Hillary's Money Problem

The news that Hillary Clinton had "loaned" her campaign $5 million sent shockwaves through the commentariat. It was not good news for her, assuredly. It shows a lack of enthusiasm for her campaign. It shows a lack of good fiscal management that undercuts her claims to super-competence. And, given the way the press corps tends to focus on such things, it makes it almost impossible for her to get any other message out this week through the press corps. (The only other way to deliver a message – paid advertising – only accentuates the financial problem that required the loan in the first place.) But, the real problem with the loan is elsewhere. When justifying the loan, Hillary said that the results from Super Tuesday "proved the wisdom of my investment." The verbiage of the market – "loans" and "investment" – do not fit neatly with the language of democracy. The market is where people go to buy and sell goods and services, and it is very efficient at this exchange. But, the public trust cannot be for sale. When it is sold, we call that corruption. In the event, there are two types of corruption at work here, neither of the type that will land you in jail, but neither of which Hillary wants to engage in either. First, ideological corruption. Republicans tout market solutions to government problems. They support "competition" as a means to fix failing schools, not Democrats. Republicans believe that the market should regulate itself, not the government. Yet, on health care, Democrats believe correctly that the market has failed. Democrats do not believe that children and schools should have to "compete" for resources. And, given the environmental challenges we face, Democrats believe government regulation is not only advisable but necessary. Romney can self-finance without contradicting his view of the role of personal finances and government, but it is a much harder sell for a Democrat. When Hillary uses the language of the market to discuss her campaign finances, she forfeits the language that Democrats do like to attach to their candidacies. Grass-roots support. Coalition building. A candidate who cares about people like me. These are the things a campaign wants to discuss, but sitting down to write a check for $5 million – indeed, even being able to write such a check – throws all this out the window. Then there is the other corruption, the corruption of power, the corruption that awarded Bill and Hillary outrageous speaking fees and huge book advances. For what? Did anyone really read either of their memoirs from start to finish? And some of Clinton’s financial efforts appear even sketchier. There is some debate about the propriety of these matters, but even if they are totally legitimate, they are not what Hillary wants to spend the rest of February discussing. And, until yesterday, they were largely irrelevant. Not anymore. If Bill’s profits from Kazakhstan are going to be funding television ads in Virginia, we have a right to know all about it. Michael Sean Winters
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