With the increasing discomfort of voters over the huge speaking fees that Hillary Clinton received from Wall Street and other business groups, it was astonishing to see Clinton leave the tough Iowa campaign to go to Philadelphia to meet with financial industry wealthy to collect more donations. The campaign decided to do the fundraiser just a week before the Iowa caucuses despite Clinton’s personal and campaign money from lobbyists and industry executives growing as a key issue for undecided voters. The decision is baffling for a campaign that is famous for controlling the message and image of Clinton. It did not go unnoticed by Bernie Sanders who hit Clinton last night with this zinger: “My opponent is not in Iowa tonight. She is raising money from a Philadelphia investment firm. Frankly, I’d rather be here with you.” Ouch.
Sanders also used the evening to highlight his endorsement from actress Susan Sarandon who also slammed Clinton over her Wall Street ties and vote in favor of the Iraq War.
It would seem that whatever cash is raised, the campaign just gave Sanders a huge news cycle hit that would be worth much more in terms of damage to Clinton and coverage. Moreover, Clinton’s direct involvement prevents any type of pivot or spin. She has to again embrace such donors at a time when people question her honesty and credibility on financial industry reforms and other issues. Curious political choice.
It is equally curious to see the Clinton camp reportedly spreading the rumor that some people in the caucuses may be young people who perjure themselves to support Sanders. Sanders reacted angrily and said that young people were coming to help get out the vote, not to vote — a standard practice in Iowa. However, with Clinton’s worsening numbers with younger voters, this is not a very helpful attack if she wants these people to support her in the general.
The decision to continue to attend such fundraisers may reflect reports of diminishing financial support for Clinton. One of the most fascinating aspects of this election has been Sanders’ ability to raise a large war chest off small donations while refusing support from super Pacs. It is a claim that the Clinton camp has not been able to attack and clearly resonates with voters particularly as critics have increasingly objected to Clinton’s association with people they call “attack dogs” like David Brock while she objects to Sanders raising her contributions from Wall Street, drug companies, and other industries.
It is a good thing to see scrutiny of such fundraising sources in my view. Ironically, it may show that, even after Citizens United, it is possible for the public to monitor and respond to the influence of such groups. However, Clinton has argued that there is nothing wrong with accepting such money either personally in speaking fees or as donations. After all, these are successful people who want to support candidates that they believe in. It is possible for a financial industry executive to favor someone because she or he believes that the candidate will bring greater stability or prosperity for the country. It is also certainly true that such contributions are often made to influence candidates. Yet, these are successful people who want to back a candidate that they favor.
I honestly can see both sides on this issue. Is it far to object to such fundraisers by candidates like Clinton? What do you think?