In response to a series of posts on the potential nomination of Wendy Sherman to a key State Department position, Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy asked the Obama administration about the concerns raised. What the Obama team said, and didn’t say, might suggest that the White House was taken by surprise and/or isn’t thrilled about defending Sherman’s record on North Korea.
Rogin asked the administration about Sherman’s connection to the Albright Stonebridge Group consulting firm. The response was, to put it mildly, incomplete. “Sherman was never a lobbyist, was never representing a foreign agent, and as such was never registered as a lobbyist or a representative of foreign governments. ‘If you look at who Wendy’s clients are that have been public, they are household names like Coke, BMW and Pew Global attitudes. These are items in the public eye,’ the official said.” But what about her clients that aren’t public, which is the root of the concern and potentially could give rise to conflicts of interest? Also, notice the Clintonesque language. The administration does not deny that she consulted for a foreign government and says nothing whatsoever about state-owned companies (in China, for example). Rogin, generally recognized as one of the best State Department reporters, will, I am sure, continue to press the administration. But the issue is not whether there is something to “hide,” but whether she and the administration are willing to reveal information the Senate would consider essential in the confirmation hearing.
The next response is even more interesting.
Moreover, when Sherman worked for the Fannie Mae Foundation, it was a 501(c)(3) entity — a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization — and she was never paid directly by Fannie Mae.
One talking point that’s sure to come up, if and when she is nominated, is the fact that Sherman was confirmed by a Republican Senate in 1997 to be State Department counselor and approved by a Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee led at the time by Sen. Jesse Helms. And this was after her time at the Fannie Mae Foundation.
“It’s a bit ironic to bring this up now, considering the GOP actually confirmed her after she worked there,” the official said.
This is bizarre, frankly. For starters it is the foundation’s tax-exempt status that was the source of the controversy. Why was a “charity” spending exorbitant amounts on advertising? Moreover, in 1997 the housing crisis was years away, the extent of Fannie Mae’s irresponsibility was a non-issue and taxpayers hadn’t been saddled with huge liabilities.
What the administration didn’t do was defend Sherman’s record on North Korea. And that is the rub. It is her work in the Clinton administration and participation in constructing a foolish and dangerous policy that allowed Kim Jong Il to take the benefits of the deal while pursuing his nuclear program. The absence of any comment on that issue may indicate the administration has yet to come up with a defense, or that they are nervous about a Senate probe on an official whose policy has been labeled nothing but “appeasement” by James A. Baker. Stay tuned.