The Clinton campaign pushed back against allegations Thursday of another pay-to-play scheme, calling “absurd” any connection between a private dinner invite for a for-profit college network during Hillary Clinton’s State Department days and a multi-million-dollar job her husband landed months later.
The former secretary of state’s intervention in that incident was revealed in an email first disclosed by the website “Inside Higher Education.”
The exchange shows Clinton emailing chief of staff Cheryl Mills telling her to invite someone from Laureate Education to an Aug. 17, 2009 dinner at the State Department with experts in higher education. Clinton described the network as “the fastest growing college network in the world” and a “for-profit model that should be represented.”
The schedule shows Mills complied, and the dinner was attended by Laureate Senior Vice President Joseph Duffey, who had once awarded President Bill Clinton an honorary doctorate.
Eight months after Mrs. Clinton’s private dinner, Laureate – which operates 84 schools in 30 countries – hired the former president as “honorary chancellor.”
The job saw him traveling to locales like Madrid and touting the company alongside VIPs like Prince Felipe of Spain. The position paid him $17.6 million over five years -- until he stepped down 12 days before his wife launched her campaign for the White House last year.
The connections between the company and the Clintons add to a growing list of interactions during her State Department days fueling allegations that she traded access for contributions and payments, which her campaign has denied. Laureate also has donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.
“It clearly shows that she intervened on behalf of a for-profit organization and within months, her family personally benefited to the tune of -- well, over 17 million dollars,” said Larry O’Connor, editor-at-large with HotAir.com, which has written about the Clintons’ connections to the for-profit college industry. “That's a lot of money. They got wealthy off of what appears to be her intervention, including this organization in a very exclusive club.”
But a spokesman for the Clinton campaign told Fox News that any attempt to link the hiring of Bill Clinton and Secretary Clinton’s private dinner is “absurd.”
The campaign also pointed to Clinton’s tough stance regarding some for-profit colleges that act in a “predatory” way, suggesting that shows she did not allow her husband's contract with Laureate to influence her policies.
In a statement, Laureate said the former president visited 19 Laureate campuses in 14 countries across a five-year term that expired when it did by prior arrangement.
The State Department said it couldn’t say what was going through Hillary Clinton’s mind when she made a point of including the company at the 2009 dinner.
“The State Department regularly engages with arranged academics, NGO's, think tanks, business leaders, you know, speakers, commentators on a range of issues,” department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said.