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Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Clinton Insider Minyon Moore Has Deep Chicago Ties, and Deep D.C. Problems

She’s not a household name, but she’s one of the most powerful women in D.C.—and she got her start in Chicago politics.

One of Hillary Clinton's closest confidantes is Chicago-born Minyon Moore. Photo: Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune

The Chicago papers have mostly ignored the story of a campaign finance scandal, that has, as the National Journal put it,  “rocked local politics in D.C.”

No surprise that it’s a huge D.C. story, given that one of its characters, who stands accused of accepting illegal campaign contributions to help him win a tough 2010 race, is the current D.C. mayor, Vincent Gray. He faces a reelection primary on April 1. 

Another, more minor character, who, like Gray, has not been indicted, and who, also like Gray, absolutely denies any culpability, is former Chicagoan Minyon Moore. The 55-year-old Moore has deep roots here and in Democratic politics—field director for the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential run, Bill Clinton’s White House Director of Public Liaison, and one of Hillary Clinton’s closest confidantes, a top adviser in 2008 and already reprising that role—and then some—in 2016.

The many friends of Moore, 55, known as “Minnie,” blast the reporting of the Washington Post, which has been particularly aggressive in covering the story. “She’s got more character in her high heels than this whole town does put together, “ one friend said indignantly.

Meanwhile Vince Gray’s own lawyer has said his client will likely be indicted on federal campaign finance charges. Gray denies that he that he took illegal campaign contributions, calling the allegations “absolute lies.”

 The source of the illegal contributions that allegedly helped Gray is businessman and city contractor Jeffrey Thompson. Having pled guilty on March 10 to federal campaign finance violations, Thompson has admitted funneling money to a slew of candidates by cajoling employees, friends, etc., to cut checks while concealing that Thompson would later reimburse them for their donations from his own accounts.

So how does Democratic organizer Minyon Moore—in the prosecution’s “statement of offense” Moore is, according to the Post and other sources, “Individual A”—figure into this mess? According to Post columnist Colbert King, Thompson also “funneled” into “shadow campaigns” hundreds of thousands of additional dollars. Moore, who now works at the D.C. political consulting firm Dewey Square Group where she heads the firms’ multicultural and state and local affairs practices, was alleged by the Washington Post to have been involved in Thompson-financed off-the-books campaigns to reach urban voters.

In a filing by federal prosecutors, Moore is alleged—and, again, she completely denies this— to have asked Thompson to fund (the Washington Post pegs the cost of financing these efforts at $608,750) “street teams” in four states (Texas, Indiana, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and Puerto Rico. These were places Hillary needed a boost as she battled Obama in the 2008 primaries.

A statement issued by Dewey Square on Moore’s behalf on March 11 and emailed to me today by her spokesman Ginny Terzano, reads, in part: “As we stated last September 2013, Minyon Moore fully cooperated with the government’s investigation and the facts make clear that she was entirely unaware of any inappropriate activities and at all times conducted herself, as she always has, not only in full compliance with the law but in accordance with the highest ethical and professional standards.  Nothing that happened yesterday changes these facts. Furthermore, the article posted online today by The Washington Post regarding Minyon Moore is inaccurate. Nowhere in the Statement of Offense from March 10, 2014 does it say Ms. Moore sought funds for an “illegal” campaign. The Statement of Offense says Ms.  Moore asked Jeffrey Thompson to fund street teams. In fact she asked Thompson to contribute and raise money directly for the campaign so the campaign could afford to execute a field program in constituent communities. Her actions were legal.”

According to the Washington Post, “Thompson, in his discussions with authorities, depicted Moore as having a far more intimate role in the off-the-books campaign than was previously known… securing the money and helping guide the strategy by feeding internal campaign documents and receiving messages about the media coverage.”

Moore graduated from Altgeld Elementary School (now closed) and Chicago Vocational High School. She paid for her education at UIC by working at Encyclopedia Britannica and at the post office; both her mother and stepfather worked for the Postal Service. Her start in politics came via the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. and his Rainbow Push Coalition, where she started as a volunteer and moved up to deputy political director. In Jackson’s 1984 primary campaign for the presidency, Moore worked as an organizer; in 1988 she upgraded to national deputy field director. In the general election that year, she became Dukakis’ national deputy field director. In 1992 she accompanied Jackson as he attempted, against resistance,  to register young voters in Georgia. In 2000 she became the DNC’s chief operating officer.  Considered an expert in “organizing and messaging in the African-American community,” in 2004 she worked as minority outreach director for John Kerry.

Today Minyon Moore is most closely tied to Hillary Clinton. She is a Clinton insider and served as senior adviser during Hillary’s ’08 run. Moore continues to advise Hillary and has already laid groundwork, including organizing a meeting at Hillary’s D.C. house last year, to plan for another run for the White House. Politico has described Moore as the person who “has informally become the potential candidate’s political eyes and ears.”

Last September, early in the life of this scandal, the Washington Post’s Nikita Stewart portrayed “Minnie” as, according to her friends, “a master political strategist,” but also as shy, self effacing and “preferring to operate quietly and out of public view.” She does not like to give interviews, as I learned when I tried to interview her for a book I was writing on Bill Clinton. She was also described as a generous donor to D.C. charities—often giving anonymously—that work to help inner city kids. She is a “mentor to countless young professionals eager to get involved in politics.”

 My favorite quote about Minyon Moore dates to 1998 from the Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet who quotes former DNC chief David Wilhelm on Moore: “She was someone who could pick up the phone and get Aretha Franklin on the line at a moment’s notice.” Moore is also close to Chicago born-and-bred former basketball star Isiah Thomas. As one person who knows Moore well, told me, Thomas and Moore “mutually care a lot about the health of Chicago and kids growing up in the West Side and other tough communities.”

According to reporting by Politico, relying on “sources close to the case,” Moore will not face even the possibility of indictment because, “a five-year statute of limitations limits any exposure to a campaign-finance case that Moore otherwise could have faced.” Prosecutors say they have no evidence that Hillary Clinton had any knowledge or involvement in the alleged effort to boost her prospects in those four states and Puerto Rico.

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