Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has transferred nearly $150,000 of leftover campaign funds to a company she solely owns in the months following her election defeat, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
The Clinton campaign has paid $149,457 to ZFS Holdings LLC, since May 2017 for the purpose of “rent,” FEC filings show, but the campaign has left it unclear if it’s paying at, above or below fair market value for the office space it’s renting.
“Obviously, it has a certain fishiness to it,” former FEC chairman and founder of the Institute for Free Speech Brad Smith told The Daily Caller News Foundation about the rent payments.
If ZFS is undercharging the Clinton campaign for rent, it could “constitute something of value to the committee and would thus be an in-kind contribution,” according to a 1995 FEC ruling. But if ZFS is overcharging the campaign, it could mean campaign funds are going to the company Clinton solely owns.
Using campaign funds for personal use is a violation of federal campaign law. According to Campaigns and Elections, “knowing and willful” violations of the personal use rule can result in prosecution and jail time.
Clinton registered ZFS as a single-member LLC shortly after she left the Department of State in early 2013 for the purpose of managing her speech and book income, according to financial disclosures she filed with the FEC.
What Is The Clinton Campaign Renting From Clinton’s Personal Office?
Clinton signed a lease in 2014 for personal office space on the 27th floor of Tower 45 in Midtown Manhattan, according to news reports at the time. But ZFS is the actual leaseholder, according to CompStak Inc., a provider of real estate data.
ZFS is renting an estimated 6,500 to 7,000 square feet and costing in the low $60s per square foot, according to crowdsourced, analyst-reviewed lease information CompStak provided TheDCNF. This means Clinton’s LLC is estimated to be paying between $32,500 to $38,000 per month for her Manhattan digs. The lease, according to Compstak, began in the second quarter of 2014 and will expire in the second quarter of 2019.
After Clinton declared her candidacy in 2015, Politico reported that her campaign had installed 10 to 15 campaign staffers and interns to work regularly in the Clinton’s Tower 45 office space.
But the Clinton campaign didn’t direct rent payments to ZFS during the election. Rather, regular monthly payments of $29,346 to $33,488 were sent to Kamber Management, the property manager for Tower 45, filings to the FEC show.
The Clinton campaign made its last rent payment to Kamber on March 1, 2017. The campaign instead began directing rent payments to ZFS starting in May 2017. TheDCNF found no indications the campaign has changed locations or that ZFS holds a lease at any other location, so it appears the campaign is paying for a portion of Clinton’s Tower 45 office space.
(Graph: Daily Caller News Foundation/Andrew Kerr)
The Clinton campaign’s rent payments to ZFS vary greatly, despite the consistency of the payments it made to Kamber leading up to the 2016 election. For example, the campaign cut a rent check to ZFS on Oct. 18, 2017, for $36,369, followed by a $9,618 rent payment on Nov. 11, 2017.
“I would think that’s not usual,” Smith told TheDCNF. “That would be something that would cast out as to whether they’re actually paying market value.”
A possible explanation is that ZFS is extending credit to the Clinton campaign. If that were the case, however, that could open up the Clinton campaign to reporting violations, according to Smith.
“You can’t extend credit to a campaign on different terms than you would anybody else,” Smith said. “A landlord can’t say, ‘well, you just pay me what rent you can when you can’ — no, you can’t do that.”
Smith said the varying nature of the campaign’s payments ZFS lead him to believe there likely isn’t a formal sublease agreement in place between it and Clinton’s LLC.
“That’s what it sounds like, they don’t have any actual agreement,” he said.
The Clinton Campaign Isn’t Alone In Tower 45
Also in May 2017, Clinton announced that she had launched Onward Together, an organization established to lend support to progressive groups in “organizing around our shared progressive values, mobilizing voters, or running candidates for office,” its website said.