Hillary’s stance toward money in politics is worse than Donald Trump’s

Watching the Town Hall with Clinton and Sanders last night I was struck with Clinton’s response when asked about her exorbitant remuneration for speeches delivered to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms (to the tune of $5000 per minute of speaking time, $625K from Goldman alone).

Her response has been that politicians do this, it’s normal in our system, and that just because a politician takes loads of cash from big money interests doesn’t necessarily point to corruption. She shrugged off the amount (literally shrugged) and said “Well, that’s what they offered”. As if to say “hey, who can blame me?” And then demanded that anyone who doubts her integrity point to one single instance of the money affecting her activities in office. She has since repeated this demand multiple times to underscore her point. If you can’t point to an actual instance of a specific action being bought with specific money, then you can shut up about it.

It’s worth noting that this idea – that politicians being showered with money is not corrupt unless one can point to a specific quid pro quo – is the exact argument made by Scalia and Thomas in Citizens United. So, there’s that.

I think it’s pretty obvious that taking $625K from Goldman Sachs in “speaking fees” so that you can take their money while circumventing campaign finance rules by calling it a payment for service rather than a contribution is, in and of itself, an act of political corruption.

When Donald Trump has been asked about money in politics his answer has basically gone something like this: “Yea I know money buys political influence, because I’ve been buying it for years. I give them money, they do what I want. But you can short-circuit this system by electing me because I’m rich as hell and I don’t need their money.” This is cynical and ugly, of course, but it at least has the virtue of admitting that showering politicians with money does indeed have a corrupting influence which we ought to avoid if we can.

Clinton’s response is much worse. She basically says “oh no, this system of politicians taking huge sums of money from Wall Street isn’t corrupt at all.” With a straight face she tells us there’s nothing fishy about her taking gobs of cash from Wall St. and then running a “I’ll get tough on Wall St.” campaign for the presidency.

Friends of mine who support Hillary are sometimes bewildered by why I oppose her so vigorously. They’re quick to tell you “a lot of politicians do it”. And that’s just the thing – Hillary represents this system. She is loyal to it. She wants to protect it – from both the far right which would burn it out by burying the throttle until it explodes AND from those of us on the left who want to fundamentally change it.

We cannot change the system by electing the same old people who behave the same old way, folks. Expecting Hillary Clinton to reign in Wall Street is like expecting the Ferguson Police Dept to reform itself from the inside, or expecting the Vatican to punish itself for abuse scandals. That’s simply not how power systems work.

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