Perhaps lost in the coverage of the Paris terrorist attacks on Friday the 13th and its aftermath was Hillary Clinton’s claim that taking in lots of Wall Street money was appropriate after the devastating 9/11/2001 terrorist attack in New York City.
“Follow the money” is a common rallying cry in politics and in investigative journalism. According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ analysis, lawyers and those working in the investment industry are currently among the top sources of Hillary Clinton campaign contributions of so-called “hard” money.
The Wall Street connection predated the World Trade Center attack, however. The Washington Free Beacon reported that Clinton also received more than $1 million in Wall Street donations for her 2000 campaign for U.S. Senate. “That made her the third-largest recipient of Wall Street money of any member of Congress or congressional candidate running in that entire election cycle, which concluded 10 months before 9/11,” the International Business Times declared.
The Wall Street issue came up in the recent Democratic debate in Des Moines, Iowa, when presidential rival Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Senator, accused the former Secretary of State of being compromised by the cash that she rakes in from corporate interests. Moderator John Dickerson also called attention to the six-figure paydays that Clinton regularly received for speeches at financial institutions.
A visibly upset Hillary Clinton responded to the allegation.
“… I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”
Although it would be expected that Republicans would reject the justification, the answer did not go over well, even in liberal precincts and publications, which was reflected on Twitter, including one from Lis Smith, who works on rival Martin O’Malley’s campaign.
“Predictably, Twitter exploded with demands to know what campaign donations from big banks had to do with New York’s recovery from 9/11. Answer: little to nothing,” the New York Times asserted.
“The remark drew immediate reactions, ranging from confusion over the connection Clinton was trying to make and shock at the gall of using the attacks to save her from a tough critique,” Vanity Fair similarly noted.
My dad worked in WTC from the day it was built to the day it went down. @HillaryClinton, never invoke 9/11 to justify your Wall St positions— Lis Smith (@Lis_Smith) November 15, 2015
“It was such an unusual answer, in fact, that CBS soon thereafter returned to the subject, displaying a tweet from a viewer who wrote that he’d ‘never seen a candidate invoke 9/11 to justify millions of Wall Street donations,’ liberal website Slate also observed.
“I thought [it] was a pretty disgraceful moment, when she tried to put out a smoke screen, invoking 9/11 to hide the fact that she’s taken millions in contributions from the big banks on Wall Street, not to mention all the hundreds of thousands in speaking fees,” O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, declared.
Critics of the Democrat front-runner, primarily on the right, have also argued that the Clinton Foundation is a money-laundering vehicle for donations from foreign countries and multinational corporations who sought favorable treatment from the U.S. government during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. Certain donations from Russian oligarchs to the charity prompted former presidential candidate Mitt Romney to raise the implication of bribery.
During his reelection effort, President Obama also received much of his campaign funding from Wall Street, as did challenger Romney, the Washington Post reported at the time.
This trend appears to be continuing in the Obama post-presidency. “Hedge-fund and private-equity founders dominate the early giving to the new Barack Obama Foundation, which is raising money for the official Obama Presidential Library … Unlike Obama, who has publicly scorned private-equity and hedge-funds, the foundation seems to have no aversion taking money from multi-millionaires and billionaires who run investment powerhouses for wealthy clients,” the Daily Caller claimed in August.
Hard to overstate how little sense Clinton's "I take contributions from Wall Street because they got hit on 9/11" argument makes.— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) November 15, 2015
Allegations that Clinton is the so-called Senator from Wall Street is seen as detracting from her crusade against income inequality and partially explains Sanders’ rise in the polls along with that he appears to be getting financial support from small donors. “The [debate] exchange highlighted one of Sanders’ main critiques of Clinton: That she has maintained close ties to Wall Street executives during her political career and would be less forceful in policing the risky behavior of financial firms that Sanders says led to the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009,” U.S. News noted.
Following the Democratic debate, the MSNBC Morning Joe ideologically diverse panel criticized Hillary Clinton’s debate response about Wall Street donations and agreed that it would have created an ongoing media firestorm if a Republican had invoked the same justification.
Do you think that Hillary Clinton’s deep Wall Street connections will fundamentally determine how she would regulate the industry if she wins the White House in 2016?
[Photo by David Zalubowski/Associated Press]