Flashback: Elizabeth Warren Tells a Story About Hillary Clinton, Wall Street and Lobbying

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At Saturday night’s Democratic debate, Face the Nation anchor John Dickerson asked Hillary Clinton whether she would be unduly influenced by the large campaign donations she receives from Wall Street. She responded that their support was due to her commitment to rebuilding after the 9/11 attacks. “I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked,” Clinton said. “Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York.”

The next day, International Business Times’ David Sirota and Andrew Perez reported that Hillary Clinton already was a top recipient of Wall Street cash before 9/11:

In her 2000 U.S. Senate race, Clinton vacuumed in more than $1.1 million from the securities and investment industry, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That made her the third-largest recipient of Wall Street money of any member of Congress or congressional candidate running in that entire election cycle, which concluded 10 months before 9/11.

Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders told CNN that Clinton’s answer was absurd. “The truth is Hillary Clinton and all of us in the Congress did everything that we could to try to rebuild New York City after that devastating attack,” he said. “But that has nothing to do with the question of the impact of Wall Street campaign contributions on her views on Wall Street.”

The exchange reminded us of a 2004 NOW interview with Elizabeth Warren. Before becoming the senior senator from Massachusetts, then-Harvard Law professor Warren joined Bill to discuss the problems facing middle-class Americans, and how “beholden” legislators may not always have their best interests in mind.

In this clip, Warren recounts a meeting she had with first lady Hillary Clinton in the late 1990s, Clinton’s position on bankruptcy legislation at that time, and how everything changed after she became a New York senator.

Warren had written an editorial about a piece of bankruptcy legislation that she opposed. Then-First Lady Hillary Clinton read it and asked for a meeting to discuss the bill and Warren’s research, which showed that it would disproportionately affect women and children. After the meeting, Mrs. Clinton went back to the White House and the Clinton Administration reversed its position on the bill. President Clinton eventually vetoed it, and in her autobiography, Hillary Clinton took credit for preventing the bankruptcy bill from passage.

But then Hillary Clinton became a senator. Warren describes what happened when the bankruptcy bill again came before the Senate shortly after Clinton was elected:

ELIZABETH WARREN: She voted in favor of it.


ELIZABETH WARREN: As Senator Clinton, the pressures are very different. It’s a well-financed industry. You know a lot of people don’t realize that the industry that gave the most money to Washington over the past few years was not the oil industry, was not pharmaceuticals. It was consumer credit products. Those are the people. The credit card companies have been giving money, and they have influence.

BILL MOYERS: And Mrs. Clinton was one of them as senator.

ELIZABETH WARREN: She has taken money from the groups, and more to the point, she worries about them as a constituency.

BILL MOYERS: But what does this mean though to these people, these millions of people out there whom the politicians cavort in front of as favoring the middle class, and then are beholden to the powerful interests that undermine the middle class? What does this say about politics today?

ELIZABETH WARREN: You know this is the scary part about democracy today. It’s… We’re talking again about the impact of money. The credit industry on this bankruptcy bill has spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying, and as their profits grow, they just throw more into lobbying for how they can get laws that will make it easier and easier and easier to drain money out of the pockets of middle class families.

  [2/7/2016 Update: Hillary Clinton responded to Senator Warren’s story Sunday morning on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Clinton said that she voted for the 2001 bankruptcy legislation because she was able to get an amendment into the bill that protected the child support or alimony payments for single mothers. As part of that deal, she says, she had to vote for the bill. You can read Clinton’s entire response at ABC News and watch the video clip at Mediate.]

Watch the full interview in which Warren talked about America’s “invisible crisis;” how increasing expenses, such as mortgages, health insurance and child care, were forcing the middle class to borrow too much money.

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