When Hillary Clinton's Brother Got In on the Circus Act

Tony Rodham signed a contract in June 1998 with the Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory's circus company, United Shows of America, Inc., and several related businesses to serve as their "independent consultant."  Perhaps not coincidentally, the Gregorys negotiated the contract with Hillary Clinton's youngest brother at the same time they began  pursuing presidential pardons.  Years earlier, Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory pleaded guilty in a banking fraud case.  Edgar received five years of probation and Vonna Jo three.

The Gregorys were no strangers to the Clinton clan.  They donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the political campaigns of Bill and Hillary Clinton and to various Democrat political parties during Bill's eight years as president.   In the two years leading up to their pardons, the Gregorys, their children, and their company and key employees contributed nearly $300,000 to political campaigns, with nearly all of it going to Democratic causes.

The campaign checks were not the only checks the Gregorys wrote.  From the time he signed on as an independent consultant, Tony Rodham was paid $244,769, including a $25,000 signing bonus, and he received health care benefits and use of a 1995 Chevrolet Suburban.

Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory were keen to get pardons because their felony convictions were preventing them from bidding for government-sponsored fairs and circuses.  They needed to have their criminal records wiped clean.

In 1998, the Gregorys were told their criminal records posed an obstacle to winning the contract in future years to manage the Florida State Fair, one of their largest revenue-generators.  This development was immediately followed by the "independent consultant" contract they signed with Rodham.

The Gregorys submitted their pardon application through proper channels to the Justice Department with a copy sent directly to President Clinton in November 1998.  By late 1999, the Gregorys became impatient with waiting.  So they approached Rodham, gave him a copy of the clemency petition, and pressed him to get deeply involved in their pardon request.  "I did ask him after we weren't on that Christmas pardon list of '99 if he could help us, and I don't see anything wrong with that," explained Edgar Gregory.

After Bill Clinton's 2001 pardon scandal broke, Rodham told CNN's Larry King Live in March 2001 that he asked Clinton to pardon Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory.  "Yeah, I talked to my brother-in-law.  I told him that Ed Gregory is a good guy, he is a guy that, you know, this was hurting his business.  He needs it, his business, to support his family, and he is the kind of person that the pardon system was designed for."

Rodham also admitted that he informed his sister ahead of time that he was seeking a pardon for the Gregorys.  Rodham told King, "Yes — she — I talked to her about it."

The Gregorys knew exactly what they were getting when they hired Tony Rodham.  It was access.  "You've got a man that is the brother-in-law of the president of the United States," said Edgar Gregory as he gave the reason why he hired Tony Rodham.  He added, "He's the brother of the First Lady of the United States and certain people are going to know his name."  Certainly, everyone on the White House staff and the Justice Department knew exactly who Tony Rodham was.

As far as the Gregory pardons were concerned, no one aside from Rodham was in favor of them.  They failed to meet objective Justice Department guidelines of accepting responsibility for their crimes.  Jeff Sessions, who was the U.S. Attorney whose office prosecuted the Gregorys for bank fraud in 1982, was appalled that they had received pardons.  He was never consulted, as required by Justice Department guidelines.  Ginny S. Granade, who was the assistant U.S. attorney who tried the case, commented, "They drained the banks that they were majority shareholders in and just ran them into the ground for this interconnecting web of companies they owned.  They ran those banks with an iron fist."

The trial judge was opposed to clemency, as was the Justice Department.  Even Bill Clinton's own White House counsel was not in favor of pardons for the Gregorys.  Everyone was against Clinton granting executive clemency for the Gregorys, yet Hillary's brother wanted the pardons, and Bill granted them.

The Gregorys' pardons are clear examples of a quid pro quo.  The Gregorys were longtime, generous campaign contributors to the Clintons and other Democratic candidates and causes, and it was no secret that Hillary had designs on running for president one day.  The Clintons could not continue to benefit from the Gregorys' largesse unless the Gregorys' businesses continued to be extremely profitable.  

The Gregorys told Rodham they needed to have pardons no later than February 2000 if they were to continue to operate the Florida State Fair.  The March 2000 presidential pardons wiped the slate clean and gave them the opportunity to continue bidding for the fair.  Meanwhile, the Clintons continued feeding from the Gregorys' campaign contribution gravy train.  Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory contributed more than $15,000 to Hillary's Senate campaign before everything began to unravel for them.

After Bill Clinton left office, the Gregorys hit rock bottom.  News of the pardons led to several creditors reassessing their business relationships with the Gregorys and their companies.  Dateline NBC reported that in the 1990s, games in the Gregorys' United Shows of America were rigged against the public and there were concerns that the Gregorys had made false representations in order to gain investors in various projects.

Creditors began calling due loans, and by August 2002, Edgar Gregory and several of his businesses entered bankruptcy protection.  One creditor accused Edgar of making false representations about business opportunities in which the creditor invested $2.9 million.  The Gregorys' bankruptcy case listed more than 200 creditors.  

Edgar Gregory's death from natural causes in April 2004 may have ended his fallout from the pardon fiasco, but it only continued trouble for Tony Rodham.

Michael Collins was designated the U.S. trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of United Shows of America.  Documents showed that the Gregorys had loaned at least $107,000 to Rodham, right after they were given the pardons.  Rodham hadn't paid back any of the loans.  Collins demanded that Rodham repay the original loan amount plus $46,034 in interest for a total debt of $153,034.  

By now, Rodham's version of events had changed significantly.  No longer was the money given to him after the Gregorys received their pardons considered a loan, he claimed.  Rodham made this assertion despite the fact that the word "loan" was written on the memo line of all 16 Bank of Nashville checks that were made out to Anthony D. Rodham.  Instead, Rodham argued, it was payment for unspecified "consulting services." 

Neither the Gregorys, United Shows of America, nor Rodham offered any documentation that supported Rodham's contention that he had performed any services after the pardons were received that justified the payments.  Moreover, Rodham could have easily ended disagreement over the nature of the payments if he had simply provided copies of his income tax records documented that he had claimed the $107,000 as income.  That he did not proffer his tax records supported Collins's assertion the money was a loan.  

In March 2006, Collins won a judgment against Rodham for the money owed.  Rodham appealed the case, and it dragged into the following year.  Tony Rodham was able to finally close the sordid "pay for no work" chapter of his life when he reached a settlement regarding the money that he owed the Gregorys' estate in September 2007, just before the case was to go to trial.  Details of Rodham's repayment were kept confidential as part of the settlement agreement.

Mark Hyman is an investigative television correspondent.  This essay was adapted from Pardongate: How Bill & Hillary Clinton and Their Brothers Profited from Pardons, which was released on June 30, 2020.

Tony Rodham signed a contract in June 1998 with the Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory's circus company, United Shows of America, Inc., and several related businesses to serve as their "independent consultant."  Perhaps not coincidentally, the Gregorys negotiated the contract with Hillary Clinton's youngest brother at the same time they began  pursuing presidential pardons.  Years earlier, Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory pleaded guilty in a banking fraud case.  Edgar received five years of probation and Vonna Jo three.

The Gregorys were no strangers to the Clinton clan.  They donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the political campaigns of Bill and Hillary Clinton and to various Democrat political parties during Bill's eight years as president.   In the two years leading up to their pardons, the Gregorys, their children, and their company and key employees contributed nearly $300,000 to political campaigns, with nearly all of it going to Democratic causes.

The campaign checks were not the only checks the Gregorys wrote.  From the time he signed on as an independent consultant, Tony Rodham was paid $244,769, including a $25,000 signing bonus, and he received health care benefits and use of a 1995 Chevrolet Suburban.

Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory were keen to get pardons because their felony convictions were preventing them from bidding for government-sponsored fairs and circuses.  They needed to have their criminal records wiped clean.

In 1998, the Gregorys were told their criminal records posed an obstacle to winning the contract in future years to manage the Florida State Fair, one of their largest revenue-generators.  This development was immediately followed by the "independent consultant" contract they signed with Rodham.

The Gregorys submitted their pardon application through proper channels to the Justice Department with a copy sent directly to President Clinton in November 1998.  By late 1999, the Gregorys became impatient with waiting.  So they approached Rodham, gave him a copy of the clemency petition, and pressed him to get deeply involved in their pardon request.  "I did ask him after we weren't on that Christmas pardon list of '99 if he could help us, and I don't see anything wrong with that," explained Edgar Gregory.

After Bill Clinton's 2001 pardon scandal broke, Rodham told CNN's Larry King Live in March 2001 that he asked Clinton to pardon Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory.  "Yeah, I talked to my brother-in-law.  I told him that Ed Gregory is a good guy, he is a guy that, you know, this was hurting his business.  He needs it, his business, to support his family, and he is the kind of person that the pardon system was designed for."

Rodham also admitted that he informed his sister ahead of time that he was seeking a pardon for the Gregorys.  Rodham told King, "Yes — she — I talked to her about it."

The Gregorys knew exactly what they were getting when they hired Tony Rodham.  It was access.  "You've got a man that is the brother-in-law of the president of the United States," said Edgar Gregory as he gave the reason why he hired Tony Rodham.  He added, "He's the brother of the First Lady of the United States and certain people are going to know his name."  Certainly, everyone on the White House staff and the Justice Department knew exactly who Tony Rodham was.

As far as the Gregory pardons were concerned, no one aside from Rodham was in favor of them.  They failed to meet objective Justice Department guidelines of accepting responsibility for their crimes.  Jeff Sessions, who was the U.S. Attorney whose office prosecuted the Gregorys for bank fraud in 1982, was appalled that they had received pardons.  He was never consulted, as required by Justice Department guidelines.  Ginny S. Granade, who was the assistant U.S. attorney who tried the case, commented, "They drained the banks that they were majority shareholders in and just ran them into the ground for this interconnecting web of companies they owned.  They ran those banks with an iron fist."

The trial judge was opposed to clemency, as was the Justice Department.  Even Bill Clinton's own White House counsel was not in favor of pardons for the Gregorys.  Everyone was against Clinton granting executive clemency for the Gregorys, yet Hillary's brother wanted the pardons, and Bill granted them.

The Gregorys' pardons are clear examples of a quid pro quo.  The Gregorys were longtime, generous campaign contributors to the Clintons and other Democratic candidates and causes, and it was no secret that Hillary had designs on running for president one day.  The Clintons could not continue to benefit from the Gregorys' largesse unless the Gregorys' businesses continued to be extremely profitable.  

The Gregorys told Rodham they needed to have pardons no later than February 2000 if they were to continue to operate the Florida State Fair.  The March 2000 presidential pardons wiped the slate clean and gave them the opportunity to continue bidding for the fair.  Meanwhile, the Clintons continued feeding from the Gregorys' campaign contribution gravy train.  Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory contributed more than $15,000 to Hillary's Senate campaign before everything began to unravel for them.

After Bill Clinton left office, the Gregorys hit rock bottom.  News of the pardons led to several creditors reassessing their business relationships with the Gregorys and their companies.  Dateline NBC reported that in the 1990s, games in the Gregorys' United Shows of America were rigged against the public and there were concerns that the Gregorys had made false representations in order to gain investors in various projects.

Creditors began calling due loans, and by August 2002, Edgar Gregory and several of his businesses entered bankruptcy protection.  One creditor accused Edgar of making false representations about business opportunities in which the creditor invested $2.9 million.  The Gregorys' bankruptcy case listed more than 200 creditors.  

Edgar Gregory's death from natural causes in April 2004 may have ended his fallout from the pardon fiasco, but it only continued trouble for Tony Rodham.

Michael Collins was designated the U.S. trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of United Shows of America.  Documents showed that the Gregorys had loaned at least $107,000 to Rodham, right after they were given the pardons.  Rodham hadn't paid back any of the loans.  Collins demanded that Rodham repay the original loan amount plus $46,034 in interest for a total debt of $153,034.  

By now, Rodham's version of events had changed significantly.  No longer was the money given to him after the Gregorys received their pardons considered a loan, he claimed.  Rodham made this assertion despite the fact that the word "loan" was written on the memo line of all 16 Bank of Nashville checks that were made out to Anthony D. Rodham.  Instead, Rodham argued, it was payment for unspecified "consulting services." 

Neither the Gregorys, United Shows of America, nor Rodham offered any documentation that supported Rodham's contention that he had performed any services after the pardons were received that justified the payments.  Moreover, Rodham could have easily ended disagreement over the nature of the payments if he had simply provided copies of his income tax records documented that he had claimed the $107,000 as income.  That he did not proffer his tax records supported Collins's assertion the money was a loan.  

In March 2006, Collins won a judgment against Rodham for the money owed.  Rodham appealed the case, and it dragged into the following year.  Tony Rodham was able to finally close the sordid "pay for no work" chapter of his life when he reached a settlement regarding the money that he owed the Gregorys' estate in September 2007, just before the case was to go to trial.  Details of Rodham's repayment were kept confidential as part of the settlement agreement.

Mark Hyman is an investigative television correspondent.  This essay was adapted from Pardongate: How Bill & Hillary Clinton and Their Brothers Profited from Pardons, which was released on June 30, 2020.