Hillary Clinton (Reuters/Brian Snyder)

In paid speeches, Hillary Clinton said she "represented" and "had great relations" with Wall Street

Excerpts of Clinton's paid Wall Street speeches, released by WikiLeaks, show her cozy relationship with big banks


Ben Norton
October 8, 2016 9:00PM (UTC)

New emails released by the whistle-blowing journalism organization WikiLeaks provide insight into the cozy relationship Hillary Clinton has had with Wall Street.

One message in particular, from the Clinton campaign's research director Tony Carrk, contains excerpts from paid speeches Clinton gave to large banks and other financial institutions.

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The speeches, for which Clinton was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars each, reflect her neoliberal, pro-corporate ideology. In them, Clinton stresses the importance of free markets and the financial sector for the economy.

The following are highlights from the speeches:

"Far removed" from the middle class

In a February 2014 speech to the bank Goldman Sachs and financial management company BlackRock, Clinton admitted, "I'm kind of far removed" from the struggles of the middle class, "because the life I've lived and the economic, you know, fortunes that my husband and I now enjoy." She added, "But I haven't forgotten it."

Clinton also said, "I do think there is a growing sense of anxiety and even anger in the country over the feeling that the game is rigged," but she stressed, "I am not taking a position on any policy."

"Bias" against "successful" people

In an Oct. 29 2013 speech at a Goldman Sachs summit, Clinton claimed "there is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives."

She lamented that rich politicians are forced to divest their assets, sell stocks and be stripped of other positions. "It just becomes very onerous and unnecessary," she maintained.

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"Oversimplification" to blame the banks

In an Oct. 24, 2013 speech at a Goldman Sachs investment symposium a few days before, Clinton argued it is "an oversimplification" to say the U.S. banking system caused the 2008 economic collapse, and that blaming banks is "politicizing" the issue.

"I think that there's a lot that could have been avoided in terms of both misunderstanding and really politicizing what happened," she insisted.

In the same speech, Clinton also said, "There's nothing magic about regulations, too much is bad, too little is bad."

"I represented" and "had great relations" with Wall Street

In that same Oct. 24 speech for Goldman Sachs, Clinton told Wall Street, "I represented all of you for eight years."

"I had great relations and worked so close together after 9/11 to rebuild downtown, and a lot of respect for the work you do and the people who do it," she added.

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She blamed the "devastating" crash of 2008 on "bad decisions."

"Did all I could to make sure they continued to prosper"

In a September 2014 speech to the law firm Robbins, Gellar, Rudman & Dowd, Clinton said, “When I was a Senator from New York, I represented and worked with so many talented principled people who made their living in finance."

Clinton noted that she "did all I could to make sure they continued to prosper" — although she added that she tried to close loopholes and address "skyrocketing CEO pay."

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System may not be rigged

In an October 2014 speech to Deutsche Bank, Clinton implied that it is not true that the system is rigged against the working class.

"So even if it may not be 100 percent true, if the perception is that somehow the game is rigged, that should be a problem for all of us," she said.

Clinton stressed the importance of "a free market economy" and complimented the audience, telling them, "It's important to recognize the vital role that the financial markets play in our economy and that so many of you are contributing to." She added, "We all rely on the market's transparency and integrity."

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In the same speech to Deutsche Bank, Clinton insisted those who work inside Wall Street will be able to fix it.

Democratic Party should be "moderate"

In a March 2014 speech for Xerox, Clinton argued the Democratic Party should be "moderate."

Questioned by Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, Clinton stressed that the U.S. needs two political parties — "Two sensible, moderate, pragmatic parties."

Politicians "need both a public and a private position"

In an April 2013 speech to the National Multi-Housing Council, Clinton maintained that politicians "need both a public and a private position."

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"If everybody's watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least," she said,

"Politics is like sausage being made," Clinton added. "It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be."

Dreams of "open trade" world

In a May 2013 speech to the Brazilian bank Banco Itau, Clinton articulated her neoliberal, hyper-capitalist vision of the world.

"My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders," she said.

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In the same speech, Clinton emphasized, "we have to have a concerted plan to increase trade," and clarified that "it's not  for governments to do."

She added, "we have to resist, protectionism, other kinds of barriers to market access and to trade."

"I would like to see this get much more attention and be not just a policy for a year under president X or president Y but a consistent one," Clinton said.

Politicians need Wall Street money to win

In the Oct. 24 Goldman Sachs speech, Clinton noted, "Running for office in our country takes a lot of money, and candidates have to go out and raise it."

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She described New York, the U.S.'s "economic center," as "the leading site for contributions for fundraising for candidates on both sides of the aisle."

U.S. political system is "wild west" with corporate money

In a January 2014 speech for General Electric, Clinton conceded that the U.S. political system is a kind of "wild west" flooded with corporate money.

“Our system is, in many ways, more difficult, certainly far more expensive and much longer than a parliamentary system, and I really admire the people who subject themselves to it," she said.

"Even when I, you know, think they should not be elected president, I still think, well, you know, good for you I guess, you're out there promoting democracy and those crazy ideas of yours," Clinton added.

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She criticized the Supreme Court decision Citizens United, which ruled that political donations are a form of Constitutionally protected free speech.

"It's so ridiculous that we have this kind of free for all with all of this financial interest at stake, but, you know, the Supreme Court said that's basically what we're in for," Clinton said.

She continued, "So we're kind of in the wild west, and, you know, it would be very difficult to run for president without raising a huge amount of money and without having other people supporting you because your opponent will have their supporters."

Email leak

The email is dated Jan. 25, 2016, and was also sent to several other people in the Clinton campaign. It does not include entire transcripts, but just excerpts from the paid Wall Street speeches.

The message is part of a larger trove of thousands of emails to and from John Podesta, the chair of Clinton's campaign.

Clinton promised in a debate with Bernie Sanders in February to "look into" releasing the transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street. She never did so. The website IWillLookIntoIt.com, which tracks the time since Clinton made the pledge, revealed that 245 days had passed until the emails were leaked.

The Clinton campaign did not confirm the authenticity of the emails, but also did not deny it. The campaign implied that the emails, which were published by WikiLeaks on Friday, Oct. 7, were "stolen." Glen Caplin, a campaign spokesperson, blamed the leak on Russia.

In its report on the leak, The New York Times wrote, "In lucrative paid speeches that Hillary Clinton delivered to elite financial firms but refused to disclose to the public, she displayed an easy comfort with titans of business, embraced unfettered international trade and praised a budget-balancing plan that would have required cuts to Social Security."

The Times, which endorsed Clinton for president, noted she sounded like "a technocrat at home with her powerful audience." It added that Clinton's speeches demonstrate "her long and warm ties to some of Wall Street’s most powerful figures."


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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