Hillary Clinton's Goldman Sachs Speeches Matter


It's been months since Bernie Sanders began hammering Hillary Clinton on the Wall Street speeches that earned her millions, and exactly 73 days since the Democratic presidential front-runner fobbed off her challenger -- and innumerable voters -- with a promise to "look into" releasing the transcripts.

Seventy-three days is a long time to look into something.

Clinton hasn't released the transcripts, but thanks to reporting from sources like Politico and The Wall Street Journal, we know the general tone she struck when she addressed the same bankers and investors who led the country into its worst economic recession in living memory.

“It was pretty glowing about us,” a witness to one of Clinton's speeches told Politico. “It’s so far from what she sounds like as a candidate now. It was like a rah-rah speech. She sounded more like a Goldman Sachs managing director.”

Another person, who was in the audience when Clinton delivered a 2013 speech to Goldman Sachs employees, said the former New York senator would never release the transcripts.

"It would bury her against Sanders,” the source said. “It really makes her look like an ally of the firm.”

Others, like a source who spoke to The Wall Street Journal, described Clinton's speeches as "gushy."

Clinton the Private Citizen's praise of Wall Street is at odds with what Clinton the Candidate has been saying, and Americans aren't buying her sudden tough talk about firms that have bankrolled her entire career, from her eight years as New York's junior senator, to her 2008 and 2016 presidential runs.

But it's not just that Clinton turned to the banks she's now bashing to help fund her political aspirations. Those same firms helped the Clintons line their personal pockets by paying them millions for speeches, and donated a combined $40 million to the Clinton Foundation, the family's controversial nonprofit corporation.

Clinton and her campaign strategists undoubtedly hope the questions about her coziness with Wall Street die out at some point, but they won't. If Clinton's nerves are frayed by questions from the comparatively genteel Sanders, she really won't do well in a general election opposite possible Republican candidates like Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, who won't let a day go by without reminding voters that Clinton took millions from Wall Street and won't release her speech transcripts.

The candidate hasn't helped herself with her justifications either. In early February, when CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Clinton why she took so much money to deliver speeches to Wall Street firms, she responded by blushing and shrugging like a kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

"Well, I don't know," Clinton told Cooper. "That's what they offered, so, ummm ... Every secretary of state that I've known has done that."

As The New York Times observed in an editorial titled "Mrs. Clinton, Show Voters Those Transcripts," “'Everybody does it,' is an excuse expected from a mischievous child, not a presidential candidate."

It also doesn't help that it's the same excuse Clinton used to justify her use of a private email server, another issue that continues to dog her during the long slog of the primaries. The email scandal, like the refusal to release the speech transcripts, speaks to a larger disregard for the public and its right to know. It tells voters that Clinton hasn't changed, and that for all the talk of transparency, a Clinton presidency would show the same contempt for public information that the Clinton campaign has shown.

That's not a good look for an establishment candidate in an election cycle marked by a revitalized brand of populism and a deep distrust of Washington insiders. That populist streak can be found in voters on both sides of the aisle, propelling the campaigns of Sanders and Trump.

Over the course of her entire political career, the Democratic presidential front-runner has raised a staggering $500 million, according to OpenSecrets.org. From Clinton's stint as a senator, to her 2008 presidential campaign, to the 2016 cycle, the same names appear again and again on the list of the candidate's top five donors -- Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup. Go back to before the financial crisis, and Clinton's donor list includes all the disgraced and defunct Wall Street firms that were the primary enablers of the financial meltdown: Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and MF Global.

As the gap between the wealthy and everyone else continues to widen, Clinton is asking for the support of millions of Americans who were burned by the same companies that have given so generously to every campaign she's ever run as a politician.

Those voters are perfectly within their rights to ask whether Clinton sides with them, or the fat cats she's been taking money from.

On April 17, as Clinton headed to a private fundraiser with George and Amal Clooney, the actor and his lawyer wife, voters showed exactly how they feel, reports CNN -- by blasting "We're In The Money" and showering the candidate's motorcade with a thousand dollar bills.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: OpenSecrets (2), HillaryClinton.com, Politico, CNN (2), IWillLookIntoIt.com, The New York Times, Time / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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