After Hillary Clinton spoke at a town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Friday, I asked her if she would release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. She laughed and turned away.
Clinton has recently been on the defensive about the speaking fees she and her husband have collected. Those fees total over $125 million since 2001.
Her rival Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, has raised concerns in particular over the $675,000 she made from Goldman Sachs, an investment bank that has regularly used its influence with government officials to win favorable policies.
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During one of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, Clinton reportedly reassured the crowd and told them that banker-bashing was unproductive and foolish, according to a Politico report based on accounts offered by several attendees.
On Friday, Clinton was asked by New Hampshire Public Radio how the “average person should view the hefty speaking fees?”
“I spoke to a wide array of groups who wanted to hear what I thought about the world coming off of my time as secretary of state,” Clinton said, defending her decision to make money from speaking fees. “I happen to think we need more conversation about what’s going on in the world.”
“I think groups that want to talk and ask questions and hear about that are actually trying to educate themselves because we’re living in a really complicated world.”
When asked by the Des Moines Register on Thursday if she regretted her decision to make money from speaking to various interest groups, Clinton compared herself to President Barack Obama, noting that significant campaign donations from Wall Street did not stop him from passing the Dodd-Frank reform law.
But the Obama administration did in fact go easy on Wall Street by refusing to criminally prosecute the major financial institutions responsible for the 2008 economic crisis. And Dodd-Frank, many critics say, does not go far enough in preventing systemic risk.
What’s more, though Obama fundraised for his presidential campaigns from Wall Street, he never enriched himself personally as the Clintons have done.
Obama’s ethics disclosures show that he made the vast majority of his income from royalties and advance money for his two books, Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.
Top photo: Lloyd Blankfein, chairman & CEO of Goldman Sachs, and Hillary Clinton during the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting.