In any other election, Democratic Presidential candidate and ex-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s list of uber-wealthy Wall Street donors and exorbitant speaking fees to Goldman Sachs and other corporations wouldn’t be an albatross around her neck. Especially when any Republican opponent she’d face in a general, and the vast majority of Dem candidates in a primary, would also have close ties to the private financial sector.
However, this time around, she’s facing a democratic socialist who has centered his campaign on targeting the one percent, railing against crony capitalism and calling for an end to the current campaign finance system in place. With Bernie Sanders’ call for a political revolution gaining steam, and Hillary now looking at a tied national race for the Democratic nomination, the former Secretary of State is trying to bat away concerns that the millions she’s received from Wall Street in campaign contributions and compensation for speeches has bought her support.
At last Thursday’s debate and on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Clinton has taken the tack that Sanders’ attacks against Wall Street and criticisms of the $675,000 she received from Goldman Sachs for three speeches were an underhanded attempt to besmirch her character. Over the past couple of days, her camp has pushed the notion that Sanders is just as guilty as her of taken cash from the financial sector, pointing out that the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee spent $200,000 on his Senate election campaign, and that some of the money the DSCC receives come from Wall Street and other lobbying firms.
And, on Tuesday, in a story that had to have come directly from Clinton’s organization and perhaps the DNC, MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald detailed how Sanders attended a number of DSCC retreats where high-dollar donors and lobbyists mingled with Senators. The implication was that Sanders is a hypocrite for accepting invitations to these events since he knew some people from Wall Street would invariably be there. The tone of the story also paints Bernie as someone looking to enjoy the finer things in life without having to pay for them.
Still, even if you buy that Sanders isn’t exactly ‘clean’ for accepting backing from the DSCC and attending official events it held, you have to admit that this whole thing is obviously meant to distract from Hillary’s big ol’ Goldman Sachs problem, a problem that has only grown larger since the debate, where she said she’d “look into” releasing the transcripts of her speeches to the firm.
The moment that question got asked, and she didn’t immediately answer in the affirmative — following her telling moderator Rachel Maddow that she accepted the huge sums of money because that’s what they offered — it became clear that she was in a catch-22. While her team has tried to swat away the issue by saying they were private remarks and she’d release the transcripts only when everyone else did the same (a silly demand), the fact remains that she has already pointed out that she would never change her vote or go against her conscience for money, whether it is in donations or speaking fees.
In a piece published by Politico on Tuesday, two anonymous attendees of her speeches said that while Clinton’s remarks were “pretty glowing” about Goldman Sachs and “like a rah-rah speech” for the company, a far cry from how she’s trying to present herself on the trail right now. One person said she sounded “like a Goldman Sachs managing director.” In response to the article, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon dismissed the attendees, saying they were just trolling, but still refused to commit to releasing the transcripts.
The issue Hillary has is if she releases these speeches to the public, it will not be the end of the matter. Even if they are fairly innocuous and nothing more than corporate patter and platitudes, there will still be enough quotes for Sanders, the GOP and the media to use for weeks, if not months. However, she continues to hold off on releasing them, it will seem like she has something to hide, even if she can try to say she’s doing it on pure principle. (Shaky ground, to be sure, especially considering the amount of money we’re talking about for ‘private’ remarks.)
This ain’t going away anytime soon. She somehow walked into a trap in which she can’t find an easy way out. With additional debates scheduled, and Sanders in for the long haul, this will be on the front-burner moving forward.