Once a narrative is written down it can never be unwritten.
During this current political cycle, we've seen our mainstream media flock to whichever narrative most helps their business model. On the Republican side, that narrative has focused on whether or not anyone can stop Donald Trump from clinching the nomination. By giving a candidate like Trump his own free platform, our media is helping to give rise to an authoritarian whose ascension to power and political views have given birth to a 21st century version of fascism here in America and has subsequently rocked the GOP establishment to its core. This narrative now has centered on former two-time presidential candidate Mitt Romney and whether his efforts can help unite the party against Trump or whether that train has simply got too much horsepower to be stopped. The latest twist in this narrative has now become whether or not Ted Cruz can be the one candidate to unite Republicans against Donald Trump or if we will simply be headed to a Cleveland convention where all hell will break loose.
On the Democratic side, the narrative has centered on an upstart Bernie Sanders and whether or not he can derail Hillary Clinton's "inevitable" nomination. This narrative has continued to be front and center despite the fact that Sanders sold out for political advancement, was openly supported by the NRA for his first successful congressional run, has a clouded civil rights record, has advocated for environmental racism against a poor Latino town in Texas, and has closer ties to Wall Street than his campaign would like to admit. However, the mainstream media refuses to bring up these issues because they are determined to have a horse race even though Sanders is essentially a single-issue candidate who can't connect with people of color, whose rationale for his campaign has run contrary to the results thus far, and whose policy goals for a "political revolution" have already been set in place by the man currently occupying the White House. Yet despite all this, as well as Sanders having no clear path to victory, the mainstream media is doing its darndest to convince the American public that this race is far from over.
Because an uncontested primary doesn't sell advertising dollars.
So any little shred of controversy that may bring drama into either presidential primary race is top-flight news. Thanks to the constant verbal diarrhea of Donald Trump, the Republican primary has had plenty of cringe-worthy moments that have been outright embarrassing to the country as a whole, but have been financially fantastic to the mainstream media. However, on the Democratic side we've had two professional candidates who have had the gall to engage in civilized political discourse about actual issues and problems facing our country. It might be all well and good for the intellectual class in this country, but it doesn't make for must-see-TV. So our media focuses on obscure bits of information that help to reinforce negative stereotypes that people may already have of the candidates. Fortunately with Hillary Clinton, they have twenty-five years of smears to choose from to help add drama to an otherwise drama-free presidential primary. Since the vast majority of those smears have been proven false, the media has been forced to turn to conservative Glenn Greenwald and his Intercept website where in January it was reported that Clinton gave paid speeches to a variety of institutions including (gasp!) Wall Street banks.
Now of course anyone with the simple use of a computer could come to find out that many former public officials have spoken on Wall Street including former Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Madeleine Albright, and James Baker. So that forced the media's "gotcha" moment to then become the fact that Clinton was paid $225,000 per speech. However, as anyone with half a brain knows, there's an economic concept called supply and demand where the rarer something is, the more willing someone is willing to pay for it. Therefore, it is both logical and appropriate that a woman who has been the most admired in the world a record twenty times, would receive a generous amount for coming and speaking to various organizations. However, the media was already pot-committed on the speeches being a big deal so their third attempt at drawing up controversy became if Hillary Clinton would release the speeches she gave, specifically the ones she gave to high-end investment banking firm Goldman Sachs. Despite the request, Clinton has refused to release the transcripts of her speeches on the grounds that none of her Republican opponents have been asked to do so although there also exists the likely probability that she may not be legally able to release them due to a signed agreement with Goldman Sachs.
Yet this current media controversy seemed to strike a chord because it created doubt in Hillary Clinton's character and, more importantly, her inevitability as the Democratic nominee. Bernie Sanders, who in September promised he wouldn't be attacking Hillary Clinton, has now worked the very notion of the transcripts into his stump speech as a way to insinuate that Clinton is dishonest and in the pocket of Wall Street. Both Republicans and Bernie Sanders supporters (essentially doing Karl Rove's dirty work for him) have used the issue of the transcripts both as a way to prove that Clinton can be bought and that she is a dishonest politician. They cite the fact that Goldman Sachs has given a total of over $800,000 to Clinton throughout her political career as a way to show that if elected Clinton would certainly be beholden to groups like Goldman Sachs that would help to get her elected in the first place. For an American public that still resents Wall Street for its role in the 2007 financial crisis, the notion that a presidential candidate can be bought and sold is one that seemingly tugs at the heart strings.
But is Hillary Clinton truly bought and sold?
The numbers seem to tell a different story. In fact, the numbers do not differentiate Hillary Clinton from many other candidates who run for all levels of government. Let's take a look at her top ten contributors during her time in the Senate from the website opensecrets.org, keeping in mind that these numbers focus on the 2002, 2004, and 2006 campaign finance cycles:
Organization Total Individual Donations PAC Donations
1. Emily's List $939,881 $930,961 $8,920
2. Citigroup Inc $883,547 $875,547 $8,000
3. DLA Piper $847,930 $820,930 $27,000
4. Goldman Sachs $821,031 $811,031 $10,000
5. JPMorgan Chase $771,111 $768,111 $3,000
6. Morgan Stanley $754,538 $749,538 $5,000
7. University of CA $608,858 $608,858 $0
8. Time Warner $591,524 $566,524 $25,000
9. Skadden, Arps et al $522,688 $518,188 $4,500
10. Corning Inc $492,750 $474,750 $18,000
As we look at this list, several key points should jump out at you. First off, Goldman Sachs is not Hillary Clinton's top campaign contributor. In fact, it is ranked fourth. And of that $821,031, just over 57% ($468,990) was raised for Hillary Clinton's three separate senatorial campaigns in the state of New York with the rest coming as a contribution to her 2008 presidential run. So on the surface it would appear at least that Goldman Sachs is specifically targeting Clinton with its financial contributions. However, during the time Clinton was in the Senate she was joined by fellow New York senator Chuck Schumer. During that same six-year window, Schumer received a whopping $810,680 from Goldman Sachs, or nearly 73% more than Hillary Clinton. It would appear that during this time, Goldmach Sachs felt that if anyone would have their best interests at heart, it would have been Senator Schumer rather than Secretary Clinton.
In addition to Goldman Sachs only three other New York-based financial institutions are among Hillary Clinton's top ten campaign contributors: Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase & Company, and Morgan Stanley. During that same six-year window that Clinton and Schumer co-represented their state in the Senate, Schumer received 15% more donations from Citigroup ($624,566 versus $542,660), 54% more donations from JP Morgan Chase & Company ($441,450 versus $238,465), and 67% more from Morgan Stanley ($358,550 versus $238,465). And so, once again it would appear that not only is Hillary Clinton not the top national choice of Wall Street but in her time in the senate she wasn't even the top statewide choice of these financial institutions who could allegedly purchase a politician's influence at the drop of a hat.
Another important idea to keep in mind when analyzing campaign contributions is that individual donors must list their employers and that contribution is then put under the umbrella of the individual's employer. For example, only $10,000 of Hillary Clinton's contributions come from a PAC set up by Goldman Sachs while $821,031 came from individuals who work for the company. In fact, during Hillary Clinton's time in the Senate, 93% of her campaign contributions came from individuals rather than corporations. This seems to run contrary to the narrative that Hillary Clinton may be bought and sold by a handful of millionaires and billionaires. So the question then becomes, why do these individuals support the candidates that they do? And, to broaden that question, why would the companies that they work for prefer certain candidates over others?
The reason is simple: These companies want to back a winner.
In 2004, Morgan Stanley was president George W. Bush's top campaign contributor; Goldman Sachs was 6th and Citigroup was 8th. In 2008 in a tightly contested Democratic primary Barack Obama's second biggest campaign donor was Goldman Sachs with JP Morgan Chase & Company fifth and Morgan Stanley 20th. Hillary Clinton, the early favorite, was supported by the same four companies that had helped her throughout her New York Senate career: her third biggest contributor was JP Morgan Chase & Company, Goldman Sachs was fourth, Citigroup was fifth, and Morgan Stanley was sixth. However in 2012 top top financial companies mistakenly backed Mitt Romney with Goldman Sachs being his top campaign contributor, Morgan Stanley third, and JP Morgan Chase & Company fourth. Why would these companies have moved away from supporting Barack Obama in 2008 but supporting his opponent in 2012? Is it because they didn't think he could win reelection? Or was it because they knew that Barack Obama could not be bought as evidenced by his 2008 win with their support and his subsequent rigorous financial reform law through the signing of the Dodd-Frank Act as president?
Let's fast forward to the 2016 election cycle. Currently Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase & Company, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley are not even in Hillary Clinton's top-twenty contributors. However what you will find in that list are villainous organizations that want Clinton to do their bidding such as The Women's Self Worth Foundation, the Operating Engineers Union, Fair Share Action, the Center for Middle East Peace, and the American Federation of Teachers among others. Somehow that little nugget of information seems to be missing from mainstream media news coverage of this story. Because heaven forbid Hillary Clinton be bought and sold by organizations who want fair treatment for its members and better wages and working conditions for its members. If the media is right, if Hillary truly is corrupt and easily influenced by her campaign contributions, then I for one am thrilled at the kind of country we are likely to have under President Hillary Clinton.
The truth is that Wall Street is in the business of speculation and part of that speculation is predicting who can best be in office to help their businesses succeed. It is why they backed George W. Bush's reelection effort in 2004 and why they backed Hillary Clinton early on in 2008 before switching over to Barack Obama. It is why in 2012 they felt that Mitt Romney's lack of regulation would be much more beneficial to them as a whole rather than Barack Obama's tough stance on financial regulations. And it is why in 2016 they are not backing Hillary Clinton because they know she truly as the most comprehensive plan of any candidate to reign in Wall Street and that she is a woman who will follow through on her word contrary to how the media chooses to portray her.
Because saying Hillary Clinton is bought and sold by Wall Street has, and will continue to be, a direct assault on her character rather than her history. The media won't say that she wasn't influenced by Wall Street during her time as United States senator. The media won't say that Wall Street corporations aren't contributing to her 2016 campaign. They'll instead continue to promote the fictional narrative that Hillary Clinton can be bought and sold by big business. That fictional narrative serves to provide commentary for the talking heads on television and, more importantly, gives Bernie Sanders an opportunity to do something, anything, to try and make the Democratic primary competitive until the convention. If the networks can provide even a sliver of doubt regarding Hillary Clinton's eventual nomination then they will do whatever they can to place that seed of doubt into America's collective conscious.
Even if it requires constructing a completely false narrative to do so.
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