Decrying what they describe as "a barely legal, backdoor form of bribery," a coalition of eight progressive groups representing nine million Americans is asking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to condemn the controversial practice of Wall Street firms paying large bonuses, or "golden parachutes," to executives who take on government jobs.
"Americans are sick and tired of the Wall Street-to-Washington revolving door, and are looking for a presidential candidate who will take concrete steps to fight it," said Kurt Walters, campaign manager of Rootstrikers, one of the grassroots groups behind the letter (pdf). "Secretary Clinton hasn’t yet shown that she is that candidate, but we hope her responses to these questions will demonstrate she shares these progressive priorities."
Wednesday's letter, which Politico notes "comes as Clinton interrupts her Hamptons vacation to unveil her rural policy platform in Iowa," concludes with two questions:
- "Do you still support the use of this controversial compensation practice?"
- "If you become President, will you allow officials who enter your administration to receive this sort of bonus?"
They're good questions, given Clinton's past.
"One possible explanation for Clinton’s lack of interest in banning golden parachutes is that she tolerated them when she ran the State Department—for two of her top aides," wrote The Intercept's David Dayen in late July. "Robert Hormats and Thomas Nides previously worked as executives for financial firms Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, respectively. Both received benefits tied to their Wall Street employment contracts for entering public service."
The groups call on Clinton to give her "full public support" to the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act—introduced last month by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)—which bans (pdf) golden parachutes, among other things.
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The letter notes that Clinton's two main rivals for the Democratic nomination, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, have both said they support the legislation, with Sanders having signed on as a co-sponsor. To date, more than 115,000 people have signed onto petitions calling on 2016 presidential candidates to support the bill.
"It's hard to imagine Democrats' 2016 nominee will be truly tough on Wall Street banks that break the law, if they won't commit to banning their advisors from receiving legalized bribes from those same banks."
—Charles Chamberlain, Democracy for America
Still, Clinton has declined to address the issue.
"It's hard to imagine Democrats' 2016 nominee will be truly tough on Wall Street banks that break the law, if they won't commit to banning their advisors from receiving legalized bribes from those same banks," said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America (DFA), another of the organizations to sign onto the letter. "Allowing Wall Street bankers who've recently received 'golden parachutes' into your administration is a little like serving a fox a chicken sandwich before sticking them on hen house guard duty—it'd be funny if it weren’t so obviously boneheaded."
Writing on Wednesday, the Washington Post called the missive "another sign that Hillary Rodham Clinton has not won over important voices on the progressive left."
Meanwhile, Politico focused on how the call accentuates differences between Clinton and "progressive icon" Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), noting that Warren has suggested repeatedly that any candidate seeking her endorsement must agree not to appoint officials with Wall Street ties.
"Anyone who wants to be president should appoint only people who have already demonstrated they are independent, who have already demonstrated that they can hold giant banks accountable, who have already demonstrated that they embrace the kind of ambitious economic policies that we need to rebuild opportunity and a strong middle class in this country," Warren said in July.
In addition to Rootstrikers and DFA, the groups backing the statement are CREDO Action, MoveOn.Org Political Action, the Center for Popular Democracy Action, The Other 98%, Friends of the Earth Action, and American Family Voices.