WASHINGTON – Hillary Rodham Clinton wants voters to know she is no friend of Wall Street. But Wall Street has frequently been a friend to her.
In the 18 months prior to announcing her second campaign for president, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination addressed private equity investors in California, delivered remarks to bankers in Hilton Head, South Carolina and spoke to brokers at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Florida.
Her efforts capped a nearly 15-year period in which Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, made at least $35 million by giving 164 speeches to financial services, real estate and insurance companies after leaving the White House in 2001, according to an Associated Press analysis of public disclosure forms and records released by her campaign.
The long and lucrative relationship between the Clinton family and the nation’s finance industry has emerged as a key issue in her Democratic primary race. Her rivals, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, accuse her of being too cozy with Wall Street and the industry she once represented as a senator from New York.
Her backers at financial firms say they have little expectation her family’s personal profits will influence her policymaking, noting their own opposition to her plan to raise taxes on the hedge fund and private equity profits known as carried interest.
“She and Bill were both government servants all of their life and there was a set period of time when they could make money,” venture capitalist Alan Patricof, a longtime Clinton fundraiser, said of the Clintons’ paid speechmaking. “She had to maximize her earning potential.”
The Clinton campaign also points to her record, saying it shows a history of working to regulate the industry. Negative ads run by a group called Future 45, a super PAC backed by six-figure checks from hedge fund managers, demonstrate that Wall Street expects her to follow through on her proposals, aides said.
“Any honest look at Hillary Clinton’s record shows she spoke out early and often against Wall Street’s excesses in the run-up to the financial crisis,” said campaign spokesman Brian Fallon. “It’s clear they believe she will take action as president to crack down on the industry’s abuses
The bulk of the Clintons’ paid speeches to the financial industry came after the 2008 economic crash. From 2009 to 2014, the couple made $26 million from 109 appearances sponsored by banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, private equity firms and real estate businesses, and at those industries’ conferences and before their trade organizations.
With Hillary Clinton serving as secretary of state for most of that period, her husband brought in the bulk of the funds, earning nearly $17 million. That included $250,000 Bill Clinton made for mingling with investment managers in New York on May 12 — thirty days after Hillary Clinton released a video announcing her second bid for the White House.
What the Clintons said in their speeches is hard to find. Although many of the remarks were given to large groups, any broadcast or transcription was typically barred — along with the press.
Still, some details have trickled out.
Sometimes the subject was foreign affairs. Sometimes it was more personal.
“It’s so important for women like us to get out of our comfort zones and be willing to fail. I’ve done that, too, on a very large stage,” she said, according to a report in the real estate blog The Real Deal, which attended her October 2014 speech to the annual convention of the Commercial Real Estate Women Network in Miami Beach.
Beyond the personal income, Clinton also has close political ties to the finance industry. Over the course of her career, from her 2000 run for Senate to the two presidential campaigns, people working in the finance, insurance and real estate industries have given her campaigns about $35 million — more than donors from any other lines of work, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Since her husband left the White House, the family’s charity, the Clinton Foundation, has collected millions more from the industry, with several Wall Street banks down for as much as $5 million each.
While Clinton doesn’t rule out breaking up the big banks, she argues that restoring Glass-Steagall, the law that once separated commercial and investment banking, wouldn’t go far enough to curb risk. Instead, she would impose a graduated fee on large financial firms that would increase as companies held greater amounts of debt. A separate tax would be levied on high-frequency trading, and she has vowed tougher criminal penalties for individuals who break the rules.
“I go after not just the banks,” Clinton told Democrats in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Saturday. “I go after the hedge funds, big insurance companies, shadow banking.”
Those proposals aren’t worrying her backers on Wall Street, who argue that her time representing New York gives Clinton a deep understanding of how their industry works.
But the proposals also don’t do much to win support from some who feel a better choice for their industry will be found among the GOP’s candidates.
Donors working in the finance and insurance industry have given $22 million to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and $21 million to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and their affiliated super PACs — roughly three times as much as to Clinton and the outside group supporting her, according to Crowdpac.com, a nonpartisan political research company.
Associated Press writer Julie Bykowicz contributed to this report from Washington.
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