Tony Podesta divorce filing: wife Heather Podesta tried to ‘embarrass and harass’

In happier days, the Podestas show off some of their art collection in 2004. (Photographer: Robert A. Reeder/TWP)
In happier days, the Podestas show off some of their art collection in 2004. (Photographer: Robert A. Reeder/TWP)

Looks like the divorce of art-collecting super-lobbyists Tony and Heather Podesta isn’t as amicable as it seemed when the couple first acknowledged their split last year.

Tony Podesta filed for divorce Thursday in D.C. Superior Court, laying out an ugly chapter for the prominent couple. He accused his wife of 11 years of misleading him about the possibility of their reconciling when he paid half the down payment on a multi-million dollar home for her last March. He claims that at the time, unbeknownst to him, she had begun a relationship with another man.

In the court filing, he accused her of sending letters to prominent museums asking them to block him from donating works of art and of changing the locks on their apartment in Venice, Italy, since the two separated.

“Ms. Podesta has sought to embarrass and harass Mr. Podesta in an effort to gain financial leverage,” the filing states.

Neither Heather Podesta nor her attorney responded to multiple calls and emails seeking comment.

Tony Podesta is asking to retain the property he owned before their marriage, which includes homes in Washington, Virginia, Italy, and Australia, as well as a large art collection. He proposes that they “equitably distribute” the property and debt accumulated during the marriage. The Podestas have no children.

The pair was once one of the Beltway’s most powerful — and colorful — couples. Tony Podesta, a former Democratic operative, founded the Podesta Group (with brother John, later Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff and now a counselor to President Obama). Heather Podesta is a former Democratic Hill staffer who hung out her own lobby-shop shingle at Heather Podesta + Partners in 2007.

Together, they threw parties in their Kalorama home and flamboyantly embraced a profession typically practiced in the shadows. During the 2008 Democratic convention, Heather wore a large L-shaped pin — for “Lobbyist” — in mock defiance of then-candidate Barack Obama’s anti-lobbyist rhetoric.

The couple’s shared occupation is now at issue in the divorce. In the filing, Tony Podesta makes the case that he is responsible for his wife’s current success by schooling her in the lobbying business and introducing her to his network of high-profile contacts. The filing claims that her salary before their marriage was $55,000, and that she now earns “many millions” annually. “Ms. Podesta’s career has risen meteorically since the parties’ marriage, with Mr. Podesta’s assistance and connections,” according to the document.

Despite the accusations in the filing, Podesta had kind words for the woman he’s divorcing. “I have great affection and respect for Heather and hope we can settle this in a fair and equitable manner and remain friends,” he said in a statement.

His attorney echoed that hope for settlement. “Tony has tried to reach a reasonable settlement with Heather, but to date, has been unable to do so,” said divorce-lawyer-to-the -Beltway-elite Sanford Ain, in a statement. “While Tony remains hopeful that they will be able to settle their differences, if not, a Judge will have to decide what is equitable.”

What a difference a year makes: When the pair separated, they called one another “best friends.”

“No fireworks expected in dividing the art collection,” the Reliable Source was told at the time.

 

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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