Hillary Clinton told top banking executives that she has “both a public and a private position” on Wall Street reform and is reliant on wealthy donors to fund her campaign, leaked excerpts of the former first lady’s speeches seem to show, fueling claims of hypocrisy on the part of Mrs. Clinton at a crucial moment in the presidential campaign.
The release by WikiLeaks, which the Clinton campaign has said it will not confirm, appears to show Mrs. Clinton discussing how she seeks to “balance” her public rhetoric on Wall Street reform with her actual positions, and with the reality that wealthy bankers and investors must partner with government to enact change. The documents also show the former secretary of state admitting that she’s out of touch with average Americans and is “kind of far removed” from the lives of the middle class.
She also claims it’s an “oversimplification” to say that the banking sector was responsible for the 2008 financial meltdown.
The bombshell revelations, which came less than 48 hours before Mrs. Clinton’s next debate against Republican Donald Trump, led top progressives to publicly call on Mrs. Clinton to redouble her vows to crack down on Wall Street. Leading liberals, including Sen. Bernard Sanders, long have called on Mrs. Clinton to release transcripts of the speeches, which she delivered after her four years as secretary of state.
The WikiLeaks dump doesn’t include full transcripts of the speeches to firms such as Goldman Sachs, but it does provide a window into the chasm between Mrs. Clinton’s public promises and private words. The excerpts seem to have been obtained through a hack of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email.
“If everybody’s watching, you know, all of the backroom discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So you need both a public and a private position,” Mrs. Clinton said in an April 2013 address. “You just have to sort of figure out how to — getting back to that word, ‘balance’ - how to balance the public and the private efforts that are necessary to be successful, politically, and that’s not just a comment about today.”
Mr. Podesta responded via Twitter and did not deny the authenticity of at least some of the emails. He also blamed the hack on Russia, saying agents in Moscow want to tip the election in favor of Mr. Trump — an accusation the White House also made earlier on Friday.
“I’m not happy about being hacked by the Russians in their quest to throw the election to Donald Trump,” he tweeted. “Don’t have time to figure out which docs are real and which are faked.”
In the speech excerpts, Mrs. Clinton went on to cast doubt on the notion, embraced by virtually all progressives and recently by Mrs. Clinton on the campaign trail, that the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy.
“So even if it may not be 100 percent true, if the perception is that somehow the game is rigged, that should be a problem for all of us, and we have to be willing to make that absolutely clear,” she said, adding that cooperation between government and Wall Street is necessary to achieve reform.
Progressives hinted that the release puts a greater onus on Mrs. Clinton to show she’s actually committed to Wall Street reform.
“Concerns about Wall Street existed before the primary and increased the burden on Clinton to call for breaking up too-big-to-fail banks and jailing bankers who broke the law, which she did,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “If anything, this increases the burden on her to keep the volume high on her strong campaign promises and to appoint people for positions like treasury secretary and attorney general who have a proven track record of challenging corporate power.”
Mrs. Clinton was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Wall Street speeches after leaving the State Department, including more than $600,000 for three speeches to Goldman Sachs. In the leaked excerpts, she admits that she needs Wall Street money to run a successful campaign.
“Running for office in our country takes a lot of money, and candidates have to go out and raise it,” she said. “New York is probably the leading site for contributions for fundraising for candidates on both sides of the aisle, and it’s also our economic center. And there are a lot of people here who should ask some tough questions before handing over campaign contributions to people who were really playing chicken with our whole economy.”
Mrs. Clinton also suggested that Wall Street was unfairly blamed for the 2008 economic collapse.
“That was one of the reasons that I started traveling in February of ‘09, so people could, you know, literally yell at me for the United States and our banking system causing this everywhere. Now, that’s an oversimplification we know, but it was the convention wisdom,” she said. “And I think that there’s a lot that could have been avoided in terms of both misunderstanding and really politicizing what happened” with the financial crisis.
• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at email@example.com.
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