Hillary Clinton’s wealth has long been a sticking point in her battle with Bernie Sanders over who is the better populist. It’s also put her at odds with the larger Democratic fight against the “one percent,” a group she’s a member of. After all, it’s tough to join the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, when the street served as the site for some of your most lucrative fundraisers.
Despite it all, Clinton knows just how important it is to try to get voters to forget just how rich she is. Such desperation often comes off as…well, desperate. The lowpoint came in a 2014 interview with Diane Sawyer, in which Hillary claimed she was more than just not rich, she was “dead broke.”
“We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt,” Clinton said. “We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education. It was not easy.”
But since then her life has been easy street. Tax returns released this summer showed that from 2007 to 2014 the Clintons earned more than $140 million, mostly from speaking and “consulting” fees.
Bernie Sanders has rightfully pointed out the hypocrisy of Clinton talking about reforming Wall Street at the same time she’s taking campaign donations and enormous speaking fees from the traders who populate it.
“[O]ne of the things we should do is not only talk the talk, but walk the walk,” Sanders said in the New Hampshire debate. “I am very proud to be the only candidate up here who does not have a Super PAC, who’s not raising huge sums of money from Wall Street and special interests.”
Sanders later got more specific, framing himself as the progressive insurgent and Clinton as the moderate, establishment-favorite.
“What being part of the establishment is, is, in the last quarter, having a super PAC that raised $15 million from Wall Street, that throughout one’s life raised a whole lot of money from the drug companies.”
The back and forth prompted debate moderator Chuck Todd to shine a light on an area of Clinton’s campaign that she would have rather kept in the shadows.
“Are you willing to release the transcripts of all your paid speeches?” Todd asks. “We do know through reporting that there were transcription services for all of those paid speeches.”
A clearly dumbfounded Clinton could only answer, “I will look into it.”
Clinton similarly came under fire at a televised town hall, in which host Anderson Cooper asked Clinton whether she should have accepted exorbitant speaking fees from firms like Goldman Sachs.
“Well, I don’t know. That’s what they offered,” Clinton said. “Every secretary of state that I know has done that.”
Given the increased scrutiny, and Clinton’s promise *wink wink* to “look into” releasing the transcripts, is there any chance that the voting public learns what she said to Wall Streeters? Yea right. Which begs the question, why? Chris Cillizza asks the question for the Washington Post:
I generally take Clinton at her word when she describes what the nature of her speeches were: Recounting high profile events and her role in them.
Why not release them then — since they would likely reaffirm Clinton’s argument in the race that she has been there and done that at the highest level of national and international diplomacy? My guess is that in the speeches, Clinton likely acknowledges her various friends and acquaintances at Goldman Sachs (and other Wall Street firms) and praises them for the work they are doing.
Yes, it’s standard small talk. But it could look really, really bad in the context of the current campaign. Imagine a transcript of Clinton speaking to some big bank or investment firm where she thanks a litany of people she’s “been friends with forever” and then praises the broader enterprise for “all you do.”
That means Clinton is stuck in a no-win situation. She refuses to prove she didn’t say something completely scandalous because she surely said something that was moderately scandalous. And so voters are free to continue assuming the worst. Of course, the delicious irony of all of this is that negotiating the highest pay possible for giving a speech is a perfectly defensible capitalist position. It just so happens she’s having to defend herself against a socialist.