Clinton Answers Republican Messages Before 2016 Primaries

Aug. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks in San Francisco about the importance of U.S. voting rights and the need to prevent discrimination since the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Voting Rights Act formula for determining which states must get federal approval before changing election rules. Clinton speaks at the American Bar Association's annual meeting. (Source: Bloomberg)

Hillary Clinton, sending her most visible signal yet that she wants her voice heard ahead of a potential 2016 presidential bid, said she plans to deliver a series of speeches this year on various U.S. policy topics.

“Confidence in most of our important institutions has fallen to historic lows, even as our need for solid footing in a rapidly changing world has never been greater,” the former U.S. secretary of state said yesterday in a speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco. “Many Americans continue to lose faith and trust in the press, in banks, in sports heroes, and the clergy and just about every institution.”

The former senator from New York said she will deliver an address in Philadelphia next month on the balance and transparency needed in national security policies. Later this year, she is planning a speech on “America’s global leadership and our standing around the world.”

Clinton, 65, is casting a large shadow over the political field, even though she’s given no verbal suggestion that she plans to run for president a second time. The subjects of her speeches indicate that she plans to weigh in on the biggest division between the two parties and one likely to define the 2016 campaign -- the role of the federal government at home and abroad. Republicans are being pressed by small-government Tea Party activists to reduce the reach of Washington, while Clinton is countering that stance.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta jokes prior to Clinton receiving the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on February 14, 2013. Photographher: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images Close

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta jokes prior to Clinton receiving the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on February 14, 2013. Photographher: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

2016 Dominance

The former first lady’s dominance in the pre-2016 maneuvering is so pervasive that she’ll also take center stage - - although not literally -- when the Republican National Committee gathers for a meeting in Boston starting tomorrow.

RNC members are expected to vote Aug. 16 on a resolution from Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus that would block presidential primary debate partnerships with NBC and CNN if the television networks don’t cancel planned Clinton documentaries that he calls free advertising for a prospective Democratic candidate.

Clinton is also upstaging Vice President Joe Biden, who is planning to speak next month at Democratic Senator Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry in Iowa. The event, held in the state that traditionally hosts the first primary campaign voting, has often showcased candidates contemplating presidential bids.

Without lifting a finger, Clinton already has the backing of an experienced fundraising team, veteran voter-turnout specialists from a winning 2012 presidential campaign and donations of more than $1 million. Those encouraging her to run have created what amounts to the most robust campaign infrastructure yet among any Democrats considering a run for the White House in 2016.

Clinton Super-PAC

On Clinton’s behalf, the Ready for Hillary super-political action committee is building a database of supporters and donors, lining up endorsements and signing experienced campaign hands. It also raised $1.25 million through the end of June, the majority of it in just one month.

Clinton’s focus yesterday was on what she called the “assault on voting rights” that she sees in states passing laws that are said to stop voter fraud yet labeled by critics as directed at suppressing turnout by minorities and others.

“We do, let’s admit it, have a long history of shutting people out: African-Americans, women, gays and lesbians, people with disabilities,” she said. “And throughout our history we have found too many ways to divide and exclude people from their ownership of the law and protection under the law.”

‘Unseemly Rush’

A June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down a core provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act has triggered in certain states an “unseemly rush by previously covered jurisdictions to enact or enforce laws that will make it harder for millions of our fellow Americans to vote,” Clinton said.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican, yesterday signed into law one of the nation’s most wide-ranging voter identification laws.

The law -- approved by the Republican-controlled state legislature -- requires that voters present a government-issued photo identification at the polls rather than the current system that also allows for use of student ID cards issued by the state’s public universities and community colleges.

The measure also shortens the early-voting period before Election Day, ends same-day registration and prohibits high school students from registering before their 18th birthdays.

Clinton, speaking with the assistance of a teleprompter, called the North Carolina efforts the “greatest hits of voter suppression.”

She called for new legislation from Congress, stepped up enforcement by the Justice Department and more watchdog activity on the part of lawyers and citizens at the local level.

“As secretary of state, I saw other countries take steps to increase voter participation and strengthen their democratic processes,” she said. “There is no reason we can’t do the same here in America.”

To contact the reporter on this story: John McCormick in Chicago at jmccormick16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings in Washington at jcummings21@bloomberg.net

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