Given the total tonnage of emails which have dropped out of the Wikileaks chute it’s easy to understand how many of them could have gotten lost in the shuffle, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t important in terms of the election. Over at Circa, Emily Atkin has done an admirable job of doing the legwork to piece together one set of emails and relevant historical data from the campaign trail to reveal something alarming and probably unethical about the Clinton campaign.
You’ll want to read the details at the link to see the web of connections in play here, but the short version has everything to do with the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and their decision to provide an early endorsement in the Democratic primary to Clinton. This happened in spite of the fact that most liberals seemed to feel that Bernie Sanders had a much stronger platform and record on environmental issues. Like many other issue oriented groups, the League had sent questionnaires out to all the candidates to feel out their positions on the subjects of interest. Clinton’s previous positions and answers on the quiz weren’t strong enough on the environmental front for the group, but rather than simply offering their endorsement to Sanders, they sent back “guidance” to the Clinton campaign about how she needed to alter her policies, and in several instances she willingly complied.
Hacked emails now reveal that Clinton’s environmental positions weren’t initially strong enough to earn the group’s support.
According to the emails — released Monday by WikiLeaks — LCV sent the Clinton campaign a questionnaire in May 2015, asking her position on at least 20 key issues including climate change, Arctic drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline. The Clinton campaign replied to the questionnaire in mid-June.
But in July, the Clinton campaign received a response from LCV executive Tiernan Sittenfeld, who said many of the answers on the questionnaire were not good enough.
“We very much hope that the attached questionnaire can be strengthened,” Sittenfeld wrote, before launching into 12 detailed suggestions about how the Clinton campaign’s answers should be changed.
These aren’t just scattered cases of the campaign shifting a bit to the left as a general matter of policy. We should recall that Bernie Sanders was already surging in the polls in the autumn of 2015 and nipping at Clinton’s heels. Sensing that she would need plenty of ammunition to fight off what was becoming a serious challenge from her left flank, Hillary was looking to collect all of the positive press she could manage on the liberal front. The LCV could have simply taken Clinton at her word from her previous statement and given the nod to Sanders, but they sent detailed information about what the campaign needed to do in order for them to gain the endorsement.
Examples include Clinton’s previous failure to condemn the Keystone XL pipeline. In September of 2015 she released a statement saying that she was against the pipeline (a position she didn’t take as Secretary of State) and that was after this letter was received, but two months before the LCV endorsement. Similarly, they chided her for not opposing Arctic drilling. She turned around in August and dutifully condemned that practice as well.
This has the appearance of step by step coordination between the campaign and the LCV. It doesn’t directly fall into the category of coordinating with a Super PAC, but the end effect is the same. Pushed into a corner by pressure from the Left, Clinton did an about face on several issues to earn the support of an influential liberal group. It’s a different sort of influence peddling, with the payday being an endorsement rather than a fat donation. But it goes back to a constant theme we’ve seen with Hillary Clinton dating back to her days of running for New York’s Senate seat. Her commitment to policy positions is a mile wide and an inch deep and she’ll say whatever it takes to climb up to the next rung on the ladder.