Hillary Clinton might want to take the back door into Goldman Sachs, the investment house, in lower Manhattan on Friday. As she girds for the launch of her vaunted new book next week and thereafter – maybe, probably – a run at the presidency, fresh pictures of her on Wall Street will be unwanted.
Concern is growing among Hillary backers that her closeness to the banks that almost brought down the economy in 2008 could open her to potentially perilous challenges from the liberal left of the Democratic Party. Not helping has been a series by the leftist Mother Jones magazine highlighting those ties.
Since ending her stint as Secretary of State early last year – the period discussed in the book, Hard Choices, to be released next Tuesday – Mrs Clinton has made roughly 90 public appearances. About two dozen have been paid speeches. Her regular fee for a speech is believed to be $200,000 or above. Those who have hired her include the Carlyle Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the National Association of Realtors, and the US Green Building Council. In October last year, she gave speeches for Goldman Sachs twice.
On Friday, Mrs Clinton, her husband Bill Clinton and their daughter Chelsea are in fact using the Goldman Sachs auditorium downtown to meet with top donors to The Clinton Foundation, set up by the former president to finance development projects after he left office. Presumably, therefore, the Clintons will be paying Goldman a fee for the use of the venue this time, not the other way around.
“She’s not giving any more speeches to Goldman Sachs,” one close advisor told Mother Jones in response to questions posed by the magazine this week. Meanwhile a spokesman for the Foundation said: “Goldman Sachs has been a long time supporter of the Clinton Global Initiative… We are grateful for their support.”
Among important donors to Mrs Clinton in her 2008 primary contest with President Barack Obama was Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs and for some the face of Wall Street. “I very much was supportive of Hillary Clinton the last go-round,” he told Politico last year. “I held fundraisers for her.”
In some recent speeches Mrs Clinton has attempted a leftward, populist tilt, apparently aware of her problem. Yet breaking that association with Wall Street will be difficult since much of the financial deregulation that helped precipitate the recent crash were passed into law in the 1990s by her husband.
Almost tailor-made to challenger Mrs Clinton from the left is Elizabeth Warren, the Senator from Massachusetts and hero of the populist wing of the party. Also being talked about, though less fervently, are former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb.
In an ABC News interview in April, Senator Warren repeated her stance that she will not run in 2016. She called Mrs Clinton “terrific” but declined to commit to support her. But then Senator Warren let loose with exactly the kind of Wall Street critique that Mrs Clinton could not give with any credibility.
“I’m worried a lot about power in the financial services industry and I’m worried about the fact that basically, starting in the '80s, you know, the cops were taken off the beat in financial services. These guys were allowed to just paint a bull’s-eye on the backside of American families,” she said. “They loaded up on risk. They crushed the economy. They got bailed out. What bothers me now, they still strut around Washington, they block regulations that they don’t want, they roll over agencies whenever they can.”
The lurking risk here for Ms Clinton was highlighted on the pages of Time magazine by Joe Klein, whose has a longer record than any reporter chronicling the Clintons. (Mr Klein was eventually unveiled as the ‘Anonymous’ who wrote the book Primary Colours.)
“Is she willing to walk away from the egregious buckraking and speechmaking she and her husband have done with the global megarich in the service of the Clinton Global Initiative?” he asked. For an answer he cites David Saunders, a Democratic consultant who has been close to Jim Webb. “If not,” Mr Saunders warned, “she’s red meat in this new age of economic populism.”