Hillary Clinton insists there’s nothing alarming in the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. So why won’t she release them?
Clinton’s argument against releasing the transcripts is self-contradictory, as she claims to be the most transparent candidate in the race. Obviously, a candidate refusing to let voters see the full, unedited versions of paid speeches made to one of the most criminal banks in history is the opposite of transparency. And voters aren’t buying it, according to the numbers. A Washington Post-ABC News poll in March found that 57 percent of voters don’t believe Hillary Clinton is honest or trustworthy.
Of course, releasing the transcripts once and for all to put the issue to bed, as CNN’s Dana Bash suggested in last night’s Democratic debate in Brooklyn, would ostensibly restore some of that voter confidence that Clinton would need to prevail in the general election, should she win the Democratic nomination. But Clinton argued that she’s being held to an unfair standard, hinting that she would release the transcripts if Bernie Sanders released his tax returns.
Sanders called her bluff and plans to release his 2014 tax returns today, which should show just over $200,000 in income, according to the Washington Post. But Clinton has so far shown no indication she will be releasing the transcripts of any of her Goldman Sachs speeches. The content of those speeches will likely remain a secret right up until the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.
The former Secretary of State has claimed that despite taking millions of dollars in campaign contributions from Wall Street, she’s capable of bringing accountability to the financial industry. Sen. Sanders has retorted that it’s impossible for a public official to hold an industry accountable when they depend on that industry to sustain their campaign.
Indeed, Clinton’s #1 campaign donor is the securities and investment industry, having accepted over $21 million from the industry this campaign cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. To many Democratic voters, the ultimate litmus test for how Clinton would address Wall Street bankers behind closed doors would be to have access to the speeches she was paid to give. As much as her steadfast refusal to make those transcripts public is hurting her campaign, her refusal to be transparent means the content of those speeches would hurt her campaign even more, perhaps even bring it to a swift end.
What Clinton actually said, according to some of the attendees of those speeches, is likely damning. One attendee told the Wall Street Journal that she “spoke sympathetically” of the financial industry and even came off as “gushy.” An unnamed Goldman Sachs employee told Politico, “It was like a ‘rah-rah’ speech. She sounded more like a Goldman Sachs managing director.” Another Politico article cited one attendee’s account of the speech, who said Clinton seemed to place equal blame for the financial crisis on banks and homeowners, saying, “We all got into this mess together, and we’re all going to have to work together to get out of it.”
Should the content of these speeches become public, and should the accounts of attendees who described the speeches prove to be accurate, Democratic primary voters would suddenly know three things about Clinton they didn’t know before:
— Clinton will have proven herself to be susceptible to the influence of money from the financial sector, proving Bernie Sanders right.
— Clinton was lying about the content of her speeches, counting on the transcripts never being viewed by the public.
— Clinton’s promises to reform Wall Street will be proven to be empty campaign promises meant to be made while seeking votes and broken once a general election victory is secured.
It remains to be seen whether or not Clinton’s doublespeak on the Goldman transcripts will hurt her image enough to crack under pressure and release them.