Clinton Criticism of Wealth Leaves Us 1% Convinced

How difficult will it be to run a campaign on a platform of tackling wealth inequality when we have all just learned that she and her husband can pretty much just burp money?

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Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) poses with students and faculty after speaking at Rancho High School on May 5, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This is an excerpt from Bloomberg's daily Opening Line column.

By C. Thompson and Laurence Arnold

“Hillary Clinton sold her soul when they accepted that money.”

The speaker here is a Sahrawi Arab from the disputed territory of Western Sahara named Mohamed Lahwaimed, quoted in a Politico story from last Friday. While he’s referring to the $1 million (or more) in donations to the Clinton Foundation from a Moroccan mining company with ties to King Mohammed VI, he could be speaking as well to a lot of voters in the U.S. today.

Wonder if she’s listening.

“Let’s finally do something about the growing economic inequality that is tearing our country apart,” she said in 2007 during her campaign for the 2008 election, according to the New York Times. “The top 1 percent of our households held 22 percent of our nation’s wealth.” We’re not sure of the time frame to which she’s referring, but it doesn’t matter. We get it already.

How difficult will it be to run a campaign on a platform of tackling wealth inequality, which she is reprising for this run (probably because she has to), when we have all just learned that she and her husband can pretty much just burp money?

A haul of $30 million or so from talking to Rotarians in the past 16 months, revealed in a financial disclosure filed to the Federal Elections Commission on Friday, has got to be some weight around her neck now. As Jennifer Epstein and Richard Rubin reported over the weekend, that’s not even everything—notably, the almost $105 million Bill Clinton pulled down from 2001 to 2013.

The once-and-perhaps-future first couple’s net worth, Epstein and Rubin write, is somewhere between $11.3 million and $52.7 million (our range is narrower), and this excludes homes in New York and Washington, retirement savings accounts and other personal effects, as if those would tip the scale even more—from, say, astounding to astonishing. 

The Clintons may have been “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001, but it doesn’t look like they stayed that way for very long.

So, what is it about her that is supposed to resonate with the middle-class voters? This will be the talking point from the other party for some time to come, one could reasonably assume, and of course it’s a layup for them. But the Republicans might want to watch where they step because there are still steaming piles of Romney and Bush and, hell, even McCain money out there on the trail. 

The bigger issue probably is that this information is going to be wielded against her by her own party.

So, again, what is it? Where’s she coming from, when she’s taking in money so fast and from so far afield, when she says she’s a champion of the poor? Is it some kind of noblesse oblige thing? Does wealth not have its place?

At Forbes magazine, the argument goes that the inequality Clinton claims to attack is, in fact, what’s made it possible for her to be in this position in the first place.

“[T]he Clintons are rich for having been wise enough to make a profession of politics in what is the richest, most innovative country on Earth,” John Tamny writes.

They’re rich because people care about them, and people care about them because they’re rich, he suggests:

“What’s most bothersome is that Hillary would bash the very inequality that has made it possible for her and Bill to be prominent global figures, and by extension wildly rich global figures. If not for the immense taxable wealth in the U.S., and the Clintons’ ability to influence its direction around the world, very few would give them the time of day.

‘‘In short, the Clintons are nothing without the wealth inequality they claim to disdain. It’s the sole source of their power,” Tamny writes. “The swagger of the world’s foremost political couple was taken from someone else.”

Will it be taken from her?

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