Travelgate and Hillary Clinton

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Travelgate refers to the first major ethics controversy of the Clinton administration.


Catherine Cornelius, a 25-year-old cousin of Bill's, had been promised the position of director of the Travel Office. She urged the Clintons to fire the career employees and place her in charge.[1]

Once the firings took place, the Clintons expected to be congratulated by the Press for shutting down an operation that had been cheating taxpayers. However, they were instead accused of cronyism.[2]

A memo written by David Watkins depicted Hillary Clinton at the center of the 1993 travel office dismissals. Watkins wrote, "we both know that there would be hell to pay" if "we failed to take swift and decisive action in conformity with the First Lady's wishes."[3]


  • May 16: Hillary speaks with White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty about possible mismanagement in the travel office.[2]
  • May 17: David Watkins, White House director of Management and Administration, tells Watkins and Vince Foster that he plans to fire the Travel Office staff.[2]
  • May 19: seven White House Travel Office staffers were fired, for little apparent reason besides to make way for a company owned by Clinton's friends (Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason) from Arkansas. Prior to the removal of the previous staff -- who historically would carryover from administration-to-administration -- Harry Thomason accused Travel Office employees of demanding kickbacks. An accusation later proved false.[4]
  • May 26: Bill orders an internal investigation of the Travel Office firings.[2]
  • July 2: White House internal investigation findings released. Four high officials received formal reprimands. Three others were criticized..[5]
  • Later, one fired staffer -- Billy Dale -- would be charged with embezzlement after the Clinton administration demanded FBI files on travel office staffers. Dale was acquitted by a jury.[6]