If you were selecting men and women to serve on the International Security Advisory Board that advises the Secretary of State on matters of international security issues including nuclear weapons, would you not pick qualified people with backgrounds appropriate to the needs of the board?
Most likely you would select people with backgrounds in international relations, nuclear weaponry, international security and so on. But would you even consider selecting someone who is a high-frequency trader? If you are like me, you would be asking what is a high-frequency trader, so allow me to share with you what I learned:
“High-frequency trading (HFT) is a program trading platform that uses powerful computers to transact a large number of orders at very fast speeds. High-frequency trading uses complex algorithms to analyze multiple markets and execute orders based on market conditions. Typically, the traders with the fastest execution speeds will be more profitable than traders with slower execution speeds. As of 2009, it is estimated more than 50% of exchange volume comes from high-frequency trading orders.”
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So what does high-frequency trading have to do with international security? According to recently released State Department emails, that’s the question asked by some of Hillary Clinton’s staff during her position of heading the State Department, when Rajiv K. Fernando was appointed to a position on the ISAB. Fernando joined a board filled with former Cabinet secretaries, former members of Congress and a number of nuclear scientists.
Citizens United obtained copies of the emails through the Freedom of Information Act and then provided those emails to ABC News. ABC contacted the State Department in 2011 when Fernando was first appointed to the ISAB. Among the emails obtained by ABC, Jamie Mannina, a State Department press aide who received the ABC inquiry wrote the following in an email:
“I have spoken to [State Department official and ISAB Executive Director Richard Hartman] privately, and it appears there is much more to this story that we’re unaware of. We must protect the Secretary’s and Under Secretary’s name, as well as the integrity of the Board. I think it’s important to get down to the bottom of this before there’s any response.
“As you can see from the attached, it’s natural to ask how he got onto the board when compared to the rest of the esteemed list of members.” [no attachment was provided in the email release.]
Another email written to Mannina by Wade Boese, who at the time was Chief of Staff for the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, stated:
“The true answer is simply that S staff (Cheryl Mills) added him. Raj was not on the list sent to S; he was added at their insistence.” [Cheryl Mills was then Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff.]
Minutes later, Boese wrote to Richard Hartman, his boss, saying:
“Sorry this has become a headache.”
Hartman responded, saying that he would:
“Come up and brief you… about where Raj Fernando stands and the ABC News investigative journalist inquiries. You do need to hear about it. [It was] Cheryl Mills, who added Mr. Fernando’s name to the list of ISAB nominees.”
Further emails showed that Mills did her best to delay any responses to ABC News.
ABC News tried to contact Fernando in 2011 but never received a response. When they tried to talk to him at the 2012 Democratic Convention, he told ABC News that he was ‘not at liberty’ to talk about it. Fernando was so protected by the Clintons that right after the ABC News report tried to question him at the convention that security threatened to have the reporter arrested.
The emails revealed that Hartman corresponded with Fernando who under the heat eventually resigned from the board, saying that he needed more time to devote to his business.
So what really qualified Fernando to be appointed to such a prestigious board? According to ABC News:
“Fernando’s history of campaign giving dated back at least to 2003 and was prolific — and almost exclusively to Democrats. He was an early supporter of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 bid for president, giving maximum contributions to her campaign, and to HillPAC, in 2007 and 2008. He also served as a fundraising bundler for Clinton, gathering more than $100,000 from others for her White House bid. After Barack Obama bested Clinton for the 2008 nomination, Fernando became a major fundraiser for the Obama campaign. Prior to his State Department appointment, Fernando had given between $100,000 and $250,000 to the William J. Clinton Foundation, and another $30,000 to a political advocacy group, WomenCount, that indirectly helped Hillary Clinton retire her lingering 2008 campaign debts by renting her campaign email list.”
Having been on the board for even a short time gave Fernando top high security clearances and access to highly sensitive information. How much of that information could possibly be used to his advantage in the high-frequency trading game may never be known, but be assured if it did, his donations to the Clintons in one way are another would surely increase.
It seems obvious from most of the information revealed through the emails that Fernando received his appointment due largely to his extreme generosity to the Clintons or in plainer terms, he bought the appointment.