Hillary Clinton is going all-out for the criminal vote. She may need it. Astonishingly, her “favorability” ratings as tracked by CNN are worse today than they have ever been – worse than at any time in 2008 when she last ran for office. To counter her plunge in the polls, Clinton is counting on raising obscene amounts of money. How? By crafting a platform pleasing to billionaires.
Hillary Clinton has come out with few policy pronouncements in her carefully constructed micro-campaign. She hasn’t leaked her views on the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership, despite pressure from progressives like Elizabeth Warren opposed to the broad trade pact, and she’s mum on the Iran nuke deal. She isn’t talking about NSA snooping – in fact, she isn’t talking much at all, to the annoyance of the press corps.
So, it was refreshing when she recently made a stirring speech at Texas Southern University on the subject of voter rights. In it, she called for automatic registration of all people turning 18 years of age, and suggested that criminals should be able to win back their voting rights, championing “the father who’s done his time and paid his debt to society but still hasn’t gotten his rights back.” She attacked Republicans for supposedly working to “disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people and young people” – that is, the central building blocks of the coalition that twice elected president Obama.
As so often with the Clintons, it’s all about the money. Her speech was not only geared to attract blacks, Hispanics and the young. It was also an appeal to billionaire George Soros, who is spending millions to overturn voting laws he considers restrictive. Mr. Soros, according to The New York Times, has not yet jumped aboard the Clinton campaign. But, the lawyer leading his legal assault is also working with the Clinton campaign. That seems convenient and helpful to the former Secretary of State. If she can just pull the right levers, like signaling her intense concern for voter rights, it is expected that Mr. Soros will soon throw his weight and his millions behind Priorities USA, the Clinton Super PAC -- even as she continues to pound billionaires, Wall Street and Big Money in politics.
Why does Mrs. Clinton need Mr. Soros? Because despite a full-court press from long-time Clinton operative Harold M. Ickes, according to some reports, Democrat big wigs are not ponying up. Priorities USA has only raised about $15 million, to the disappointment of those concerned about sizeable commitments which have flowed to GOP campaigns. Notable Democrat donors like Fred Eychaner, Tom Steyer, and Jeffrey Katzenberg have so far failed to fund the Super Pac, and the Clinton team is anxious. Part of the problem could be that some donors have made sizeable contributors to the Clinton Foundation; Mr. Eychaner, for instance, has given more than $25 million to the “non-profit.” They may feel they’ve done their bit.
Hence, the push to woo Mr. Soros, and the “follow the money” rationale for Hillary’s new-found outrage over voter IDs. Fighting what he considers voter suppression is an important quest for Mr. Soros, but isn’t the top concern for most Americans. In fact, in a recent Gallup poll, respondents listed “Elections/election reform” as our 17th most pressing “non-economic” problem, right ahead of ‘unifying the country.” Keep in mind -- that includes people worried about voter fraud, as well as voter suppression.
Where else will Hillary’s quest for billionaire donors lead her? For sure, she will come out swinging on gender rights – and especially endorsing the LGBT agenda. Why? Because that’s where Mr. Eychaner would like her to go. Eychaner, who made a fortune in the broadcasting industry, is a reclusive figure – rarely photographed or interviewed. Nonetheless, he is a formidable donor to progressive causes, and especially those involving gay rights.
During the 2012 campaign, he was the largest Democrat funder to liberal SuperPacs, giving a total of $14.1 million. He has given massively to AIDS programs and for gay rights advocacy. He backed Hillary in 2008, because he thought “Clinton would be stronger on LGBT issues,” according to an interview in National Journal. My guess? She’ll aim to please.
Then there’s the environment. For more than a year, green advocates have fumed about Hillary’s ambivalence on the Keystone XL Pipeline. Mrs. Clinton walked a tightrope while at the State Department, refusing to endorse the controversial project to bring tar sands oil to the U.S., but also not campaigning against its construction. Recently, she cozied up to billionaire Tom Steyer and to Susie Tompkins Buell, an old friend and co-founder of the Esprit clothing company, both of whom hosted gatherings for the former first lady, and both of whom are confirmed enemies of the pipeline.
Why has Hillary not thrown in with environmentalists who oppose Keystone? Maybe because supporters of the pipeline have been big donors to the Clinton Foundation. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that the Clinton’s Foundation had received between $250,000 and $500,000 from Canada's Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development department, which has pushed for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Other donors in that category included Anadarko Petroleum and ExxonMobil, whose CEOs both signed a letter addressed to President Obama advocating for Keystone XL.
To date, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign themes, like voter rights, seem especially tailored to her fundraising effort. There’s not much money in challenging the NSA or the TPP; there probably will be a payday for opposing the Keystone Pipeline. The New York Times recently reported on her tactics of rifle-shot electioneering—targeting the groups that elected Obama in two elections. They failed to mention the even more calculated selection of issues.
Note to Mrs. Clinton: requiring voter IDs is not our biggest problem. Cynicism and corruption in politics looms much larger. My guess—you won’t be tackling that one.
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times: