Clinton Insists She’s Not Beholden to Wall Street While Raking in $21.4 Million
Policy + Politics

Clinton Insists She’s Not Beholden to Wall Street While Raking in $21.4 Million

© Carlos Barria / Reuters

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claims she is as much a “progressive Democrat” as her rival Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont despite Sanders’ relentless efforts to link Clinton to Wall Street “millionaires and billionaires.”

Sanders was at it again Wednesday night during a nationally televised Democratic presidential “town hall” in New Hampshire, arguing, “I do not know any progressive that has a super PAC and takes $15 million from Wall Street. That’s just not progressive.”

Related: Democratic hopefuls Sanders and Clinton spar over 'progressive' credentials

When it was her time to be interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Clinton was unrepentant about her long-standing financial ties to Wall Street and insisted she had not made a “bad error in judgement” by accepting $675,000 from Goldman Sachs for three speeches.

“Look, I made speeches to lots of groups,” Clinton explained to Cooper. “I told them what I thought. I answered questions.”

“But did you have to be paid $675,000?” Cooper persisted.

“Well, I don’t know,” Clinton fumbled. “That’s what they offered. You know every secretary of state that I know has done that.”

Related: How Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders Both Won the Iowa Caucuses

Some analysts are calling the exchange Clinton’s response “tone deaf.”

Overall, Clinton had a good night during her appearance in Derry, NH. She was effective in making the case that she was a more “pragmatic progressive” than Sanders and would be better able to push through a do-able agenda if she is elected president. Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist, has vowed to lead a “revolution” against Wall Street and establishment politics that have fostered massive income inequality in the country and a corrupt campaign finance system.

When Cooper asked why she took the risk of accepting huge speaking fees from Goldman Sachs when she was planning a run for president, Clinton insisted that she hadn’t made up her mind to run 100 percent and saw nothing wrong with taking the money. “To be honest, I wasn’t committed to running,” she said.

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“But you know anybody who knows me who thinks that they can influence me, name anything they’ve influenced me on,” she said. “Just name one thing. I’m out here every day saying I’m going to shut them down, I’m going after them. I’m going to jail them if they should be jailed. I’m going to break them up.”

Clinton really raised eyebrows by insisting that many Wall Street-backed super PACs were now gunning for her and that “They’re not giving me very much money now, I can tell you that much. Fine with me.”

However, The Washington Post reported today that Clinton’s assertion is patently false. The newspaper reported that through the end of December, “donors at hedge funds, banks, insurance companies and other financial-services firms had given at least $21.4 million to support Clinton’s 2016 presidential run.” That means that more than one out of every 10 dollars of the $157.8 million contributed to her campaign overall came from the financial industry, according to The Post’s analysis of Federal Election Commission reports.

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By contrast, only about $75,000 of the $75 million Sanders has raised for his 2016 campaign has come from donors in the finance sector.

Network entrance polls during Monday night’s Iowa caucuses showed that the vast majority of Democrats – particularly young people – question Clinton’s honesty and integrity. On issues that mattered most to Democrats who turned out for the caucuses, 77 percent said winning in November was most important to them --  and in that category they gave Clinton a clear edge.

Yet on the question of which of the candidates was more honest and trustworthy, 83 percent of the Democrats chose Sanders over Clinton. And with Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts waging all out-political warfare against Wall Street -- even calling for more criminal prosecutions of top executives -- Clinton has had a tough time explaining away the financial industry’s long time romance with her and former President Bill Clinton.