There was an interesting moment in the Democratic debate that centered on Hillary Clinton's connections to large donors and Wall Street (snippets from the NY Times editorial). Bernie Sanders started it.
Mr. Sanders: "I have never heard a candidate, never, who has received huge amounts of money from oil, from coal, from Wall Street, from the military-industrial complex, not one candidate say, oh, these campaign contributions will not influence me. I’m going to be independent. Well, why do they make millions of dollars of campaign contributions? They expect to get something. Everybody knows that. Once again, I am running a campaign differently than any other candidate. We are relying on small campaign donors, 750,000 of them, 30 bucks apiece. That’s who I’m indebted to."
Mrs. Clinton: "Well John, [John Dickerson, the moderator] wait a minute. Wait a minute, he has basically used his answer to impugn my integrity. Let’s be frank here."
Mr. Sanders: "No, I have not."
Mrs. Clinton: "Oh, wait a minute, senator. You know, not only do I have hundreds of thousands of donors, most of them small. And I’m very proud that for the first time a majority of my donors are women, 60 percent. So, 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."
Now, one might ask, what does that 9/11 rhetoric have to do with campaign finance?
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. Since 2001, she and Bill Clinton have earned more than $125 million for speeches, many of the most lucrative made before financial groups. That does not account for the millions given directly to her campaign, and to political action committees backing her. Nearly 15 years after the 2001 attacks, Mrs. Clinton was earning more than $200,000 for a 20-minute speech. Most of those took place behind guarded doors. But one can guess that she and the financial executives were not still talking about 9/11.
NBC News, in their coverage of the debate, did some fact checking on the matter of small vs. large donors (where the cutoff applied was $200).
Clinton also touted the volume of small dollar donors. Here's a graph that compares her small donations to the rest of the field.
I don't think I can reproduce the graph, but my on-screen measurements indicate that 75% of Sanders' donations are small ones but 83% of Clintons' donations are large ones. So Sanders' opening comment above is correct.
The Times winds up this way.
Her effort to tug on Americans’ heartstrings instead of explaining her Wall Street ties — on a day that the scars of 9/11 were exposed anew — was at best botched rhetoric. At worst it was the type of cynical move that Mrs. Clinton would have condemned in Republicans.
She should make a fast, thorough effort to explain herself by providing a detailed plan for how she would promote measures protecting middle-class Americans from another financial crisis.
She could start by coming out strongly for the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall. So far she has not, and, if anything, has opposed it. See Bob Lord's post in today's Blog for Arizona for more on Clinton's (possibly) shifting position.