Throughout the 2016 primary process, Hillary Clinton has been forced by her opponent, Bernie Sanders, to repeatedly attempt to ward off concerns that her extensive ties to Wall Street compromise her ability to regulate the financial industry and to hold its powerful players to account.
Now, leading up to the Democratic convention, similar questions are being raised about one of her potential vice presidential picks.
Tim Kaine, senator from Virginia, is, according to the Washington Post, one of the two leading candidates in Hillary Clinton’s search for a running mate.
“Although her list is not limited to those two,” the Post notes, “Clinton has spoken highly of both in recent days to friends and advisers as she closes in on an announcement that could come as soon as Friday.”
And as news has consistently emerged indicating that he is at the top of Clinton’s shortlist, Kaine has become more insistent in his support for financial institutions.
As The Intercept‘s David Dayen notes in a recent piece, Kaine “has spent this week signaling to the financial industry that he’ll go to bat for them.”
“On Monday, Kaine signed onto two letters, one to federal banking regulators and the other to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, urging them to loosen regulations on certain financial players. The timing of the letters, sent while Kaine is being vetted for the top of the ticket, could show potential financial industry donors that he is willing to serve as an ally on their regulatory issues.”
One of the letters signed by Kaine is, as Dayen notes, largely a Republican-supported initiative that calls on regulators to loosen certain restrictions — an initiative “that a few Democrats agree with.”
Dayen concludes that while Kaine seems rather concerned with the needs of financial institutions, he is less worried about vulnerable consumers.
“He was one of 13 Democrats who did not sign onto a separate letter authored by Senate Banking Committee Chairperson Sherrod Brown, supporting a strengthening of new rules for payday lenders, so borrowers don’t continue to get trapped in a vortex of debt,” Dayen reports.
So Kaine, it seems, represents a sharp contrast with the image the Clinton campaign has attempted to construct in the face of a more progressive challenger.
Confronting accusations that she is beholden to big money interests, Clinton has attempted to explain away the lucrative speeches she has given to Wall Street banks, and she has been quite dismissive of attempts, by Sanders and major media outlets such as the New York Times, to persuade her to release the transcripts of these speeches.
Hillary Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, have received more than $153 million in speaking fees since 2001, according to an analysis by CNN.
While Hillary Clinton has promised to be aggressive in regulating Wall Street, voters remain skeptical as to her ability to be aggressive enough, given the fact that the financial industry gave more money to Clinton than to any other presidential candidate during the 2016 primary process.
As of May, Clinton had raised $4.2 million in campaign funds from Wall Street, the Wall Street Journal has reported.
And it seems that Clinton’s attempt to put on a more progressive front by adopting some of Bernie Sanders’ rhetorical style and by campaigning alongside liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren has failed to convince voters who are increasingly considering voting for a third party candidate.
If she ultimately decides to select Tim Kaine as her running mate, Hillary Clinton will be forced to confront accusations that she is pivoting to the center and away from the progressivism of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and the voters who support a more aggressive approach to regulating Wall Street — and to ensuring that the criminal behavior of bankers and other powerful figures in the financial industry no longer goes unpunished.
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