Whether legal or not, Hillary Clinton’s deep connections with the planet’s financial elite may cast a shadow of her attempts to play the populist in the 2016 election.
Large financial backers of the Clinton Foundation charitable fund have been found among those named in the trove of leaked documents from a Swiss division of HSBC bank this week, raising questions about the integrity of such individuals and what it says about the relationships they have with the powerful Clinton family.
According to the Guardian newspaper, which broke the story, on Tuesday:
Leaked files from HSBC’s Swiss banking division reveal the identities of seven donors to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation with accounts in Geneva.
They include Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining magnate and one of the foundation’s biggest financial backers, and Richard Caring, the British retail magnate who, the bank’s internal records show, used his tax-free Geneva account to transfer $1m into the New York-based foundation.
Hillary Clinton has expressed concern over growing economic inequality in the US and is expected to make the issue a cornerstone of her widely anticipated presidential campaign in 2016. However, political observers are increasingly asking whether the former secretary of state’s focus on wealth inequality sits uncomfortably with the close relationships she and her husband have nurtured with some of the world’s richest individuals.
The newspaper notes that it is perfectly legal for citizens from around the world—including those from the U.S. and Canada—to hold bank accounts in Geneva and reports there is “no evidence any of the Clinton donors with Geneva accounts evaded tax.”
However, with Hillary Clinton now considered the Democratic Party frontrunner for 2016, the revelations may once again cast a special shadow over such dealings.
As Reuters reported last September ahead of a high-profile event for the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, “When Hillary Clinton rubs shoulders with financial executives and philanthropic giants… it will underscore the tension between her elite connections and populist image likely to feature in her expected 2016 presidential campaign.”
“If you look at her track record from the past, it is out of step with the current Democratic Party,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of liberal group Democracy For America, at the time. “Not on social issues, but definitely on economic issues, so we’re going to be watching very carefully.”
As Common Dreams reported last summer:
Clinton has been looked on with suspicion by progressives following high-paid speaking engagements with Goldman Sachs and other powerful Wall Street institutions since leaving her post at the State Department. And last month, Clinton put her weight behind the powerful biotech industry by speaking at their national conference, not only endorsing their business model but offering political advice on how to overcome public opposition to the use of genetically-modified seeds and industrial-scale, chemical-based agriculture.
Also this week, comments made by Clinton suggest her political strategy, if elected, would follow her husband’s well-worn tactic of “triangulation,” tacking to the political right as a way to curry favor with Republican and corporate interests, but doing so in a way that ameliorates the objections of progressives and liberals. Bill Clinton was famous for doing this when he passed “welfare reform” legislation and deregulated the financial industry in the nineties, both of which, according to many experts and analysts, say paved the way for the current economic crisis the country is now suffering.
Asked for comment by the Guardian about the foundation’s receipt of money from donors with Swiss bank accounts, a spokesperson for Clinton declined to comment.
“It is unclear whether the foundation has ever questioned the offshore status of supporters,” the newspaper reported, “although foundation officials stress they thoroughly vet contributors regardless of where the donation originated from.”