Clinton not running away from Wall Street

Hillary Clinton isn’t backing away from Wall Street.

As cries from within her own party grow louder for the all-but-declared 2016 Democratic presidential candidate to distance herself from high finance’s titans, Clinton is continuing to address Wall Street audiences.

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This week she’ll speak at an Ameriprise Financial conference in Boston. She’s also been booked or given paid speeches at events sponsored by Fidelity, KKR and Co., the Carlyle Groups and Goldman Sachs.

Supporters of Clinton argue there’s no need for her to change her schedule.

They say her career is highlighted with support for liberals ideals, from raising the minimum wage to improving healthcare.

Giving a speech to a financial firm means nothing in that context, said veteran Democratic strategist Robert Shurm.

“Yeah, for some there's a desire to bash banks, but they care more about raising minimum wage, making college affordable and income inequality,” Shrum said. “And for Hillary, that's the test — not whether she gave a speech for Ameriprise.”

Liberals say the problem goes beyond the speeches. They worry that if Clinton becomes president, she’ll back policies they see as having contributed to the financial crisis. They want to at least pressure Clinton to move to the left on financial issues in a Democratic primary race.

“It's not about the pure fact that she's speaking to Wall Street,” griped Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the liberal Democracy For America. “The problem is these speeches give the impression that she's still in the Wall Street wing of the party.”

Chamberlain notes that President Clinton backed the 1999 repeal of the Glass Steagall banking law requiring commercial banks to split off their investment banking operations.

Many on the left argue its repeal contributed to the financial crisis, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has championed reinstating it.

Warren has given no indication she’s interested in entering the 2016 race, but she might be the one figure on the left who could emerge as a serious challenger to Clinton.

Chamberlain said he’d like to see Clinton move toward what he called the “Warren wing” of the Democratic party.

People in Clinton’s camp scoff at such suggestions.

“Ask any so-called 'left' or 'liberal' critic of Hillary to name a single vote or position on issue on which Elizabeth Warren and Hillary would disagree,” said one Clinton political strategist. “Rhetoric is not an acceptable answer.”

Spokespersons for Clinton declined to comment for this story

Polls suggest that if Clinton enters the race for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president, she will be an overwhelming favorite.

She garnered 67 percent of Florida Democratic presidential primary voters, according to a Quinnipiac poll released last week. Warren nabbed just eight percent, as did Vice President Biden.

Republicans have signaled that they will try to tie Clinton to Wall Street if she is the Democratic Party’s nominee.

“What exactly does Hillary stand for: Main Street? Wall Street? No one knows,” mused GOP strategist Ford O'Connell. “She seems to be talking out of both sides of her mouth.”

But Shrum and others argue those attacks aren’t going to work.

Shrum noted that Barack Obama received considerable support from Wall Street during both his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, and that it didn’t prevent him from winning his party’s nomination or the White House.

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