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Democratic Candidates Duke It Out Over Wall Street Donors

Even when they're duking it out, they're better than Republicans.
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If there were any fireworks in the Democratic debate, this question lit them up.

Kevin Cooney of the local Iowa CBS affiliate asked Hillary Clinton this question:

Senator Sanders recently said, quote, "People should be suspect of candidates who receive large sums of money from Wall Street and then go out and say 'Trust me. I'm going to really regulate wall street'.

So you've received millions of dollars in contributions and speaking fees from from Wall Street companies. How do you convince voters that you are going to level the playing field when you're indebted to some of its biggest players?

I understand the premise of the question. I see the accusation here all the time, how she's a tool of Wall Street, etc. So I was interested in her answer.

CLINTON: Well, I think it's pretty clear that they know that I will. You have two billionaire hedge fund managers who started a super PAC and they're advertising against me in Iowa as we speak. So they clearly think I'm going to do what I say I will do and you can look at what I did in the Senate.

I did introduce legislation to reign in compensation. I looked at ways that the shareholders would have more control over what was going on in that arena. And specifically said to Wall Street, that what they were doing in the mortgage market was bringing our country down. I've laid out a very aggressive plan to reign in Wall Street -- not just the big banks.

That's a part of the problem and I am going right at them. I have a comprehensive, tough plan. But I went further than that. We have to go after what is called the shadow banking industry. Those hedge funds. Look at what happened in '08, AIG, a big insurance company, Lehman Brothers, an investment bank helped to bring our economy down. So, I want to look at the whole problem and that's why my proposal is much more comprehensive than anything else that's been put forth.


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All of these things are true. If you're unfamiliar with her speech in 2007 regarding the mortgages, you can read it here.

Dickerson then turned to Senator Sanders and asked him what he thought of her answer. Sanders' response was, "Not good enough."

From there, he moved into more details:

Here's the story. I mean, you know, let's not be naive about it. Why do -- why, over her political career has Wall Street been a major -- the major campaign contributor to Hillary Clinton? You know, maybe they're dumb and they don't know what they're going to get, but I don't think so.

Here is the major issue when we talk about Wall Street. It ain't complicated. You have six financial institutions today that have assets of 56 percent, equivalent to 56 percent of the GDP In America. They issue two-thirds of the credit cards and one-third of the mortgages.

If Teddy Roosevelt, a good Republican, were alive today, you know what he'd say? "Break them up." Reestablish Glass-Steagall. And Teddy Roosevelt is right. That is the issue. Now I am the only candidate up here that doesn't have a super PAC. I am not asking Wall Street or the billionaires for money. I will break up these banks. Support community banks and credit unions. That's the future of banking in America.

John Dickerson then asked Sanders to tell the audience what they're going to get, referring back to the first part of his answer. And Sanders basically said they'll get what they pay for.

SANDERS: I have never heard a candidate never, who has received huge amounts of money from oil, from coal, from Wall Street, from the military industrial complex, not one candidate say, oh, these campaign contributions will not influence me. I'm going to be independent. Well, why do they make millions of dollars of campaign contributions? they expect to get something. Everybody knows that.

Once again, I am running a campaign differently than any other candidate. We are relying on small campaign donors, 750,000 of them, 30 bucks a piece. That's who I'm indebted to.

Secretary Clinton did not appreciate the suggestion that she was bought and paid for.

CLINTON: Well John, wait a minute. Wait a minute, he has basically used his answer to impune my integrity. Let's be frank here.

SANDERS: No, I have not.

CLINTON: Oh, wait a minute, senator. You know, not only do I have hundreds of thousands of donors, most of them small. And I'm very proud that for the first time a majority of my donors are women, 60 percent.

Factcheckers are claiming she's wrong about the numbers, but they're only measuring the lumped-together under $200 donors, which does a disservice to Clinton, but also to Sanders.

The way campaign finance works, small donors don't have to be individually reported until their aggregate contributions in a campaign cycle exceed $200. Those $30 donors Sanders has today will fall out of the "small donor" category as defined by fact-checkers as soon as they make their seventh $30 donation. Should they be considered "large donors" when they give $210? I don't think so.

I gave, in the aggregate, $700 in 2012. Were it not for the aggregate total, I'd be considered a small donor.

The next part is where Clinton went off the reservation a bit. It's being characterized as a Rudy Guiliani moment, but I guess I don't see it that way. It seemed to me that she was simply saying that as Senator of New York, she represented all of it, including Wall Street. But you judge for yourself.

CLINTON: So, I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.

So, you know, it's fine for you to say what you're going to say, but I looked very carefully at your proposal. Reinstating Glass- Steagall is a part of what very well could help, but it is nowhere near enough. My proposal is tougher, more effective, and more comprehensive because I go after all of Wall Street not just the big banks.

Coming back around to her financial proposals, she says reinstating Glass-Steagall isn't enough, and it isn't. Whatever is proposed will have to come back to dealing with the shadow banking system and hedge fund market manipulations. Flash trading also needs to be more carefully regulated.

All of these are issues upon which she and Senator Sanders actually agree, with the only difference being whether the pure reinstatement of Glass-Steagall will accomplish what Sanders says it will.

The real problem with Sanders' claim that Hillary Clinton is taking the bulk of her donations from Wall Street is that it simply isn't true. These numbers from Open Secrets indicate that her career total from Wall Street adds up to 15.5 percent overall, which is hardly the "bulk."

This exchange, for all its fire, still did Democrats credit. All three of the candidates on that stage were far and away superior to any Republican, both in their policy prescriptions and also with regard to their ability to debate serious issues without turning it in to a nut parade such as the one we saw earlier this week.

It's just unfortunate that it was on a Saturday night, as the next debate will be. The one after that is on a Sunday night. It's not that we need more debates, necessarily, but it certainly would be nice to have some in prime time during the week like the Republicans get so people will actually watch.

The candidates should be seen by everyone, if only so that the nation can see that there are some candidates who are not buffoons running for the highest office in the land.

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