Does Hillary Clinton have a point about the latest attack from Bernie Sanders on donations from people in the “fossil fuel” industry? Sure she does. In fact, she has a couple of solid points about the nature of donations (and the scope), which will almost certainly be forgotten once she emerges as the nominee for the Democratic presidential nomination. That is, if she emerges — and Sanders is using this attack well enough over the last month to seemingly have her worried about it. Sanders started shortly before this moment at a CNN townhall forum:
Yesterday, a Greenpeace activist challenged her on the donations (totaling $330,000 thus far), and Hillary didn’t take it too well:
“I do not have — I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies. I am so sick — I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me,” Clinton angrily said as she pointed her finger at the activist. “I’m sick of it.”
On Friday morning, the Sanders campaign called on Clinton to apologize. “I think she probably owes the senator an apology for that because the senator is not lying about her record,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told MSNBC. “He’s talking about her record. He’s talking about her practices. She obviously doesn’t like it, but that doesn’t make it lying because you don’t like it.”
Clinton’s campaign has not offered an apology. Instead, it is pushing back aggressively at the assertion she’s cozy with oil and gas companies. On the call with reporters, de Blasio ticked through Clinton’s history as a senator and secretary of state and pointed to her platform, which he said “calls clearly for an end to tax breaks to fossil fuel companies.”
“She’s going right at the tax breaks that the oil and gas companies have depended on for decades,” he added.
He said that while Clinton had accepted “a small amount” from “individuals” who work for fossil fuel companies, so had Sanders. The donations “sure as hell” aren’t showing that she favors the industry, de Blasio said.
So does Hillary have a point? Well, kind of — as it relates to her campaign, anyway. Getting hard-money direct donations from people who work in an industry is not the same as getting donations from the industry. It’s still illegal to for candidates to accept corporate donations. Besides, both Bernie and Hillary are raising in excess of 100 times the amount in question every month, which makes it silly to claim that a candidate has been bought because 1/1000th or less of what she’s raised comes from people who work in a particular industry.
However, Bernie isn’t burning her as much on direct donations as he is on oil-industry support for Hillary’s super-PAC. Corporations can donate to super-PACs, but the super-PACs can’t coordinate with the candidates either on funding or action. Legally, Hillary has no control over it, which again makes this a silly argument. Sanders blames campaign-finance laws, and he’s right about that but wrong about the solution. It’s the arcane and byzantine attempts in federal law to limit and channel money into hard/soft categories that creates the need for nonsensical super-PACS. The proper solution is to allow people to donate directly to candidates in amounts they see fit, and to have near-instant disclosure of all donors who cumulatively donate about a certain level — say, $200 as it is now, or $1000 if a better level. That way the money gets collected and spent by the candidates, who then become responsible for the conduct of the overall campaign.
Yes, Hillary has a point to make, but she makes it rather badly in this exchange with the Greenpeace activist. It’s not that Bernie’s lying, it’s that he’s spouting irrelevancies, and curiously so. If he wants to make the case that Hillary’s corrupt, Bernie has plenty of ammunition in the confluence of the Clinton Foundation and the State Department, and the curious way in which Hillary and Bill “earned” $57.5 million during Hillary’s years as Secretary of State. The Clintons don’t get bought for $330,000, Bernie. Get real.
Finally, this should serve as a marker for the general election, too. Democrats are going to us Bernie logic on the Republican nominee in regard to donations and corruption. We can remind them that they’ve refuted their own argument when it arises — and hopefully the Republican nominee will use the better ammunition when Hillary gets nominated.