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Clinton on why she took $675,000 for three speeches to Goldman Sachs

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Hillary Clinton

During Wednesday night’s “New Hampshire Town Hall” broadcast, Hillary Clinton was asked again about the millions of dollars she received from Wall Street firms for speaking fees after she left her job as secretary of state and before she announced her presidential candidacy.

I should say that, overall, I thought Clinton had a good night on the broadcast, fielding questions from CNN’s Anderson Cooper and New Hampshirites in the audience. She came across as personable, down-to-earth, feisty, passionate about her vision of a better, fairer America, and about what she can do to bring it about. Sanders, as you know, has a big lead in New Hampshire polls, and he has the advantage of coming from next-door Vermont. And he also did fine in his interview, although he said nothing I haven’t heard him say before. Still, during the Clinton portion, she seemed so on her game that I wondered whether she would get a bump in the next round of polling.

But the Wall Street money is a problem for those who see campaigns the way Paul Wellstone used to frame them, as about “the people vs. the powerful,” or the way Sanders frames them, as whether the country will be run in the interests of the “millionaires and billionaires” or for everyone else. Clinton’s efforts to explain why the investors have invested so heavily in her have not passed the laugh test.

And the latest exchange wasn’t much better. Clinton filled her remarks last night with plenty of tough talk for Wall Street. When Cooper asked her specifically about the three talks she gave to Goldman Sachs, she said, as she usually does, that “I made speeches to lots of groups. I told them what I thought. I answered questions.”

Cooper followed up, thus:

COOPER: But did you have to be paid $675,000?

CLINTON: Well, I don’t know. That’s what they offered… But you know anybody who knows me who thinks that they can influence me, name anything they’ve influenced me on. 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. I mean they’re not giving me very much money now. I can tell you that much.

There is a small problem with that last bit. The statement that “they’re not giving me very much money now” was made just as a Washington Post piece, by my buddy Tom Hamburger and two other reporters, was rolling off presses, stating:

Even as Hillary Clinton has stepped up her rhetorical assault on Wall Street, her campaign and allied super PACs have continued to rake in millions from the financial sector, a sign of her deep and lasting relationships with banking and investment titans.

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 — more than one of every 10 dollars of the $157.8 million contributed to back her bid, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission filings by The Washington Post.

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Comments (29)

  1. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 02/04/2016 - 04:09 pm.

    Money well spent!!

    If I was a Wall Streeter, I’d bet the farm on Hilary, too.

    Everyone knows she’s talking out of both sides of her mouth.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/04/2016 - 04:11 pm.

    It’s not that she doesn’t field questions

    It’s that her answers show a breathtaking shamelessness and chutzpah that actually cause people to laugh.

    Like when she said in a recent answer regarding the big banks that “… no individual is too big too jail!” as she fully intends to dodge the FBI investigation of mishandling intelligence information currently underway because she’s Hillary Clinton, after all.

    Or a related topic from yesterday: Asked about her plans for protecting cyber security. “It is one of the most important challenges the next president is going to face.” Is that before or after she’s tried under the espionage act?

    Her glib, disassociation with the truth and reality is getting creepy, a cognitive dissonance unprecedented in American politics.

  3. Submitted by Joseph Skar on 02/05/2016 - 07:23 am.


    While the Goldman speaking fees are very high profile, the depth of Sec Clinton’s influence seems far more impressive. Cheryl Mills has impeccable qualifications for many things, but I’m guessing it is unusual for a top adviser to leading presidential candidate to maintain a board seat at $4.6t asset manager.

    More so how do you sell “Tough on Wall Street” when your future Chief of Staff has a corporate governance position at the world’s largest asset manager.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/05/2016 - 08:15 am.

      Or your daughhter

      and son-in-law have made millions as hedge fund managers.

      Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Unless you’re trying to convince us that you’re going to rein in those people.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/04/2016 - 05:17 pm.

    If you want to see

    whose proposals really favor the rich, go to
    Any differences between Clinton and Sanders pale in comparison.

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/04/2016 - 05:19 pm.

    It will be interesting

    to see a full final accounting of both Sanders’ own spending and the source of spending on his behalf (and I don’t mean just what the Republicans are spending to try to get him nominated).

  6. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 02/04/2016 - 05:59 pm.

    $675,000 only part of the story….

    $675,000 is small change when you examine the history of the Clintons and Wall Street.

    The Dems will have to decide if they will support the candidate of Wall Street or a Socialist.

  7. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 02/04/2016 - 07:05 pm.

    Answer to the headline

    Because she could?
    Mrs. Clinton shows exactly why Citizen’s United is so important. People can honestly take boatloads of money and not be influenced by it. While most of our politicians complain about the influence of big money (Amy and Al especially), they never name names as to which members of Congress are actually violating the law (bribery) as they insist that they aren’t influenced by contributions made to them.

  8. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/04/2016 - 08:40 pm.

    Mountains and molehills

    “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” I think that’s from Tip O’Neil, who knew a thing or two about both.

    Do the odds increase that a candidate will be influenced by a multi-million dollar campaign donation? Absolutely. No one give you a million dollars without having at least some minimal expectation that you’ll listen with a sympathetic ear to their concerns. That’s one of the reasons Senator Sanders has such appeal to so many. Of ALL the current presidential field, he’s the ONLY one who’s walking the walk as far as not taking money from super PACs. I’d personally have a lot more faith in Mrs. Clinton if I knew that her donor structure for the campaign were much more like Senator Sanders’. That does *not* mean, however, that every campaign donation contains a quid pro quo, or that a candidate who gets a big donation from source ‘x,’ automatically sides with “source ‘x'” on questions of policy. Doing so would constitute bribery, and that’s an accusation that could be tossed at Republican candidates just as easily as it could be tossed at Mrs. Clinton.

    That said, Republican, and faux-“conservative” criticism of Hillary for getting paid big bucks to make a speech reaches some new and insane level of hypocrisy. She and Bill have been good – very good – Republicans since either/both left office. They’ve gone out and made money, using their name and Washington connections as collateral. There are no Republicans in the current presidential field who have not done precisely the same thing – they’ve just not been, in some cases, as successful at it as have the Clintons. I suspect some of their criticism is simply envy.

    Mr. Trump is, of course, a personification of the very same Wall Street that faux-“conservatives” claim they hate, yet a good many of those same people turn out to hear him rant and rave. Mr. Cruz is at least as interested in supporting the needs of Lloyd Blankfein as anyone in the Senate, and both he and Mr. Rubio have made it plain that giving Wall Street free rein one they’re in office is a part of their collective plan for American, should they be elected.

    Mrs. Clinton is no more glib in her answers than the others in the presidential field, nor does she appear to be any less honest. The Clintons have undergone microscopic examinations of their ethics and finances for decades, often with much hoopla and tooting of horns, and while I won’t defend Mr. Clinton’s sexual shenanigans while he was President (though they are not at all unusual for males with lots of power and money), the net result of years of investigation of Clinton finances has been exactly zero. Taking Hillary to task because she’s rather wealthy, or collects high fees for speaking, means none of the critics doing so can possibly support, in good conscience, any of the current Republican field. That sort of criticism, especially from the right, is just silly. Jamie Dimon, of JP Morgan, just got a 35% raise on a salary that’s already in the millions, and he helped bring the American economy to its knees a few years ago.

    Hillary is not my favorite candidate, but if someone is going to criticize her candidacy, let it be for her policy proposals, or her record in the Senate, or as Secretary of State, not her choice of husbands, or her gender, or Benghazi (a non-issue if ever there was one), or because she’s made a lot of money in the private sector. Nothing could be more American than doing what she and Bill have done financially over the past several years. When Mr. Tester turns down a $200,000 speaking fee from a right-wing organization because he wants to maintain his ideological purity, I hope he’ll let us know.

    • Submitted by Joseph Skar on 02/05/2016 - 07:31 am.

      Speaking Fees

      “There are no Republicans in the current presidential field who have not done precisely the same thing” How much has Rubio been paid? I couldn’t find anything specific.

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 02/05/2016 - 02:26 pm.

        Not News

        Republicans have been in the pockets of the “filthy rich” for decades, according to Democrats, for decades.

      • Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 02/07/2016 - 02:09 pm.

        The burden is on you.

        The burden is on you, Mr. Skar.

        When Mr. Schoch claimed that “[t]here are no Republicans in the current presidential field who have not done precisely the same thing,” he meant that there are no Republicans in the current presidential field who, having been offered high speaking fees, demonstrably turned them down to show that they were incorruptible.

        If you want to prove Mr. Schoch wrong, you need to give us an example of a Republican in the current presidential field who was offered a high speaking fee and turned it down. Did Marco Rubio ever do that?

        The ball is in your court.

    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 02/05/2016 - 09:12 am.

      The notion of quid pro quo corruption from speaking fees

      I think, is as wrong as the notion that just because Ms Clinton says progressive things, she is, or would govern as, a progressive.

      It distorts the discussion, I submit, to think that money in politics is bad because it corrupts politicians or exact quid pro quos from them. What it does, principally, is promote and protect those who already have internalized the worldview of concentrated wealth. My objection to Ms. Clinton, similar to my objection to Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama, isn’t that she is a bad person, it is rather that over her lifetime, as a result of myriad microincentives and the circles in which she has moved, she has powerfully internalized a view of the world in which what is good for concentrated wealth is good for America and the world.

      This allows a lot of room to do good things on social issues and to engage in non-systemic wealth redistribution to those deemed worthy of help under the liberal mindset, which Ms Clinton’s record demonstrates, but absolutely precludes her working or advocating for a qualitative shift in economic and political structures in the direction of equal economic opportunity and democracy. For those of us who think that wealth inequality underlies almost every important issue, including the social ones, and that incremental steps will always be unstable and (as the effects of climate change mount) too little too late, this is why Mr Sanders is preferred, not incrementally but qualitatively.

    • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 02/05/2016 - 09:32 am.

      Jesse Unruh

      That is who the “mother’s milk” quote is attributed to. He also has this famous one:

      “If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women, take their money and then vote against them you’ve got no business being up here.”

      I’d say the same for Hillary. If she can’t take high $$ speaking fees from banks and still do her job regulating them she has no business being president.

    • Submitted by C.S. Senne on 02/05/2016 - 12:26 pm.


      Thanks, Ray, for your cogent comments. Facts are always refreshing!

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/05/2016 - 03:43 pm.

      Or as Al Capone said

      when asked why he robbed banks:
      “That’s where the money is.”

  9. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/05/2016 - 07:49 am.

    Proof Is In The Pudding

    I think HRC should be asked who would and would not be considered as Sec. of the Treasury. Another Goldman Sachs millionaire? Elizabeth Warren?

    I say no more foxes in charge of the hen house.

  10. Submitted by Roy Everson on 02/05/2016 - 10:00 am.

    Louisiana 1991

    So many Democrats have really good reasons why Clinton is the more electable candidate. Experience, pragmatism, gender. And why Sanders is unelectable — age, ideology, crankiness. A slam dunk.

    But her glaring weaknesses are met with very poor defenses. Huge speaking fees? Why, that’s the American way to success, all the ex-big shots do it, wouldn’t you? Maybe they accept these windfalls AFTER they left office for a reason. Name one who went into this line of work expecting they would one day be a viable candidate. They don’t because they’re aware of the voters’ smell test.

    The email contents that might have been handled better: well, Colin Powell did it, and so did Condaleza Rice, why can’t she get away with it? After leaving office both those ex-SOSes were heavily courted but declined to become candidates. Coincidence? Or another winning defense, She didn’t break the law. Sorry, for many Americans she’s already in the court of public opinion. The jury’s still out and she may win, but she needs a better lawyer.

    Count on those issues and others to further erode her standing among independents and young voters, not to mention the prevailing “anti-establishment” mood. Among these groups it will be hard to generate enthusiasm with the cry “vote to make the Supreme Court saner.” And with her penchant for offending dissident Democrats she does herself no favors (see her obnoxious reference to Paul Wellstone in last night’s debate, 3 weeks before precinct caucuses.)

    Here’s a possible scenario that loosely parallels and sadly recalls the Louisiana campaign in 1991 when white nationalist David Duke was the Republican and the corrupt Edwards ran for the Democrats. Dems won with the slogan “vote for the crook, not the white hood”. A bizarre example of the masses voting against the candidate they disliked most.

    Now I don’t for a minute believe Clinton is any more corrupt than the GOP candidates, and I’ll vote for a saner Supreme Court. But the jury of public opinion is still out. So it’s not hard to imagine the summer and fall unfolding this dismaying scenario — One candidate on perpetual trial, the other steeped in nativism and bigotry.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/05/2016 - 10:40 am.

    Forget the fees, look at her record and her campaign

    She’s never supported serious financial oversight, and to this day we do not have serious oversight of the financial sector. Furthermore, she’s not promising any serious oversight of the financial sector should get elected because according her… we already have it.

    And yes, you dance with them what brung you so don’t tell us you take tens of millions of dollars from these guys and they’re going to have no more access than a photographer in Minneapolis who voted for Bernie. We all know better than that.

  12. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 02/05/2016 - 11:49 am.

    Money gets you access, not a quid pro quo.

    This is in contrast to criminal bribery – which is a different kind of transaction.

    While enjoying that access, you have the opportunity to express your concerns and engage in a dialogue directly with the decision-maker.

    This is why people and organizations with plenty of resources give to BOTH sides in a general election. Is there any other sense you can make of giving to both Kennedy and Nixon, Reagan and Mondale, Romney and Obama?

    Try asking for a PERSONAL meeting with a senator or Congressperson – I mean here a one-on-one, for purpose of discussing a specific issue. The staff is going to look up your history as a donor to qualify you. At least that was the case in two instances I know of personally. The person seeking access was oh-so-graciously advised, through intermediaries, that a certain amount of donation would give the request a favorable hearing. In both cases, it did the trick.

    People who donate substantially on a regular basis obviously need no further proof of their bona fides.

    The access granted OF COURSE comes with no guarantees or quid pro quo – just an exclusive and friendly meeting. What takes place during that meeting is behind closed doors.

    So this business of “political bribery” is not quite the same as criminal bribery. That would be too crass. It’s more sophisticated, gracious, acceptable, LEGAL.

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 02/10/2016 - 09:48 am.


      The person seeking access was oh-so-graciously advised, through intermediaries, that a certain amount of donation would give the request a favorable hearing. In both cases, it did the trick.

      Care to name names?

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 02/11/2016 - 10:50 pm.

        No, but it did nvolve the offices of a widely respected

        …Minnesotan who held important offices both local and national. It goes back a few decades, illustrating that this is how the system of access has worked for a long time.

        The other case involved a significant Presidential campaign contribution which was rewarded with an ambassadorial appointment, but then there’s nothing remarkable or unusual about that, is there??

  13. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 02/05/2016 - 12:24 pm.

    Billionaire lottery

    What party is in the pocket of business? That would be every white male Republican candidate in this election cycle? Why do the rich have all their special benefits and support for the rest of us been cut. Again, the Republicans. They created our campaign finance system and the ability of retired government types to cash with the industies they got large campaign gifts from and now “hire” they to get the best legislation money can buy. Hillary didn’t create this system, but she played the game to fund the good works of the Clinton Foundation, rather than simply personally cash in.

    It reminds me of a very old story. Adam ate the apple he was ordered not to eat, but blamed Eve for “tempting” him. That is what happens when men get caught doing bad – the woman gets blamed. Let me propose a New Hillary rule – criticism is fair of things she has done, particularly when she is the only one doing it. Reagan messed up Beirut. Security way worse than Hillary may have with Bengahzi and neither compares to missing the sign of 9-11 or the distortions and outright lies that led to the Iraq War. Republicans could have fixed embassy security any time since the 1980s, but haven’t bothered.

    As Senator has Bernie done anything to actually rein in the financial industry, and he talks a good game, but is he a coalition builder – a negotiator. Given that Republicans intend to further loosen regulations, who is likely to do the hard contentious work for real change. Her name in Hillary Clinton, who Is not afraid to act and knows how to get people to the table and make win-win deals, no the Trump the bully was of making deals (I have a deal you cannot refuse).

  14. Submitted by Jim Million on 02/08/2016 - 03:29 pm.

    Final Answer:

    HRC took the money because she wanted the money.

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/10/2016 - 01:23 pm.


    A video of one of these speeches has “surfaced and frankly, if this represents the whole speech it’s just more problematic in my opinion. Her speech ends up being all of ten minutes long, frankly it doesn’t matter what she said or talked about for ten minutes. Nobody actually pays anyone $250 for a ten minute speech, or put another way, Goldman Sachs pays Hillary Clinton, Senator, Secretary of State, etc. etc. $250k and then limits her speech to ten minutes?

  16. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/10/2016 - 07:26 pm.

    Could someone explain this to me?

    Adrian Peterson makes ~ $1M per game 60 minutes, 1/2 of that he is on the bench, 1/2 of the time he isn’t carrying the ball, i.e result ~ $1M for 15 minutes of work. Now isn’t this free market?
    So please explain to me why HC’s revenue is somehow illicit, stained etc. Wasn’t it paid in a free market situation? Goldman Sachs must have seen some value in her speech or association. I guess being a women that’s a problem when folks pay you a lot of money, but a guy? Couple weeks ago our old Buddy Mitt got $50K for a public university! Like he really needs the money. Our XPOTUS GWB charged $100K at a Veterans Charitable event! Another guy that really needs the cash. As noted above, one set of good old boy rules for white guys and a 2nd your a corrupt, ethic less hussy set of rules for women.

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