Hillary Clinton rakes in Verizon cash while Bernie Sanders supports company's striking workers

Verizon paid Hillary $225,000 for speech and poured money into Clinton Foundation. Executives give to her campaign

Published April 13, 2016 8:45PM (EDT)

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders   (Reuters/Brian Snyder/Photo montage by Salon)
Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders (Reuters/Brian Snyder/Photo montage by Salon)

In some ways, it would hard for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton to be more different.

Hillary Clinton, a Wall Street-backed multimillionaire, served for six years on the board of directors of Walmart, the world's largest company based on sales. She remained silent at a time when the mega-corporation was viciously cracking down on workers' attempts to unionize.

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has been unflinching in his support of the labor movement. Sanders has spoken passionately in support of striking Verizon workers on multiple occasions.

The Hillary Clinton campaign, meanwhile, has received tens of thousands of dollars from Verizon executives and lobbyists.

That's not all. For a May 2013 speech, the corporation paid Clinton a whopping $225,000 honorarium, according to her tax records.

Verizon has also given between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation, which investigative journalist Ken Silverstein has referred to as a "so-called charitable enterprise [that] has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends."

Moreover, the Clinton Foundation has partnered directly with Verizon, which is notorious for its vehement opposition to unions. The corporation is a partner in the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, and said it is "proud to partner with the Clinton Foundation."

Journalist Zaid Jilani reported in AlterNet in October, when Sanders spoke in support of a Verizon strike, that the corporation's executives and lobbyists had poured money into Clinton's campaign or PACs.

Three Verizon vice presidents each donated $2,700 to Hillary for America. They were joined by a senior vice president and another vice president, who gave an additional $1,000.

A former Hillary Clinton operative who now lobbies for Verizon donated $2,700 as well, along with another Verizon lobbyist who pitched in $1,000.

While Clinton's campaign is receiving Verizon cash, Sanders is delivering powerful impromptu speeches physically on Verizon workers' picket lines.

"Today, you are standing up not just for justice for Verizon workers; you’re standing up for millions of Americans who don’t have a union," he proclaimed at a New York City strike on April 13.

Sanders continued: "On behalf of every worker in America, those facing the same kind of pressure, thank you for what you are doing. We’re gonna win this thing!"

Clinton's campaign released a statement of tepid support for the employees, stating “Verizon should come back to the bargaining table with a fair offer for their workers.” But her paltry remarks were overshadowed by Sanders' heartfelt speech.

This was not the first time Sanders stood with striking Verizon workers. In October, the Vermont senator and self-declared democratic socialist marched alongside them.

"I am hopeful you will reach a fair contract," Sanders said at the time. "But if you run into roadblocks, as in years past, know that I will be there with you until a fair contract is negotiated."

Roughly half a year later, Verizon workers were back on the picket line, and Sanders was there to back them.

"Verizon is one of the largest, most profitable corporations in this country, but they refuse to sit down and negotiate a fair contract," Sanders declared in his April 13 speech.

Sanders called Verizon "just another major American corporation trying to destroy the lives of working Americans."

What was left out of many media reports on the story, however, is that this very corporation has been overwhelmingly supportive of Clinton, to whom it has close ties.

Aside from the tens of thousands Verizon executives and lobbyists have given to the Clinton campaign and pro-Clinton PACs, the Clinton Foundation has worked directly with Verizon.

In 2012, the Clinton Foundation announced the launch of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, in partnership with Verizon — along with GE and the Tenet Healthcare Corporation.

“We are proud to partner with the Clinton Foundation on this innovative and potentially life-changing initiative,” declared Peter Tippett, chief medical officer and vice president of Verizon’s health IT practice.

"As the Foundation’s technology provider, we believe we can empower individuals to take better care of their health. We have barely scratched the surface on using technology to improve health and well-being and reduce medical costs," the Verizon executive wrote.

The corporation's rhetoric reflects the individualistic, neoliberal economic ideology that the Clintons have endorsed for decades.

"Our work with the Clinton Foundation is just one more example of how we are bringing our vision to life," the Verizon vice president said in 2012.

Verizon is one of many corporations and organizations on the 2013 Clinton Health Matters Initiative list of commitments, which totaled more than $100 million in investments.

The corporation noted that it was partnering with the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, or CHMI, "to drive a co-branded public awareness and engagement strategy."

In a Verizon news report after the Clinton Foundation’s 2013 Health Matters conference, the corporation additionally indicated that it provided "the technology infrastructure to support the CHMI web portal, including application development, cloud storage and high-speed connectivity."

This is by no means the only tie to Verizon.

In 2013, the Clinton Foundation held a forum on employee "effectiveness" and wellbeing. The organization noted that forum attendees included "executives from large and innovative employers including Verizon, Humana and Microsoft, among others."

Verizon was also one of the corporations participating in the Clinton Global Initiative America program, which the organization says brings together business and civil society leaders together "to develop and highlight ideas for spurring economic growth and creating jobs."

In 2014, the Clinton Foundation published an article insisting that such corporate "partnerships are key to tackling global global rise in non-communicable diseases."

"By working with partners at the national level, such as Verizon and Nike, and partners and stakeholders at the community level, such as GE in Houston and the PGA TOUR in Northeast Florida, we have made great strides in advancing our vision," the organization wrote.

While Sanders works with grassroots organizations like unions and stands with the workers themselves, the "New Democrat," of which the Clintons are the progenitors and the embodiment, rubs shoulders with big business.

This critical distinction is reflected in the respective longtime contributors to past campaigns of the two presidential candidates.

According to data collected by the watchdog NGO Open Secrets, 18 (90 percent) of the top 20 contributors to Hillary Clinton from 1999 to 2015 were corporations or firms that provide services to corporations.

On the other hand, 19 (95 percent) of the top 20 contributors to Bernie Sanders from 1989 to 2015 were unions.

Perhaps this is not surprising given the Clintons' history. On their first date, in fact, Bill and Hillary crossed a picket line.

By Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Bernie Sanders Clinton Foundation Clinton Global Initiative Corruption Hillary Clinton Verizon