Hillary Clinton is under the microscope. And rightfully so.
At a time when the American electorate has definitively rejected the entrenched political establishment in favor of two so-called “protest candidates” in Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, voters want to know why they should elect the former First Lady and Secretary of State.
Why, Americans seem to be asking, is Clinton entitled to be President? Why should it be a foregone conclusion that another member of the country’s political aristocracy gets to stroll into the Oval Office? Republican voters soundly rejected the status quo when Jeb Bush’s campaign fell flat in the face of the Trump juggernaut, but Clinton is a larger-than-life figure (and we don’t necessarily mean that in a good way) who large swaths of the electorate are still inclined to vote for if only because “more of the same” sounds better than “who the hell knows” when it comes to where the country goes starting in 2017.
But perhaps more than ever, America is fed up with business as usual inside the Beltway and if there’s anyone who embodies that concept, it’s Clinton. She’s widely viewed as dishonest and there are serious questions about whether special interests and state actors exercise undue influence over decisions via contributions to the Clinton family charities, through paid speeches, and through who knows what other channels.
More specifically, Americans want to know what Clinton told audiences at speeches she made behind closed doors at events sponsored by Wall Street. This is critical because Clinton has pledged to rein in big banks and go beyond Dodd-Frank to address TBTF. Below, find an Op-Ed from The New York Times, whose editorial board wants Clinton “show voters those transcripts.”
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From The New York Times
“Everybody does it,” is an excuse expected from a mischievous child, not a presidential candidate. But that is Hillary Clinton’s latest defense for making closed-door, richly paid speeches to big banks, which many middle-class Americans still blame for their economic pain, and then refusing to release the transcripts.
A televised town hall on Tuesday was at least the fourth candidate forum in which Mrs. Clinton was asked about those speeches. Again, she gave a terrible answer, saying that she would release transcripts “if everybody does it, and that includes the Republicans.”
In November, she implied that her paid talks for the Wall Street firms were part of helping them rebuild after the 9/11 attacks, which “was good for the economy and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists.”
In a debate with Bernie Sanders on Feb. 4, Mrs. Clinton was asked if she would release transcripts, and she said she would “look into it.” Later in February, asked in a CNN town hall forum why she accepted $675,000 for speeches to Goldman Sachs, she got annoyed, shrugged, and said, “That’s what they offered,” adding that “every secretary of state that I know has done that.”
At another town hall, on Feb. 18, a man in the audience pleaded, “Please, just release those transcripts so that we know exactly where you stand.” Mrs. Clinton had told him, “I am happy to release anything I have when everybody else does the same, because every other candidate in this race has given speeches to private groups.”
On Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton further complained, “Why is there one standard for me, and not for everybody else?”
The only different standard here is the one Mrs. Clinton set for herself, by personally earning $11 million in 2014 and the first quarter of 2015 for 51 speeches to banks and other groups and industries.
Voters have every right to know what Mrs. Clinton told these groups. In July, her spokesman Nick Merrill said that though most speeches were private, the Clinton operation “always opened speeches when asked to.” Transcripts of speeches that have been leaked have been pretty innocuous. By refusing to release them all, especially the bank speeches, Mrs. Clinton fuels speculation about why she’s stonewalling.
Her conditioning her releases on what the Republicans might or might not do is mystifying. Republicans make no bones about their commitment to Wall Street deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Mrs. Clinton is laboring to convince struggling Americans that she will rein in big banks, despite taking their money.
Besides, Mrs. Clinton is not running against a Republican in the Democratic primaries. She is running against Bernie Sanders, a decades-long critic of Wall Street excess who is hardly a hot ticket on the industry speaking circuit. The Sanders campaign, asked if Mr. Sanders also received fees for closed-door speeches, came up with two from two decades ago that were not transcribed: one to a hospital trade association, and one to a college, each for less than $1,000. Royalties from a book called “The Speech,” Mr. Sanders’s eight-hour Senate floor diatribe against President Obama’s continuation of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, were donated to the nonprofit Addison County Parent/Child Center in Vermont.
The hazards of Mrs. Clinton, a presidential hopeful, earning more than $200,000 each for dozens of speeches to industry groups were clear from the start. Mrs. Clinton was making paid speeches when she hired consultants to vet her own background in preparation for a run. If they didn’t flag this, they weren’t doing their jobs.
Public interest in these speeches is legitimate, and it is the public — not the candidate — who decides how much disclosure is enough. By stonewalling on these transcripts Mrs. Clinton plays into the hands of those who say she’s not trustworthy and makes her own rules. Most important, she is damaging her credibility among Democrats who are begging her to show them that she’d run an accountable and transparent White House.