Hillary Clinton campaign emails released by Wikileaks on Monday show Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden advising against a $15 minimum wage, a key progressive goal during these past four years.
In late April 2015, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio sent an email to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, campaign manager Robby Mook, and longtime Clinton aide and CAP chief Tanden offering them a preview of an email he would later send out describing the progressive agenda he planned to promote.
“Following up on my conversations with each of you last week, I want to keep you updated on the next steps in our efforts to organize progressives nationally to take on income inequality. Below is an email going out today for an event coming up in 2 weeks. I believe you will agree with much of this content. Please let me know if you want to discuss. Thanks – Bill,” he wrote.
“Should we care about this?” asked Podesta. The policy agenda DeBlasio laid out in the email included a $15 federal minimum wage.
Tanden shrugged it off.
“Substantively, we have not supported $15 — you will get a fair number of liberal economists who will say it will lose jobs,” she wrote back. “Most of rest seems fine (obviously trade sticks out). Politically, we are not getting any pressure to join this from our end. I leave it to you guys to judge what that means for you. But I’m not sweating it.”
Bear in mind this was only two weeks after thousands of workers in over 200 U.S. cities took part in demonstrations asking for $15 an hour.
The Center has been the object of increased criticism by observers who see it less as a center of progressive reform, and more as a Hillary Clinton White House in waiting.
Clinton senior aide Jake Sullivan, who Podesta included in his original reply, replied back that “John Podesta (and the Red Army) want to support $15!” — an indication that the campaign chair was leaning towards that policy request.
Tanden ended the email thread, writing back, “And when you say Red Army, you mean the base of the Democratic party, right? :) Just want to be clear here.”
Throughout the Democratic primary, Clinton opposed a $15 minimum wage — campaigning instead on a federal minimum wage of $12 an hour. However, the $15 minimum wage made it into the Democratic Party’s presidential platform — with the support of Tanden, who was a Clinton appointee to the platform committee.
Less clear, however, is if Clinton will abide by that platform. For example, in a Clinton campaign “Wonks for Hillary” email sent in early September, the campaign stressed that Clinton supports a $12 federal minimum wage and $15 “where economically feasible”:
A spokesperson for the Center for American Progress directed all questions to the Clinton campaign. Podesta did not respond to a request for comment. (Full disclosure: the author of this post worked at the Center for American progress from 2009 to 2012.)