State Department spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday that there is "no conflict of interest" in the naming a donor to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign as a transparency coordinator overseeing the review of Clinton's emails.
Secretary of State John Kerry announced Tuesday that Ambassador Janice Jacobs would take on the new responsibility of improving State's record-keeping and transparency practices and managing requests for documents. Jacobs, a career foreign service officer who previously served as Kerry's assistant secretary for Consular Affairs, donated $2,700, the maximum amount allowed by the Federal Election Commission, to Clinton's campaign in June.
Kirby, who said he found out about the donation on Tuesday but could not say whether or not Kerry was made aware of it, and he said Jacob's range of duties could include a review of Clinton's emails but that she would not be making any judgment about whether or not Clinton violated any rules governing the transmittal of classified information.
There is disagreement among agencies about whether or not information contained in Clinton's emails - which were housed on a private server located at her home in Chappaqua, New York while she was Secretary of State - was classified. This week, the New York Times reported that a second intelligence review of two of Clinton's emails backed up an initial finding by the Intelligence Community inspector general that Clinton's emails contained material that should have been marked "classified."
Kirby also said Wednesday that the State Department has added 50 additional personnel to the office that responds to Freedom of Information Act queries to handle a three-fold increase in requests for information since 2008.
The need for a position like Jacobs' was made clear more recently, in part by the deluge of requests for documents and emails related to Clinton's time as secretary of state. Kirby said in an earlier briefing that the task of releasing than 55,000 pages of emails "certainly is a factor in [Kerry's] decision to stand up this new position."
The House Select Committee on Benghazi, which will hear testimony from Clinton on October 22, requested documents related to the terrorist attacks in Libya in November 2014 and criticized the State Department for being slow to produce the material.
Jamal Ware, the committee's communication director, called Jacobs' hire "tantamount to the State Department admitting it has failed to comply with the Benghazi Committee's requests, which we have noted for months now."
"But the fact State was unable to find someone who is not a maxed-out donor to Secretary Clinton to review her record is pretty hard to believe," Ware continued in a statement to CBS News. "State claims there will be no conflict, but the proof will be in timely production of documents to the Committee, not late promises. The Committee already has interviewed witnesses for whom the emails we requested, but not received, would have been relevant."
Jacobs told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that she donated to Clinton's campaign as a "private citizen" prior to any conversation with the State Department about her new job.
"I think that the announcement lays it out pretty clearly what Secretary Kerry has hired me for and it's not just the Clinton emails, but in general to make sure that the department is as responsive and efficient as it can be in handling the various document requests that come in," Jacobs told the newspaper. "He just wants to make sure it's all well-coordinated and that deadlines are met and that we just look proactive and responsive."
The Republican National Committee accused the State Department of brushing aside questions about Jacobs' appointment.
"Putting a maxed out Clinton donor in charge of overseeing the process of releasing her emails doesn't just give the appearance of a conflict of interest, it is one," RNC spokesman Michael Short said in a statement.