Iowa Democratic Party Consultants Have Deep Clinton Ties

The state party turned down outside help from security experts as it paid longtime political consultants who built their careers working on the campaigns of Hillary Clinton.

Iowa Democratic Party Consultants Have Deep Clinton Ties
Hillary Clinton speaks to reporters following a campaign rally at Roosevelt High School on October 28, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa.

In the months leading up to the Iowa Caucuses, the Iowa Democratic Party rejected offers from security experts at the Department of Homeland Security to help them test the app it planned to have precinct chairs use to report results. But while it turned down outside help, the party was already writing checks to its usual lineup of insiders. Sludge reviewed Federal Election Commission records and found that the Iowa Democratic Party hired multiple consultants with deep ties to Hillary Clinton. 

The Party paid more than $300,000 from September 2019 through the end of the year for consulting services to individuals who worked on Clinton’s 2008 and 2016 campaigns, as well as to firms that are led by individuals who worked for Clinton, Sludge found. Only one consultant employed by the party, a firm that was paid a total of $3,500, does not appear to be tied to Clinton through its personnel.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez today called on the Iowa Democratic Party to conduct a review of the caucus results. “In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass,” Perez wrote on Twitter. 

Clinton recently ramped up her attacks on Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (D-Vt). In late January, Clinton, who won a contentious Democratic primary against Sanders in 2016, said that she stood by her remarks that no one likes Sanders and that he has got nothing done. Two days before the caucuses, she said on Emily Tisch Sussman’s podcast that Sanders did not do enough to unite Democrats in the 2016 election in which she lost to President Trump. 

Long-time Democratic operative Teresa Vilmain was paid $30,000 by the Iowa Democratic Party for strategic consulting from September to November. Vilmain was Clinton’s Iowa state director for her 2008 primary campaign. In 2014, Vilmain helped to organize meetings between Ready for Hillary, a PAC established to draft Clinton to run in the 2016 presidential race, and hundreds of Iowa Democrats. Vilmain did not respond to an inquiry from Sludge about the nature of the work she performed for the Iowa Democratic Party. 

On Wednesday, Vilmain was put in charge of the Democratic National Committee’s Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee after two committee leaders were fired following complaints of a toxic work environment.

Another consultant who was paid by the Iowa Democratic Party in November is Brenda Kole, who is currently operations director at the Harkin Institute, a nonpartisan public policy research institute at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Kole was constituency director and trip/surrogates director for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, as well as scheduling director for Clinton’s 2008 campaign, according to her LinkedIn bio. 

Kole was quoted in a Feb. 2 Politico article about allegations that the Sanders campaign was planning to “game” the Iowa results. “If any campaign is going to be thinking of ways to game this, or to claim victory or to claim something, then I think it’s in poor spirit and poor form of the Iowa caucuses,” said Kole, whose consulting work for the party was not noted in the article. 

Another consultant hired by the party in November is Theresa Kehoe. In 2007, Kehoe was a member of Clinton’s Statewide Women’s Leadership Council in Iowa, “a grassroots network of women working to make history by electing Hillary, President of the United States.” 

Political events management firm The Markham Group, which was paid $276,000 by Iowa Democrats over several months, is run by partners Paul Neaville and Greg Hale, who both worked on Clinton’s 2008 and 2016 campaigns. Neaville, whose career in federal electoral politics began on the Bill Clinton campaign in 1996, worked as a consultant on Clinton’s 2008 campaign. Hale was Clinton’s director of production in 2016, in charge of coordinating the candidate’s rallies and public appearances. In July 2008, after Barack Obama had secured the Demoratic nomination over Clinton, Markham Group bought the domain, prompting speculation that they would run again, either against Obama in the Democratic primary or against a Republican president.

 The Iowa Democratic Party hired Evergreen Strategy Group in December, FEC records show. The company’s co-founder, Dan Schwerin, was director of speechwriting for Hillary for America from 2015-16. 

The party’s botched smartphone app that resulted in unprecedented delays in the reporting of caucus results was built by a company, Shadow Inc., whose CEO Gerard Niemira was the Clinton campaign’s director of product in 2016, a chief digital role. Multiple other Shadow employees also worked on the Clinton campaign, according to a report from the Des Moines Register.

Clinton herself praised Shadow’s owner, digital firm Acronym, in a tweet post in November 2019. An unnamed person with knowledge of Acronym’s culture shared internal communications with The Intercept showing that the company’s leaders routinely express hostility towards Sanders’ supporters.


Bloomberg Surrogates Have Seats on DNC Rules Committees

Hedge Fund Billionaires Power New Democratic Super PAC

Who’s Behind Dems’ New $75 Million Ad Campaign?