On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton has repeatedly said she will stand up to big banks, drug companies and other special interests. “Democracy can’t just be for billionaires and corporations,” she proclaims.
But she has struggled to answer questions about her ties to Wall Street, telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper Wednesday night she accepted $675,000 in speaking fees from one investment bank because “that’s what they offered” and that financial firms are not giving her “very much money now.” In fact, as new campaign disclosure reports filed this week reveal, Clinton has been fueled by millions from a network of well-connected Washington lobbyists, Wall Street bundlers and billionaire donors.
Here is a Yahoo News guide to some of the key players in Clinton’s $157 million campaign:
A savvy political operative who was once chief of staff to Democratic Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, Elmendorf now runs Subject Matter, a go-to Democratic lobbying firm for corporate interests, raking more than $10 million in fees last year. Among its top clients: Wall Street banks (Goldman Sachs and Citigroup), the casino industry (the American Gaming Association), telecoms (Verizon and Time Warner), tech firms (Facebook and Microsoft), agribusiness (Monsanto) and the NFL.
The superlobbyist brother of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, he runs Podesta Group — a powerhouse firm for defense contractors (Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Bechtel), pharmaceutical and health insurance giants (Merck and Blue Cross-Blue Shield) and banking and private equity firms (Well Fargo, Credit Suisse Group, KKR). Podesta has used his D.C. mansion, famously decorated with expensive modern art, to host a Clinton fundraiser (offering fine Italian cooking by him and his brother) as well as a book party for Clinton super-PAC attack dog David Brock (co-hosted by Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias and Clinton email pal Sidney Blumenthal.) Another branch of Podesta’s portfolio: foreign governments, including several — Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Burma and the Maldives — accused by the State Department of human rights abuses. A new senior partner working on the firm’s new $1.68 million a year Saudi account: David Adams, former assistant secretary for legislative affairs while Clinton was secretary of state.
The stylish ex-wife of Tony Podesta, who battled with him over the expensive art in their home during a messy divorce, she runs her own rival firm, Heather Podesta & Partners. It raked in $7.5 million last year lobbying for MacAndrews & Forbes (the Wall Street investment firm owned by billionaire Ronald Perelman) as well as Marathon Oil, the Cigna Corp. and the National Pork Producers Council, among others. But one of her new clients has raised the most eyebrows: the National Cannabis Industry Association, making her the pot lobbyist in chief on Capitol Hill.
Sullivan is the former DNC finance chair who first got attention as the supervisor of John Huang, the fundraiser convicted of campaign finance violations during Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection. Sullivan, who is Clinton’s most prolific Lobbyist bundler, now is a partner at Capitol Counsel, which specializes in protecting tax breaks for private equity and real estate investment firms (Blackstone, Beacon Capitol Partners and the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.) Other big clients include the PhRMA, the drug industry’s lobbying arm, and two of its leading members (Roche Holdings and Amgen.) Sullivan recently dropped one of his clients, a firm that electronically monitors prison inmates, after Clinton met with a racial justice group and said she would not take money from lobbyists for private prison companies. Sullivan’s partner at his lobbying firm, David Jones, another longtime Democratic fundraiser, has bundled another $386,000.
When the former Indiana Democratic senator announced his retirement in 2010, he bemoaned the “corrosive” impact of money in politics. But since then, Bayh has become a K Street fixture as a “strategic adviser” to the business clients of McGuireWoods, the legal, lobbying and fundraising juggernaut that represents Exxon Mobil, Duke Energy and the National Association of Manufacturers, among others. Bayh, who hosted a fundraiser for Clinton at the McGuireWoods K St. office last spring, also serves as a strategic adviser to Apollo Management, the Wall Street private equity firm (which paid Clinton $225,000 for a speech after she left office.) Two of his McGuireWoods colleagues, Andrew Smith and former South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges, are also bundlers who have raised $240,000 for the Clinton campaign while lobbying for clients that include Smithfield Foods (now owned by the Chinese-based Shuanghui Group) and Dandong Port Group, a Hong Kong-registered port and grain importing firm owned by secretive Chinese billionaire Wenliang Wang, who has donated $2 million to the Clinton Foundation.
After serving as Hillary Clinton’s deputy secretary of state, Nides returned through the Wall Street revolving door to become vice chairman of Morgan Stanley. A top Clinton bundler, he has helped raise $205,198 from the investment bank’s executives and employees, including donations from the firm’s chief operating officer, its chiefs of fixed income and wealth management, two managing directors and four members of its board of directors. Morgan Stanley, which last year agreed to pay a $2.6 billion fine to settle U.S. government claims over its role in the 2008 financial crisis, has donated $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation. It also paid Hillary Clinton $225,000 for a speech in 2013, two and a half months afar she stepped down as secretary of state.
He is the chairman of Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street colossus that last month agreed to pay a $5.1 billion fine to settle a Justice Department investigation for its role in marketing subprime mortgage bonds in the runup to the 2008 financial crisis. Among the Goldman executives who helped Blankfein’s firm profit from the crash: Donald Mullen, the former chief of its credit department, who last year made a $1 million donation to Clinton’s super-PAC, Priorities USA Action. “Sounds like we will make some serious money,” Mullen wrote in an email in the fall of 2007, after learning the subprime mortgage market was about to crash, according to a 2011 Senate report. The firm has also been the single biggest source of funds for Hillary Clinton’s post-government speaking career, paying her $625,000 for three speeches since she stepped down as secretary of state in 2012. Blankfein so far has been sitting out the 2016 race. “I don’t want to help or hurt anybody by giving them an endorsement,” he said in a rare TV interview this week. But his wife, Laura, gave the legal maximum of $2,700 to Clinton, and Blankfein, in his interview this week, said that Sanders’ candidacy has “the potential to be a dangerous moment.” Goldman Sachs’ ties to the Clintons have been personal and political: Goldman’s executives and employees have contributed $750,000 to Clinton’s political campaigns, including $100,616 to this year’s run. The firm itself has donated at least $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation and paid $1.2 million to Bill Clinton for speeches dating back to 2001. Blankfein, who has described himself as a friend of Hillary Clinton, has lent a helping financial hand to the Clinton family: He (along with two other former Goldman executives) is among the investors in Eaglevale Partners, the hedge fund founded in 2011 by Marc Mezvinsky, husband of Chelsea Clinton, and the former secretary’s son in law.
A billionaire hedge fund kingpin, co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucs and avid high-stakes poker player (for stakes as much as $20,000 a hand) Lasry is among Clinton’s most steadfast Wall Street backers, with close personal ties to her family. He has donated between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation, hired Chelsea Clinton at his Avenue Capital hedge fund, invested (along with Blankfein) in son-in-law Mezvinsky’s fund and made his corporate jet available to Clinton while she was senator. When Clinton launched her campaign last year, Lasry threw one of the initial fundraisers, sending out an email saying he would “love to try to raise 270” — as in $270,000.
The former right-wing journalist now runs an interlocking network of pro-Clinton nonprofits and super-PACs informally known as “Brocktopus.” One of Brock’s arms is Correct the Record, a super-PAC that has collected $3.4 million from wealthy donors while openly proclaiming its intention to coordinate with the Clinton campaign — an arrangement that some experts say may violate campaign finance law. (The Clinton campaign has made two payments to Brock’s super-PAC totaling $281,000 for “research.”) The Brock super-PAC, which received a $1 million infusion from allied pro-Clinton super-PAC Priorities USA Action last December, was the first to raise questions about Bernie Sanders’ medical records; Correct the Record was also recently outed for offering “off the record” tips about Sanders to a Vermont newspaper. Brock’s ties to the Clinton world are close and multilayered: When he held the book party for his tome, “Kill the Messenger,” last September at the home of Clinton bundler Tony Podesta (see the K Street Army), the co-hosts included Marc Elias, chief counsel for the Clinton campaign, who also serves as the lawyer for Correct the Record and allied Democratic super-PACs, and Sidney Blumenthal, Clinton’s most prolific email correspondent, who was being paid by another Brock outfit, Media Matters, as well as the Clinton Foundation.
The billionaire Hungarian-born hedge fund investor has been among the biggest donors to Democratic causes for years but has recently stepped up his game for Clinton. New disclosure reports show he cut a $6 million check last December to Priorities USA Action — the main super-PAC backing her candidacy. That’s on top of another $1 million check to Priorities earlier in the year as well as $1 million to American Bridge 21st Century, an allied super-PAC run by David Brock (see above). An insight into Soros’ thinking was revealed in a State Department email in which a Clinton ally described a conversation in which Soros said “he has been impressed that he can always call/meet with you on an issue of policy” and that he regretted backing then-Sen. Barack Obama over her in 2008. Other million-dollar donors to Priorities: Hollywood moguls Stephen Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, Wall Street heavyweights Donald Mullen (a former Goldman Sachs executive) and Donald Sussman and investor Haim Saban (see below).
A one-time bass guitarist in an Israeli rock band, multibillionaire Los Angeles-based tycoon Saban — who is best known for creating the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers — may be Clinton’s most generous and committed superdonor: He proclaimed last year he would spend “whatever it takes” to elect her president. But Saban, who has donated $10 million to the Clinton Foundation and whose wife serves on its board, may be in a position to help her candidacy in other ways: He isprincipal owner and CEO of Univision, the largest Spanish-language media organization in the country.
Dennis Cheng is the silent chief of the Clinton fundraising operation — the national finance director who is almost never seen in public and refuses to talk to reporters. Cheng joined the campaign after serving for four years as chief fundraiser for the Clinton Foundation, where he collected hundreds of millions of dollars from overseas donors that have generated intense media scrutiny and allegations of conflict of interest for Clinton. Cheng’s ties to Clinton go way back: He started as an intern during her 2000 Senate run, gradually moving up to become her finance director while she was in the Senate, then moving with her to the State Department as deputy chief of protocol.
· * Bundlers raise “hard money” to Clinton’s campaign in individual checks that, under federal law, are limited to $2,700 apiece. Super-PACs are permitted to raise sums from donations in unlimited amounts.
Total includes $2.5 million donated by his wife, Cheryl Saban.