetime guardians of the special relationship were left loitering awkwardly in the wings. “It was unnecessarily inappropriate,” says one guest. “It was flagrant.” Bush had evidently gotten more than he had bargained for in accepting the (paid) invitation: At one point during the evening, a guest saw him shoot a glance at his aide that plainly said, What the fuck is going on?
The entire episode was pure Doug Band. He is rarely written about, almost never quoted, and many Clinton associates are loath to discuss him on the record. “Doug is taboo—no one touches the guy,” says one person who has had extensive dealings with him. On the handful of occasions he has spoken openly to the media, he has struck an impeccably humble tone. “The thing I most enjoy in my job is helping people,” he once told his college alumni magazine. “I have been able to remain behind the scenes, making a difference and changing people’s lives.” But as Band attempts to build a business of his own, the methods he once employed discreetly in the service of his boss have started to attract unwelcome attention.
Band himself did not respond to an extensive list of questions for this article, but over the course of nine months, I spoke with more than three dozen people who have worked with him over the arc of his career. Inside the realm known as Clintonland, he is the subject of considerable angst. There are those who worry about the overlap between his work for the Clinton Global Initiative— which he conceived and helped run for six years—and his energetic efforts to expand Teneo’s client base. And there are those who worry about how some of the messier aspects of the charity’s operations could create trouble for Hillary Clinton, who has made the family foundation her base as she contemplates a presidential run. But the real cause for these anxieties runs deeper. At its heart, the unease with Band reflects an unease with the phenomenon of post-presidential Clintonism itself.
Bill Clinton now leads a sprawling philanthropic empire like no other. The good it achieves is undeniable. It has formed partnerships with multinationals and wealthy individuals to distribute billions of dollars all over the globe. Its many innovative projects include efforts to lower the costs of medicines in developing nations and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in major cities. And yet it’s hard to shake the sense that it’s not all about saving the world. There’s an undertow of transactionalism in the glittering annual dinners, the fixation on celebrity, and a certain contingent of donors whose charitable contributions and business interests occupy an uncomfortable proximity. More than anyone else except Clinton himself, Band is responsible for creating this culture. And not only did he create it; he has thrived in it.
There are people who are driven to Washington by ideological passion or who come to advance a particular cause. Doug Band was not one of those people. He grew up in sunny comfort in Sarasota, Florida, the youngest of four sons, and by all accounts, it was always important to him to be wherever the power players were. After rushing Sigma Phi Epsilon at the University of Florida, he was elected president of the interfraternity council for the entire campus. College administrators recall a precocious student politician who entered every meeting with a defined agenda. At the time, his close friend, David Sobelman, was puzzled by Band’s palpable ambition: “I didn’t understand what that motivation meant at that point, but obviously Doug did.”
Band would later trace his interest in politics to a campus visit by Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 1992. But when he came to Washington, it was to intern for a Republican congressman, Dan Miller. In itself, this wasn’t so strange: Sarasota belonged to a staunchly Republican county in Miller’s district, and Band’s father, a real estate developer, had supported Miller’s campaign. Still, Miller told me he was “a little surprised” when Band returned to Washington in 1995 at the age of 22 to intern in the Clinton White House.
It wasn’t long before Band knew everyone and everyone knew Band. He remembered the janitors’ first names; he joked with the women in the White House counsel’s office, where he was assigned. His ecumenical sociability extended to Monica Lewinsky. Several White House staffers were already trying to steer Clinton clear of the flirtatious intern, and Band later told Starr Report investigators that he found it “a little strange” when she showed him a tie she planned to give the president. But that December, shortly after Lewinsky and Clinton began their affair, Band accepted her invitation to escort her to the White House Congressional Ball. “He’s a nice guy,” says a former colleague from the counsel’s office. “Also, she had the tickets, and he wanted to go.”
After his internship, Band was hired by the counsel’s office as a staffer vetting judicial nominees, while earning a master’s in liberal arts and a law degree from Georgetown. It was the perfect preparation for a comfortable life in the capital’s legal circles—and so his colleagues were perplexed when Band took a job on the president’s advance team, typically a role for someone several years younger. “People felt happy for him, but one question in my mind was, as a lawyer, why would he want to do it?” recalls a former supervisor at the counsel’s office.
For Band, however, being in the thick of the action was more important than shaping it. The legal job was in the Old Executive Office Building; the advance job was in the White House. “He just wanted to be closer to the president, to really be inside the West Wing and see in a closer level of visibility how things worked,” says the former supervisor. By 2000, Band had moved up from the advance team to become Clinton’s body man.
Band’s pursuit of this path reflected a shrewd insight into the Clinton White House. Among presidential aides, the body man is referred to dismissively as the “butt boy.” But being the butt boy for Bill Clinton held more potential than it would for almost any other politician. Since Clinton was pathologically incapable of showing up on time, he needed constant management. This required, for one thing, a mastery of the politics and the issues of the moment, and Band immersed himself in the president’s briefing book accordingly. “You have to think about little tiny miniscule details and have to understand the broad strategic picture,” explains one former staff member. “If you’re trying to figure out in the moment if it’s OK to be late to that next meeting, it helps if you understand that this legislative issue takes precedence over, say, meeting the governors.”
Then there was the delicate matter of the president’s social appetite. “[Clinton] just loves being around people,” says the former staff member. “That would cause challenges, but it also feeds him as a human being, having those interactions.” Multiple times a day, Band would have to judge whether it was more constructive for Clinton to adhere strictly to the schedule or to linger on the rope line, clasping hands and telling stories. Band would later tell a Florida paper that his role with Clinton was “being him for him”—to completely inhabit his boss’s needs and whims and moods.
So adept was Band at these tasks that, when Dulé Hill was cast on “The West Wing” as Charlie Young—the character who introduced the body man into popular culture—he sought Band’s advice. Band briefed him on the surreal existence of being, simultaneously, the least important guy in the room and the person who spends more time with the president than anyone else. “You kind of forget that you’re right next to the most powerful man in the world,” Hill recalls Band explaining. “Heads of states and corporations throughout the world know you by your first name, because wherever the president is, that’s where you are.”
As his second term wound down, Clinton fell into a gloomy state. He was leaving the White House in disgrace over his last-minute pardons and owed millions of dollars in legal bills. Once again, Band surprised his colleagues by declining a job at Goldman Sachs and opting to remain as Clinton’s assistant. “It wasn’t the most glamorous time to do that job,” says the former staff member. “It was a loyalty play.” Michael Feldman, a former adviser to Vice President Gore, detected the instincts of an entrepreneur: “The connections you cultivate if you do that job—the potential is unlimited.”
In July 2001, Clinton opened an office in Harlem, on a strip of nail salons and sportswear shops. In the early months, “the phones were not ringing as much,” says Doug Sosnik, a senior adviser to Clinton in his second term. A lot of the time, it was just Band and Bill, shuttling between Harlem and Clinton’s home in Chappaqua. The former president had established the William J. Clinton Foundation, but lacked any real plan for how he would spend the years ahead. It was a tough adjustment for Clinton, but “a pretty heady time for Doug,” says his former colleague from the counsel’s office.
The young aide—now titled “counselor”—was still the bearer of the BlackBerry, which often ran out of juice before noon. But, if you were a petitioner for access to Clinton, you knew that Band had assumed the role of gatekeeper and that Clinton increasingly trusted him to know which invitations he would want to accept. “He was one of those guys who stayed till two o’clock in the morning, worked very hard, and was impeccably loyal. Both Clintons value those qualities—the loyalty, being willing to do anything, walk through the coals for you,” says a former Clinton administration official.
This was the moment of Band’s elevation from trusted aide to essential companion. In the White House, the power had lain in the office itself. But as Clinton entered his post-presidential life, “the base camp for Bill Clinton is where Bill Clinton is,” says Sosnik. “If you want to be driving the overall Clinton project, if you’re not with him, you’re not where the action is.” And Band was with him almost constantly. By his tally, he has accompanied the former president to nearly 125 countries and 2,000 cities. He was at Clinton’s bedside when he had heart bypass surgery in 2004. On the rare occasions when they weren’t together, they were known to speak on the phone dozens of times a day.
Sosnik told me that there is something almost uxorial about spending so much time in Clinton’s presence. “If you’re with someone eighteen or nineteen hours a day, there can be long stretches when you’re laughing or playing cards and long stretches when you’re not talking at all. You get a sense of certain things. Like, the president’s not a morning person. There were certain things you wait to deal with, certain conversations you have at certain times of the day.” A friend of Clinton’s who has traveled with the two men recalled a Middle Eastern trip where Band canceled a meeting with some petro-royalty because he sensed Clinton needed a break. “The president said, ‘No, no.’ [Doug] said, ‘No sir, you need to rest.’ ... The guy who had the meeting wasn’t thrilled.”
Clinton, in turn, lived vicariously through Band, goading him for tales of the bachelor’s life. This was not, however, a relationship of equals. During marathon card games, Clinton would sometimes muse, “I used to be the leader of the free world,” says the Clinton friend—“in jest, but . . . kind of serious, too.”
Through his boss, Band received his entrée into the billionaire boys club that was Clinton’s post-presidential social circle. The pair often traveled on the Boeing 757 of supermarket mogul Ron Burkle, who had taken Clinton on as a partner in his private-equity firm, Yucaipa, and who has estimated that he spent about 500 hours a year with Clinton in this period. Another close buddy was Democratic donor and Hollywood producer Steve Bing. Vanity Fair would later run a suggestive piece about Clinton’s wilding period in these years, noting Burkle and Bing’s playboy reputations and identifying Band as enabler of the hijinks on what Burkle staffers referred to as “Air Fuck One.” Sosnik, however, says Band was never “part of the rat pack on the road,” adding, “In my time, Doug was always on the side of taking care of business.”
Band and Clinton were so inseparable that Band sometimes framed requests to colleagues using the royal “us” or “we.” Naturally, people assumed he was referring to his boss. “In some part of his mind, he melded them into being one person,” says a longtime Clinton associate. “You thought that, if he said something, it was coming from the top. ... If he called and said, ‘We need tulips for the apartment,’ you assumed it was the president who needed tulips for his apartment.” However, the associate believes that, at least in some cases, Band was presenting his own preferences as those of Clinton. For instance, he says that it was Band, not Clinton, who insisted on frequenting luxury hotels and restaurants on the road. “[Clinton] could stay in the Motel 6—he doesn’t care, he’s from Arkansas!” the associate says. But for Band, “it has to be the Bellagio. The perception was that it was what the president wants. But the president doesn’t care about that stuff.” The associate adds: “The question is, when did [Band] believe, ‘Hey, I’m an equal, and I should share the fruits of this?’ ”
Not everyone in Clintonland was thrilled at Band’s ascent. “He can come across as pretty harshly judgmental,” says a former senior aide to Hillary Clinton. “You could fill Shea Stadium with people who haven’t heard from Doug, or heard something they didn’t want to hear, or heard something that alienates them.” John Podesta, the former Clinton White House chief of staff, explains: “The president gets like a zillion requests to do stuff, and Doug’s the guy who’s had to say no to nine hundred ninety-nine—what’s one less than a zillion? That rubbed some people the wrong way.” Sometimes, people would try to bypass Band and appeal to Clinton directly, but this was tricky—Clinton didn’t use e-mail, and Band was nearly always there. Even if you did manage to reach Clinton, Band could bring him around to his view when they were alone again.
Maggie Williams, the foundation’s chief of staff (and Hillary’s former White House chief of staff), balked at Band’s habit of circumventing her authority. In 2004, according to the Clinton associate, Williams, backed by Hillary, informed Band that he needed to leave. But Band, backed by Bill, refused to go. In the end, it was Williams who left. “That’s when I realized, this guy has got it figured out—he’s never going to go away,” says the Clinton associate. (Williams now downplays the conflict, telling me: “We were in a start-up. We had a lot to do, too few hours in the day to do it, not enough people to help, and sometimes we had different ideas about how to get the work done, and it made us extremely cranky.”)
It was on one of their many trips together that Band hit upon the way to lift Clinton out of the murk of the early post-presidency. As Begala tells it, the idea came to Band at that font of grand ideas, Davos. Given that Clinton’s political stock was still languishing, Band was “astonished with the billionaires and CEOs standing in line to talk to him,” Begala says. “He was rigorously assessing the president’s strengths and attributes and maximizing them. I remember him saying, ‘The president has a convening power, the power to bring people together.’ ” Why not create an annual event that harnessed the desire of wealthy celebrities to get close to Clinton to advance the aims of his foundation? Thus, in 2005, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) was born.
CGI is not a traditional charity—unlike Clinton’s foundation, it does not dispense money of its own. Instead, it is a series of collaborations with corporations or individuals to solve global problems, anchored by an annual conference that costs $20,000 to attend. In the past eight years, CGI has secured pledges worth $74 billion. (By comparison, the Gates Foundation has given away $28 billion since its inception in 1994.) As conceived by Band, CGI was the perfect vehicle for Clinton. It allowed him to train his intellect on wonky dilemmas—improving China’s power grid, bolstering Mali’s market for locally produced rice. And it placed him at the center of a matrix of the ultra-wealthy and the ultra-powerful, the kinds of people Clinton has always taken a special pleasure in surrounding himself with.
CGI operates like an economy in which celebrity is the main currency. For Clinton, there is the appeal of tackling existential challenges by striking a deal, one on one, with the right influential person. He could help expand access to health care for millions, thanks to the whim of a billionaire like Saudi Arabia’s Sheik Mohammed Al Amoudi; or get $30 million in loan guarantees to finance clean water utilities in India, via Dow Chemical; or $100 million for small-business development in Africa, courtesy of Shell. Clinton “has this abiding faith that, if you get the right people in the room together, magical things will happen,” says Priscilla Phelps, who was the housing expert for the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which Clinton co-chaired. In some cases, such as securing agreements for carbon-emissions reductions, the solving-by-convening model has produced impressive results. In others, such as the Haiti commission, which held only seven meetings to little effect, it has not. (Phelps told me that “the practicalities of what happens after those smart people leave the conference room and cocktail hour is not [Clinton’s] specialty at all.”)
For corporations, attaching Clinton’s brand to their social investments offered a major p.r. boost. As further incentive, they could hope for a kind word from Clinton the next time they landed in a sticky spot. “Coca-Cola or Dow or whoever would come to the president,” explains a former White House colleague of Band’s, “and say, ‘We need your help on this.’ ” Negotiating these relationships, and the trade-offs they required, could involve some gray areas. But for that, Clinton had Band.
As for Band, he was right where he’d always wanted to be. He solicited pledges from wealthy donors and doled out access to Clinton. He determined who got to be on stage with him and for how long, who got into the photo line, who rode on the plane. “If you look at CGI, it was an idea, and now it’s a huge business,” says the Clinton friend. “[Band] started realizing he had all this talent on the business side.” More than that, Band came to see entrepreneurial opportunities embedded within CGI itself. “When they were raising money for the foundation, Doug was the one who kept the tabs and the lists and cut the deals,” says the former White House colleague. “And Doug is very transactional.”
From outward appearances, Band had transcended his body-man beginnings at startling speed. In 2003, he had purchased a $2.1 million condo in the sought-after Metropolitan Tower on West 57th Street. His salary from the Clinton Foundation remained relatively modest—$110,000 by the time he left in 2011, plus an additional payment from Clinton’s personal office. Yet his official salary didn’t account for the ways in which he benefited financially from his singular relationship with Clinton. According to The Wall Street Journal, Burkle’s Yucaipa had been supplementing Band’s income for some time, paying him via a Florida company Band created in 2001 named SGRD, for the four Band brothers’ first initials. (Band later established several more such partnerships.)
At first, Clinton had no problem with this sort of thing. The income from Burkle had been arranged with his knowledge, to keep Band from pursuing more lucrative employment. “The president trusted [Band’s] judgment and trusted him personally,” Sosnik told me. (Clinton declined to comment for this article.) Plus, Clinton was notoriously blasé about financial matters. “He doesn’t care about money,” the Clinton friend told me. “He doesn’t even have a credit card. When he wants to get something he says, ‘Wow, I love that,’ and whoever he’s with says, ‘Here it is!’ ” Band’s former White House colleague agrees that Clinton “has never worried a heck of a lot about that stuff. It’s more about, ‘Who’s loyal, who’s helping me, who’s delivering value?’ and not, ‘Are they doing really well for themselves on the side?’ ”
But there were signs that Band also sought out such opportunities independently. The longtime Clinton associate was approached by a company interested in having the former president speak at a conference and asked Band for guidance. (Between 2001 and 2013, Clinton received $106 million in speaking fees.) Band explained that the company should pay a certain sum to Clinton’s speaker’s agency and ideally contribute a certain sum to CGI or the foundation. Of course, he told the associate, the company should “also pay you for having made that happen”—as if that were simply the way things were done. “Doug has always been reasonably commercial, let’s just say,” says his former White House colleague. “He was a gatekeeper who charged tolls.”
And questions were surfacing about some of the people getting through the gate. There was London businessman Victor Dahdaleh, who touted Clinton as a close friend and gave the foundation around $5 million in 2010. The next year, British authorities charged him with bribing a Bahraini company, for as much as $9.5 million. (The trial has been delayed until November.) There was Canadian businessman Frank Giustra, who often made his luxury jet available to Clinton and Band. In 2005, Giustra and Clinton overlapped on a visit to Kazakhstan, and at a dinner, Clinton praised the country’s autocratic ruler, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. Days later, according to The New York Times, Giustra secured a huge uranium-mining deal in the country. In early 2006, Giustra donated $31.3 million to the foundation, followed by another $100 million pledge. (He also “co-produced” Clinton’s sixtieth birthday party in Toronto, which raised another $21 million.)
The most embarrassing association of all was Raffaello Follieri. The saga of the Italian striver who duped the Clintons has been unspooled by the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, The Wall Street Journal, and Vanity Fair. But if anything, Band’s role in the affair has been understated, and it offers an illuminating study in the art of relationship leverage. Follieri descended on New York in 2003, 25 years old and exuding Continental glamour. Soon, he started dating Anne Hathaway. He claimed that, through a Vatican connection, he had been delegated to develop some of the Catholic Church’s choicest North American properties, to help the church pay off bills associated with its sex-abuse scandals.
In early 2005, Follieri expressed interest in writing a generous check to Clinton’s foundation. A meeting with Band was arranged, but somehow the conversation turned from a potential contribution by Follieri to a potential investment by Yucaipa in Follieri’s venture. Burkle eventually agreed to put in as much as $105 million.
Follieri courted Band by playing on his taste for the high life. In Band’s early days in New York, a night out meant pizza and beer with old White House pals. Now, he was a regular at Cipriani and frequented A-list nightclubs like Bungalow 8. He wasn’t much of a drinker—he just liked being on the scene. For a while, he had dated supermodel Naomi Campbell. (“He’s never had any difficulty being able to attract quite good-looking women,” says his former colleague from the White House counsel’s office. “He just charmed her.”) He had been eager to obtain American Express’s invitation-only black card for high-rollers, says one person who’s been out on the town with him, and when he finally got one, he would slap it down on the table at group outings. He had been known to carry cash in rolls of $100 bills. He also had a canny method of landing a table at the most exclusive spots, says the former White House colleague. He would make a reservation for “President Clinton” and then arrive with his own entourage—and no Bill. The owner of one downtown restaurant eventually barred Band from its “love list” for pulling this stunt one too many times. “[The owner] comes and says, ‘Fuck, Doug keeps making reservations under Clinton’s name, and half the time Doug shows up with his friends,’ ” says the former White House colleague. “They were like, life’s too short, and wouldn’t take his reservation anymore.”
By the time Follieri arrived in town, Band was seeing Lily Rafii, who was then in mergers and acquisitions at Morgan Stanley. Follieri invited the couple to dine with him and Hathaway at Cipriani, Nobu Fifty-Seven, and Koi, and introduced them to his Euro jet set. “Band was exposed to another universe,” says Melanie Bonvicino, a publicist who befriended Follieri and worked for him at times. “The cosmetics of it worked for everybody.”
With Band’s help, Follieri got meetings with, among others, Clinton himself, Burkle, and Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, aboard Slim’s yacht in the Sea of Cortez. Slim declined to invest, but another introduction paid off: Through another Clinton contact, Keith Stein, Band hooked Follieri up with Michael Cooper, the head of Toronto-based Dundee Realty Corporation, who kicked in $6 million.
After Cooper invested, Follieri wired $400,000 to one of Band’s SGRD partnerships. Band has said that the money was a finder’s fee that he split with Stein for helping make the introduction and that he only accepted it at Follieri’s insistence. (Stein and Cooper declined to comment.) But March 2006 e-mails show Band seeking the payment from Follieri in business-like fashion. The typo-filled messages also indicate that Follieri viewed it as compensation for Band’s assistance in netting an investment from Slim. On March 11, Follieri wrote Band: “Tonight I have a boring dinner with the foundation of the queen of Sweden.” Band replied: “Ouch. Going to budakan at 9. Come when your done. In meatpacking district.” On March 22, Band sent a “bill for consulting services for the amount of $400,000.00” to Follieri’s Channel Islands–based subsidiary. The next day, Follieri replied: “The transfer it is done, do you think I call Carlos son in law?” On March 28, Band wrote: “My bank never received the wire.” Follieri’s reply: “I going to call our bank now, end I let you know.”
At the 2006 CGI summit, Clinton announced that Follieri would fund an effort to provide Hepatitis A vaccines to 10,000 Honduran children and a “$50 million commitment to provide free prescription-drug cards to needy Americans.” Neither donation was fulfilled before Follieri’s charade unraveled. In early 2007, Yucaipa sued him for misappropriating $1.3 million of its investment for his personal use. The money had been spent on, among other things, a $37,000-per-month apartment and a $107,000 chartered jet to join the Clintons at Oscar de la Renta’s Dominican Republic estate. “Everyone kept saying, ‘How did he get through to Clinton?’ ” says Don Onyschuk, the vice-chancellor of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto, which was drawn into the Dundee deal. “It was through Doug Band and the pledge made to the foundation.”
Band has said that the Church vouched for Follieri, which its officials have denied. Band has also said he returned the payment from Follieri to Cooper. But he only did so around June 2007, several months after Yucaipa filed its lawsuit and about the same time that Il Sole 2 Ore started calling. In the end, Follieri settled with Yucaipa, but in 2008, federal prosecutors charged him with fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering. He pled guilty a few months later, forfeited $2.44 million, and was sentenced to federal prison in Pennsylvania. (Follieri, who was released in May, did not respond to a request to comment.)
Band emerged from the episode seemingly unscathed. As the Follieri story was emerging, he and Rafii married in France at the seventeenth-century Chateau of Vaux le Vicomte. Clinton, Bing, and Burkle flew into Paris for a dazzling ceremony capped with a fireworks display. Band bashfully told The Gainesville Sun that he had begged his boss not to come, but “not only did he come, he made this incredible speech.” And in February 2008, Clinton praised Band to The Washington Post. “I’m amazed he still works for me because he could make a lot more money somewhere else,” he said. For his part, Band offered self-effacing reasons for his years at Clinton’s side. “You break into this kind of work by believing in the inherent value and good of public service,” he explained to a reporter at around this time. “You get out of it what you put into it.”
But as Clinton hit the campaign trail to stump for Hillary in the Democratic primary, people were once again questioning Band’s judgment. More than once, he failed to prevent Clinton’s dyspeptic outbursts against the Obama campaign. When Clinton lashed out at a reporter in Nevada, Band stood at his shoulder, his face diffident, making no attempt to move him along.
If anything, his total mind meld with Clinton was part of the problem. Both men were convinced Hillary was flailing because she wasn’t attacking Obama more aggressively. “What the president needs is someone to say, ‘I heard you, you’re right, but you should not be the one delivering that message, let’s figure out who should be doing that,’ ” says the former White House colleague. “With Doug, it was more about getting the president more fired up than he needed to be.” Or, as the Clinton friend puts it, “At the end of the day, Doug is massively loyal to the president, and doing what’s best for the president is sometimes not what’s best for Hillary.” (Sosnik defends Band, arguing that Bill’s behavior was his own doing: “He was a little rusty.”)
Band had a key ally on Hillary’s team: Huma Abedin. Bill’s body man and Hillary’s body woman had bonded over their loyalty to their bosses. They were known to show up at parties together, which some saw as an endearing big brother–little sister dynamic, and which others interpreted as evidence that Abedin had a crush on Band. They also had an ingenious method of collecting intelligence on each other’s behalf. Abedin would sidle up to someone in Bill’s camp and, in a confiding tone, make a disparaging remark about Band. If it was reciprocated, she would relay the criticisms to Band and he would do the same for her, says someone who fell for this technique. “They had each other’s back a lot,” says the former White House colleague.
Still, the alliance did not prevent Hillary’s campaign team from demanding that Clinton be accompanied on the trail by a more seasoned minder. Band objected, says the former Clinton administration official. “His vocal reason was, ‘He doesn’t need a handler, he’s the best political mind, dadadadada.’ But the reality was he did need someone.”
After the election, Band’s relationship with Clinton entered a hybrid phase. He still traveled with Bill when he was needed: In August 2009, he accompanied Clinton to North Korea to retrieve two American women who had been imprisoned there. In one of the more surreal official photos of all time, Clinton and Kim Jong-il sit stiffly in front of a kitschy tsunami backdrop. Standing directly behind the diminutive North Korean dictator is Band. In another picture, he is walking between the two women across the tarmac to a waiting jet (on loan from Steve Bing), hoisting their largest duffel. The two images captured Band’s role perfectly. He was in the innermost circle, and he was still carrying people’s bags. Sosnik told me: “As he grew in the job and the job became bigger, he still did the crap work. There was no discussion of it.”
And yet the signs were suggesting that it was time for Band to emerge from Clinton’s shadow. He was starting a family, and his financial arrangement with Burkle was in doubt, since Clinton had moved to end his business ties with the California billionaire in 2007. By this point, Band had been professionally submerging his identity within Clinton’s for a decade. A senior Democrat in Washington observed: “What I’ve always said to Doug is that it’s vital to become your own person. It’s not really healthy to be a body person, a staffer, your whole life.”
So Band branched out, in more ways than one. During the campaign, he had sold his apartment in the Metropolitan Tower and purchased the Essex House condominium, for $7.1 million. In 2009, he added an adjoining eighth-floor unit, purchased for $1.7 million. The expanded apartment was painted in the vibrant colors that Rafii loves, and a huge ego wall was installed, covered in letters and signed pictures. Around this time, he also decided to establish a business of his own.
Band had already shown that he could be quite brazen in invoking his Clinton ties in a personal capacity. One stark example came in 2009, when the U.S. Postal Service exercised a purchase option on the Sarasota post office building, which was owned by Band’s father and another family. The owners refused to sell, arguing that the price should be higher than the $825,000 the Post Office had offered. Then, Band placed a phone call to Alan Kessler, a longtime Clinton ally and a member of the Postal Service Board of Governors. According to the Postal Service inspector general and documents I obtained under a Freedom of Information request, Kessler urged top Postal Service officials to pay more for the building. Postal Service General Counsel Mary Anne Gibbons recalled to investigators that Kessler told her Band had White House connections and “could run up to Capitol Hill and thwart the Postal Service.” A colleague of Band’s in Clinton’s post-presidential office whose name was redacted from documents also contacted Gibbons, clearly signaling where the overture was coming from: “I work for President Clinton. His Counselor, Doug Band, asked that I set up a call with you ... ” After the inspector general found that Kessler had failed to uphold his duty to the Postal Service, Kessler resigned in July 2011. Nevertheless, in order to curb its legal costs, the Postal Service settled the sale with the two families for $1.06 million.
When Band launched Teneo, he deployed his Clinton connections on a grander scale. In 2010, he, Declan Kelly, and a third partner registered the first of several entities in Delaware that would become Teneo. Band and Kelly had met during the 2008 campaign when Kelly was fund-raising for Hillary. Kelly had previously owned a p.r. firm, and the plan was for Band to offer the kind of strategic savvy he’d provided to Clinton. “He’s particularly useful to the CEOs,” says Podesta.
Teneo has its headquarters on the forty-fifth floor of the former Citigroup Center tower in Midtown and employs more than 200 people in 13 cities, including Dubai, Hong Kong, and São Paolo. It describes its raison d’être as “integrated counsel for a borderless world,” offering investment banking, restructuring advice, and “business intelligence” on dealing with “global disruptors.” According to its website, Teneo has “advised on more than $525 billion of M&A transactions, served presidents and political leaders all over the globe, and counseled the leaders of many of the largest and most complex corporations in the world.”
From the beginning, Teneo resembled an outpost of Clintonland more than an independent entity. Clinton and Blair came on as paid advisers. One of the firm’s managing directors is the former CEO of the horse-racing and gambling empire belonging to the family of Belinda Stronach, a Canadian former politician whose friendship with Clinton has been the subject of considerable speculation. Nancy Hernreich Bowen, director of Oval Office operations under Clinton, works in the Hong Kong office. Last year, Abedin signed on with the firm, providing, in her own words, “strategic advice and consulting services to the firm’s management team” as well as helping to “organize a major annual firm event.” (The Senate Judiciary Committee is investigating whether her work conflicted with her position as a paid State Department consultant.)
A number of key Teneo clients were also closely involved with Clinton’s charitable work. One month before the Rockefeller Foundation presented Clinton with an award for philanthropy, it gave Teneo a $3.4 million contract to propose “tangible solutions to global problems.” Another early client was Coca-Cola, which helped build the distribution system for medicine in Tanzania, Mozambique, and Ghana, for a CGI project. Band has served on Coca-Cola’s international advisory board, and a former Coke CEO, Donald Keough, chairs the boutique investment bank Allen & Co., which holds a financial interest in Teneo. Other Teneo clients include the big hospital chain Tenet (which is a lead partner in the new Clinton Health Matters Initiative) and UBS Americas (which launched a Small Business Advisory Program with the foundation). “What Doug has ended up doing, if you sort of step back and look at it, is that he has met some of the most influential people in the world through President Clinton and has ended up building a business dealing with and helping those people,” says the Clinton friend.
Of course, it was only natural that Band would tap his existing network. What is striking is the extent to which Teneo’s business model depends on his relationship with Clinton. Band’s former White House colleague says Teneo is essentially a p.r. firm that is able to charge above-market rates because it persuades executives that Band and the ties he brings are an essential service. “If they were paying $25,000 or $40,000 a month for p.r., then $100,000 a month, from the eyes of the CEO, ... it’s not going to crush him,” says the former colleague. (According to The New York Times, Teneo’s monthly fees can be as high as $250,000.) The longtime Clinton associate says that Band’s pitch to clients was that he was “able to fly around [with Clinton] and decide who flies around with him. ... The whole thing is resting on his access.”
A few months into Teneo’s existence, it began to present difficulties for the Clintons. In late 2011, it emerged that the company had been paid $125,000 per month in consulting fees by MF Global, the brokerage firm that lost $600 million of its investors’ money. There were reports that Hillary Clinton was upset about potential conflicts between Teneo’s overseas clients and her work as secretary of state. In February 2012, Bill Clinton’s office announced that he would no longer take payment from the firm. The page listing an “advisory board” headed by Clinton and Blair vanished from its website.
Bill Clinton was having deeper misgivings, say several people close to the situation. It was becoming difficult to ignore how aggressively Band was working his Clinton connections on Teneo’s behalf. Some of its biggest clients, such as Dow Chemical, were the same companies whose CEOs Band had done special favors for at CGI: getting them on stage with Clinton, relaxing the background checks for credentials, or providing slots in the photo line. In Teneo’s first year, anyone on the payroll or client list got full access to CGI, plus coveted backstage passes, according to someone closely involved in CGI. To obtain extra credentials, Band would make a call and the tickets would be FedEx-ed overnight. At CGI’s September 2011 summit in New York, two suites were reserved upstairs from the conference at the New York Sheraton for meetings with top donors and heads of state. But when the Chinese ambassador was brought upstairs for a meeting, CGI officials found both suites occupied—one by Band, one by Kelly, who were pitching potential clients. After that, Teneo lost its special access.
A month later, Clinton got a firsthand taste of Teneo’s promotional style. He had been invited to the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. Declan Kelly was also on the speaking schedule, and, according to one person with close knowledge of the event, Kelly’s remarks suggested that it was Teneo that had brought Clinton to Ireland. Clinton went ashen, according to this person, and later exploded in anger, railing that Kelly had embarrassed him in front of the prime minister. (Kelly did not respond to a request to comment.)
At around the same time, Clinton was receiving reports of just how boldly Band had been offering his consulting services to major donors to CGI or the foundation, according to two people close to the foundation. According to these people, Band’s pitch left the donors with the distinct impression that Clinton had encouraged the donors to avail themselves of Band’s services. Among the people who Band may have approached, Clinton was told, was media mogul Haim Saban, who has donated more than $10 million to the foundation. Through a spokesman, Saban denied that Band had made such a pitch. However, one person close to the foundation says that Band’s consulting for donors came to the fore in a 2011 audit of the foundation’s finances by a New York law firm. The second person close to the foundation says that one major donor complained directly to Clinton that he had been writing large checks to Band and was upset that his access to Clinton had decreased. “The president was furious.”
As Band’s relationship with Clinton deteriorated, he sought public ways to demonstrate that nothing had changed. In September 2011, the White House made overtures to secure Clinton’s participation in Obama’s reelection campaign. The first step, it was deemed, would be a round of golf. The initial thinking in the White House was to include Joe Biden, an old Clinton chum.
Band was involved in the planning, and he sensed an opportunity to raise his profile. According to people aware of the discussions, he started talking up a different arrangement: a game with the two presidents, Bill Daley (Obama’s then–chief of staff and a former Clinton Cabinet member) and himself. The proposal had a certain symmetry—the current president, the former president, and their top aides. Daley expressed interest, and the plan acquired its own momentum. The White House wasn’t happy, but it knew that Band still controlled access to Clinton. The upshot was that the vice president was bounced and Band got into the frame. (Daley told me he was unaware of any plotting to exclude Biden.) “Once he got Daley on board, it was just a matter of time before he could get to pushing out the vice president,” says one person close to the negotiations. “Doug was on a separate track.” The round was held, to much media fanfare, on a muggy Saturday on the links at Andrews Air Force Base.
Clinton was thrilled to find that the Obama team wanted to deploy him to full advantage. Throughout the campaign, however, Band was unwilling to let bygones be bygones. He demanded that the Obama team help pay off Hillary’s 2008 campaign debt as a condition of Bill’s assistance. Though he had no campaign experience, he objected to the locations that the Obama campaign wanted Clinton to visit. He insisted that Clinton spend more time in Florida (Band’s home state), rather than being dispatched to, say, Minnesota. He tussled with Obama’s people about who would speak first or second in joint appearances. Band’s relations with Obama strategist David Plouffe were “disastrous,” says one high-ranking Democratic source. “Doug made everything harder than it needed to be,” says the source. “Dealing with the Clinton world always had something to do with what Doug wanted. You had to go through a big process and suck up to Doug, and he had to tell you for a long time how stupid you were.”
Eventually, the source says, a couple of senior campaign officials told Clinton about the problem. “Most people in that role ... usually reflect [their] boss. Doug did not reflect his boss. Clinton is easy to work with and likes to get stuff done,” says the source. “I would be surprised if Clinton had a full assessment of how difficult Doug was.” For a while, Band was “still trying to be part of things,” the source adds. Eventually, though, his gatekeeper role was passed to other Clinton aides. Meanwhile, Band’s reputation inside the Obama campaign became outright toxic after The New Yorker reported that he planned to vote for Mitt Romney, which Band denied.
By the election’s end, Band’s standing in Clintonland had visibly declined. In January, he went off the payroll of Clinton’s personal office, though not without negotiations about whether he would be allowed to keep his valuable presidentclinton.com e-mail address. His role within CGI was also the subject of dispute. The foundation stopped paying him in 2011, but he remained on CGI’s advisory board. Tensions simmered between Band and Chelsea Clinton, who has assumed a more active role in what is now officially the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Chelsea, who once felt only fondness for Band as a trusted member of her family’s circle, came to worry that the overlap between the foundation and Band’s business interests could backfire on the Clintons. Podesta, who came in to put the foundation’s house in order in 2011, says, of the grumbling about Band: “There was a kind of capacity issue. You can’t do everything.”
Meanwhile, Hillary’s adoption of the foundation as a temporary perch this year has left even less space for Band. “Hillary and Chelsea’s view was, Look, if you’re going to work for the foundation you should work for the foundation and nothing else,” says the Clinton friend. “But for Doug, it was hard, because he’s been involved in it from the beginning. It was, Yeah, come on man, I can do both.” He added, “I don’t think [Chelsea] was wrong. In the past, no one would care what he was doing, dealing with all those people. Today, the last thing anyone wants is noise.”
Bill Clinton tried to smooth things over in a March 2012 statement, writing, “I couldn’t have accomplished half of what I have in my post presidency without Doug Band.”1 (The New York Times reported that Band helped edit the statement.)2 Likewise, Hillary’s camp has struck a conciliatory tone. “While she recognizes that after years of putting her family first, Doug’s family must be his priority, she appreciates the support he continues to provide to the president and the Foundation,” one long-term Hillary adviser wrote in an e-mail.
These days, Clinton and Band now speak only every couple of months when they run into each other at events, such as a fund-raiser Band co-hosted for Terry McAuliffe in February. “It’s gone from being a surrogate son relationship to an awkward thickness when they’re in the room together,” says one person with close knowledge of the relationship who has witnessed this dynamic firsthand. “It’s like when your wife cheats on you, and after the divorce, you have to see them at the friend’s wedding or at the supermarket. There’s a strangeness to it.”
This person says the two men have had “tense conversations” and that Clinton is deeply pained by his aide’s efforts to capitalize on their relationship. Others close to Clinton have also observed a distinct chill between them. As always, however, Clinton detests confrontation. “It’s hard for him,” says the person with close knowledge of the relationship. “At some points in his career, he spent more time with Doug than he did with his own wife. They knew everything about each other, he loved seeing Doug’s family, loved the stories and the antics. And then, to have it turn into ‘your adoptive son has run away.’ ... It burns him internally, and his way to deal with it is not to talk about it.”
Of course, it is very much in Band’s interest to downplay any animosity. “Doug’s currency is as a Clinton guy,” says Band’s former White House colleague. “Doug has developed a network that stands on his own—the number of people who know him around town and around Washington and around the world is pretty big. But what they think of him is as a person who knows President Clinton and is close to President Clinton.” Band and Teneo now have a large payroll riding on that image.
Band’s friends say he has entered a new chapter of his life—less concerned with politics and more focused on Max and Sophie, whom he speaks about in near-reverential terms. In late June, he added more room for his growing family (he and Lily are expecting their third child), purchasing another eighth-floor unit in the Essex House for $1.5 million. “There’s good in the world that he has done, and now his family and his friends are his real focus,” says Sobelman. “When we talk, it’s more: How’s work? It’s going well. Now, let’s talk football.” Band is also teaching an occasional class at New York University where he is billed as “the Honorable Doug Band”; the syllabus kicks off with a Politico piece describing him as “by far [Clinton’s] most powerful aide.”
The ultimate measure of Band’s place in Clintonland will come if Hillary runs for president. Some in Clinton circles predict that Band would, for once, remain outside the action, doing no more than fund-raising. “There are a lot of people jockeying for position and Doug is a little bit on the sidelines,” says the former White House colleague. “It’s good to have someone around Clinton who is a little less ‘us against them,’ a little more ‘we’re all in this together.’ ” But others believe Band would be right back at Clinton’s side if given the chance, despite all that has come between them. “You never really leave ... because you don’t want to,” says Begala. “I’m sure if the bell rings again, Doug will come running.”
Alec MacGillis is a senior editor at The New Republic.