In 2010, the Supreme Court sanctioned Citizens United vs. FEC, which essentially declared that non-profit (and later for-profit) organizations were allowed to spend as much money on a political candidate as they wanted and that the government trying to restrict them was an infringement upon their 1st Amendment rights. This opened the floodgates for massive corporate donations and helped bring about Super PACs (political action committees that are officially called “independent-expenditure only committees), which can raise huge funds. Since then, various individuals, including Hillary Clinton and other prominent members of the Democratic Party, have called for its repeal, claiming that corporate funding leads to corruption (especially among Republicans).
Bernie Sanders has now turned that narrative around, claiming that the speeches Hillary did after retiring as Secretary of State show she’s been corrupted. Millions of other people, including his supporters, independent reporters, and the mainstream media, have glommed onto this assumption, especially since she won’t release the transcripts of her speeches. Even though she and her husband have released 30 years of tax returns and numerous investigations have shown no evidence of corruption, the accusation persists. People have even begun to claim that actual evidence is unnecessary because it is impossible for anyone to receive corporate donations without being corrupted. According to this thought process, the only way to avoid corporate corruption is to never accept corporate donations and eschew Super PACs entirely.
Essentially, people are claiming that Hillary is guilty by association. It doesn’t matter that she’s never switched a vote for corporate interests or engaged in nepotism. It doesn’t matter that she received money for a job (which is the way jobs work) and is a highly ethical and conscientious individual. The only thing that matters is that Wall Street has donated to her.
This is illogical at best, especially given Hillary’s efforts to curtail Wall Street in 2007, her support of the Dodd-Frank act, her efforts to save the economy during the recession, and her numerous calls to overturn Citizens United. Since when is guilty by association valid? Is every employee at Goldman Sachs guilty of corruption? Is every politician who’s accepted donations through Super PACs corrupt? What about non-profits that have accepted donations from Walmart, Coca-Cola, and other major corporations? Is every politician who’s paid for an ad, commercial, or other form of advertising corrupt? Are they corrupt if they ask for money from people? Get paid a salary? Where do we draw the line?
I think it’s reasonable to track Hillary’s finances and votes and see if she’s guilty of corruption. I think it’s reasonable to call her 2008 attacks on Obama for his use of corporate donations hypocritical. I think it’s reasonable to continue to try to overturn Citizens United and decrease the money spent in politics. I don’t think it’s reasonable to claim Hillary’s been corrupted when there is no evidence of it.
So if people are going to claim the donations have corrupted her, they must show evidence of it. They must provide at least a tenuous quid pro quo. If they can’t, this is just a witch hunt – all fear and paranoia divorced from reality.