On Saturday, during the second Democratic presidential debate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended her ties to Wall Street by invoking 9/11 and saying she had a lot of female campaign donors.
Clinton accepted millions of dollars from Wall Street through her campaigns as well as personally through speaking fees. Clinton’s top campaign contributors include JPMorgan and Citigroup and she personally received $400,000 from Goldman Sachs in one week alone for two speeches.
When the debate turned to question of money in politics, Clinton responded to a statement by Senator Bernie Sanders that Wall Street donors give candidates money expecting something in return by claiming that 60% of her donors were women and that Wall Street supported her due to her official assistance in the rebuilding of the financial district in Manhattan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
If you find that to be an inappropriate response to concerns about campaign finance, you aren’t alone.
Many of those watching the suspiciously scheduled debate also found the answer troubling, particularly the crass use of 9/11 as cover for taking money from Wall Street. The response on Facebook and Twitter was ferocious enough to catch the eye of CBS which confronted Clinton later in the debate about her use of 9/11 by showing a Tweet from the all-important state of Iowa that read, “I’ve never seen a candidate invoke 9/11 to justify millions of Wall Street donations until now.”
— Andy Grewal (@AndyGrewal) November 15, 2015
In typical fashion, Clinton deflected saying “Well, I’m sorry that whoever tweeted that had that impression because I worked closely with New Yorkers after 9/11 for my entire first term to rebuild. And so yes, I did know people.”
For the record, Hillary Clinton was receiving money from Wall Street before the 9/11 terrorist attacks and has gone far beyond supporting the rebuilding of the literal Wall Street. In one of the most noteworthy examples, Clinton supported the a 2001 bankruptcy bill that made it harder for poor Americans to discharge credit card debt. She later justified her support by saying she needed to support the bill in order to get changes to protect alimony and child support payments.
Clinton never explained how having 60 percent of her donors as female was relevant to her Wall Street connections either. The donor ratio factoid appears to have been hurled out as part of her campaign’s hallmark corporate McFeminism — the facile and mistaken belief that the elevation of one female corporate-sponsored politician (whose elevation involved vilifying poor women) will bring some sort of trickle-down empowerment to all women.
McFeminism fits perfectly with the neoliberal model of emphasizing superficial and symbolic changes over deeper structural reform. New brands, same owners.
Just as problematic as Clinton’s cynical deflections on Wall Street patronage was a series of incorrect and misleading claims about the 2008 financial crisis and her record on fighting to rein in Wall Street.
Hillary Clinton has been trying to justify her opposition to reimposing a separation between commercial and investment banks known as Glass-Steagall (supported by both Senator Sanders and former Governor Martin O’Malley) by claiming it won’t “solve the problem.” Instead, Clinton points blame at the shadow banking system, a fundamentally incorrect explanation which conveniently leaves out her big Wall Street donors. She went even further in the debate by oddly claiming that AIG is not a bank and would not be covered under a new Glass-Steagall regulation even though it was considered to be a bank during the bailouts.
An examination of Hillary Clinton’s record by ProPublica found that, contrary to Clinton’s claims of having been a progressive in office, she has a mixed record on holding Wall Street accountable. Lots of talk, very little action. Why would we expect a President Hillary Clinton to be any different?