Does Hillary Clinton Own Wall Street?

Bloomberg takes a look at the various players in the donor class who have contributed big bucks to Hillary Clinton or her Super PACs, and they discover some interesting tidbits. For example, Clinton has talked a lot about the great risk posed by the shadow banking industry and she’s used her promise to crack down on it as a counter to Bernie Sanders’ call to break up the big institutional banks. Yet, she’s getting quite a haul of cash from the very people she’s threatening with more oversight and regulation.

Hedge funds, private equity and insurance executives, who could face greater oversight under the plan, have given a combined $24.9 million to Clinton and the super-PACs supporting her, a Bloomberg review of campaign finance records shows…

…Hedge fund operators have contributed $17.7 million toward electing Clinton, including a $7 million donation by George Soros to Priorities USA Action, the main super-PAC supporting Clinton, and $7.5 million from James Simons, the founder of Renaissance Technologies. Both Soros and Simons are long-time supporters of Democratic candidates and liberal causes, and each donated to Clinton’s 2008 presidential and 2006 Senate campaign.

Executives of the Blackstone Group LP contributed $151,000, while employees of Centerbridge Partners gave $140,000 and Oaktree Capital Management LLC, $72,000. Private equity firms have donated $6.7 million, while insurers, excluding those in the healthcare field, have contributed $515,000.

The 20 largest banks by assets — a group that includes JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group — contributed $1.1 million.

To be sure, executives from these same industries lavished significantly more money on Jeb Bush, so Clinton was initially treated as more of a hedge than a champion.

It appears now, though, that she’s probably preferred by a majority of these folks over Donald Trump.

Now, one way of looking at this is that she owes something back to these benefactors and she surely won’t go too hard on them. Why would they fund someone who would turn around and hurt their bottom line? And wouldn’t she want them to give again when the time comes to run for reelection?

That’s the conventional way of looking at this, and it could very well be completely accurate. But it would contradict what she’s been saying on the campaign trail and require her to shelve the plans she’s developed for dealing with the shadow banking industry.

A different way of looking at this is that she’s lucked out in a variety of ways and now has Wall Street by the short and curlies.

Think about it.

When she was nearly done serving as First Lady and was looking for a Senate seat, it was dumb luck that Patrick Moynihan of New York had made the decision to retire. She could have been the senator from Illinois or even, maybe, Arkansas. But it was New York that offered the opportunity to serve in the Senate, and that gave her the chance to build relationships and trust with Wall Street.

From that experience, she gained an advantage because Wall Street didn’t treat her as a pariah of a presidential candidate who must be destroyed at all costs. They treated her as a reasonable and acceptable second choice whose main downside wasn’t anything personal but more that the Republicans are always offering a better deal.

Wall Street can be the most lethal of adversaries, and neutering them is a boon to any Democratic contender. Their money doesn’t hurt, either.

The next piece of luck was her timing. Because Wall Street’s champion, Jeb Bush, was a complete non-starter with the Republican base in this election cycle, she went from having a massively funded opponent to having one whose operation is basically a couple of floors in Trump Tower and little else.

And that opponent was the last piece of luck, because his hostility to immigration and free trade is so pronounced that he’s a complete non-starter on Wall Street. Whatever Clinton does will look lenient by comparison. And that’s not even getting into rational assessments of their understanding of the financial sector, the prospect of trade wars, and other insanity offered by Trump that is anathema to all thinking people.

The result is that Clinton can do pretty much whatever she wants to Wall Street and still have their support, at least in the near term. She’ll still have to worry about 2020 should the Republican base suddenly decide that they want another Romney or Bush.

I can’t predict what Clinton will do, but she sure has a much freer hand to do what she thinks is right than most people in her position ever enjoy.

It’s true, she’s taken a lot of money from the people she promises to rein in, but it looks like she owns them a lot more than they own her.

It’d be nice if she acts that way once in office.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.