Dee from the Desk: Clay Pell's changing resume? - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Dee from the Desk: Clay Pell's changing resume?

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Clay Pell has continuously touted his experience and skills as a reason he should be elected governor of Rhode Island but when taking a good look at Pell’s resume it seems to change on different platforms.

The biography about Pell provided by the Department of Education (here), the biography provided when he was a White House fellow (here) and his biography on his campaign website (here) all have differences that indicate Pell may have done some resume padding in the past, however, the campaign disagrees.

First, Pell makes claims in his White House fellowship bio that he has worked for the international law firms of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Baker and McKenzie, and Uria Menedez. In his Department of Education bio he indicates that he served in a variety of roles at a number of different organizations including “international law firms.” However, in other biographies Pell refers to his role with these firms as internships. The Pell campaign contends that Pell served in these law firms on an internship, as a summer associate, and on a clerkship, all of which were paid, making him an employee. “Clay was a paid summer associate with both Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (in New York) and Baker & McKenzie (in Hong Kong). He had a paid international clerkship with Uría Menéndez (in Madrid). In all cases, he was an employee of those firm,” said Pell’s Campaign Manager Devin Driscoll.

Pell has also claimed to be a “senior official” in the White House during interviews with local media. While Pell did in fact obtain a prestigious White House fellowship, it appears he only spent seven months in the White House after completing his fellowship. He served as Director of Strategic Planning on the National Security Staff before moving to the Department of Education. Pell was an employee within the department, however, he was not a senior White House official. Pell was in fact a senior advisor to a senior official; Rhode Island native Tom Donilon, who at the time served as the National Security Advisor. Typically, senior White House officials are those in cabinet level positions or direct advisors to the president.

The Pell campaign stands by the assertion that Pell was a senior official. “Clay served as director for strategic planning on President Obama's National Security Council staff. There, he supported, among others, then-National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and then-Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, who is now White House Chief of Staff. He frequently went to work in the White House Situation Room, and was tasked with bringing together stakeholders from across the federal government on issues of foreign policy and national security,” said Driscoll.

In Pell’s bio for his White House fellowship he says that he “executes regular Coast Guard exchanges with China to improve military diplomacy.” Pell may very well have worked on the exchange program but to claim to “execute” it seems unlikely since there are higher ranking officers that would have overseen the mission. Pell served in the Coast Guard as a Lieutenant JAG Officer. He most likely served under a Vice Admiral as part of the exchange program. More than half of the time Pell was on active duty with the Coast Guard, he served in the White House on his Fellowship. (Pell joined in 2009 as an officer and left active duty in 2013). The campaign said that Pell never claimed to have ran the program and that he did interact with the Vice Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara, who oversaw the project. (More about the exchange program, here.)

After his time within the White House, Pell was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of Education. There he served for six months before returning to Rhode Island and announcing his run for Governor. While at the Department of Education Pell has stated he over saw a $60 million dollar budget for International and World Language Education. According to the Providence Journal Politifact check, Pell did oversee the budget, however his experience doing such was limited to the 6 month time he worked there.

When comparing Pell’s campaign bio, to his Department of Education bio, and his fellowship bio, one might also notice that Pell seems to have once been fluent in several languages but later only states to have studied them. In his White House fellow biography Pell is fluent in Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic. On the campaign website he claims only to have studied the languages. In his economic plan Pell touts his “multilingual abilities” and “international experience” as a way to promote and attract business to RI.

The campaign suggests that this is due to Pell’s own bashfulness about his linguistic abilities. “Clay has had a passion for language his whole life, and has spent significant time studying a number of them. He speaks Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic, but does not have an opportunity to speak Arabic as often as he would like. That said, Clay earned a Citation in Modern Standard Arabic from Harvard University for his Arabic language studies,” said Driscoll.

Many of these experiences that Pell often touts are left off the campaign website completely including his time at the international law firms and his White House Fellowship.

Despite what may appear to be inaccuracies in Pell’s resume the campaign is standing by the 33-year-old candidate’s background. It will be up to the court of public opinion whether Pell padded his resume or whether he is just simply stating his many accomplishments.

 Dee DeQuattro is the assignment desk manager and digital news coordinator for ABC6. She studied politics and communications and holds a master's degree from Providence College. Follow her on twitter @deedequattro and log on to ABC6 .com for her latest in depth coverage of politics and news.
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