- Lee Fanginvestigative reporter at The Intercept covering the intersection of money and politics.
- Ellen Cheslersenior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton.
The Intercept’s Lee Fang recently questioned Hillary Clinton about her speeches for Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, which paid her $675,000 for just three appearances. After a town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire, Fang asked Clinton if she would release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. Clinton laughed and turned away. Fang joins us to discuss Clinton’s Wall Street ties along with Ellen Chesler, a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and longtime Clinton supporter.
AMY GOODMAN: Lee Fang, last month you attempted to speak with Hillary Clinton after she addressed a town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire. You asked her if she would release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. She laughed and turned away. I want to go to that clip.
LEE FANG: Hi, Secretary Clinton, will you release the transcripts of your paid speeches to Goldman Sachs?
HILLARY CLINTON: [laughs]
LEE FANG: No? There’s a lot of controversy over the speeches. Secretary, is that a no? Secretary Clinton, will you release the transcripts of your Goldman Sachs speeches?
AMY GOODMAN: So, Lee Fang, explain what happened and why you’re raising this issue of what she was paid to make a speech or speeches at Goldman Sachs.
LEE FANG: Well, Amy, since 2001, Bill and Hillary Clinton have earned over $115 million on the speaker circuit, going out to private corporations, foundations, special interest groups, and charging as much as $200,000, $300,000 per speech. I mean, this is really unprecedented in American history that you have a leading candidate of a major party enriching themselves personally from special interest groups that have been lobbying them and will be lobbying them if they do win the White House. So there’s been a lot of talk about, you know, what these speeches actually entailed.
And Hillary Clinton has defended herself, saying that she’s basically giving a boilerplate speech, she wants to have more education and more conversations, and this is healthy for our democracy. On the other hand, there have been reports that when Hillary Clinton has gone to some special interest groups—for example, she gave three speeches to Goldman Sachs, making over $600,000 from that one investment bank—that she gave a very specially tailored message, saying that she’s against all of this anti-bank populism. According to Politico, she reassured the bankers that she wouldn’t be taking the line of Elizabeth Warren or Obama really criticizing the big banks. And so, this is a big issue, because, again, this—
AMY GOODMAN: I want to get Ellen Chesler, a Hillary Clinton supporter, to respond.
ELLEN CHESLER: In all due respect, I mean, I actually was at one of those Goldman Sachs speeches, and it was about foreign policy, completely about foreign policy. And the entire fee for the speaking went to support the Clinton Foundation. And this raises a big question, in my view. I mean, I think America needs to do a little bit better by its ex-presidents, because we’ve put them in a situation—and President Obama is going to be in the same situation—where in order to support—unless they’re individually wealthy themselves, which is very rare—in order to support their lives after being in office—I mean, these offices no longer allow you to kind of fade away to the Supreme Court or—as has been in the past, or to a college president—
AMY GOODMAN: But you said the money goes to the foundation, not to them.
ELLEN CHESLER: So the money supported the foundation, almost all of it. I don’t know exactly the numbers, because I’m not inside to that.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Lee Fang, what about that?
ELLEN CHESLER: So that, I mean, you know, again, it just seems to me—
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask—we only have 30 seconds—Lee Fang, your response to that?
LEE FANG: I believe the Clintons have said some of the money has gone to the foundation—
ELLEN CHESLER: Most of it.
LEE FANG: —but the vast majority of it has personally enriched them. They’ve released their personal ethics disclosures, and it’s clear that the Clintons have made a lot of money, tens of millions of dollars, as I mentioned, earning over $115 million from the speaker circuit over the last 16 years.
ELLEN CHESLER: And then they’ve given it to the foundation.
LEE FANG: This is truly unprecedented.
ELLEN CHESLER: Then they’ve given it to the foundation.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to have to leave it there, but we’ll continue to explore this, of course. Lee Fang with The Intercept, Ellen Chesler with the Roosevelt Institute, and thanks also to John Nichols from The Nation. This is Democracy Now! We will be covering New Hampshire.