Hillary: The Corporate Candidate?
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
In a packed ballroom in midtown Manhattan, Hillary Clinton is addressing hundreds of civil rights activists and labor leaders convened by the Rev. Al Sharpton for his annual National Action Network conference. The junior senator from New York starts slowly but picks up steam when she hits on the economic anxiety many in the room feel. "We're not making progress," she says, her sharp Midwestern monotone accented with a bit of Southern twang. "Wages are flat." Nods of agreement. "This economy is not working!" Applause. She's not quite the rhetorical populist her husband was on the campaign trail, but she can still feel your pain. "Everything has been skewed," Clinton says, jabbing her index finger for emphasis, "to help the privileged and the powerful at the expense of everybody else!"
It's a rousing speech, though ultimately not very convincing. If Clinton really wanted to curtail the influence of the powerful, she might start with the advisers to her own campaign, who represent some of the weightiest interests in corporate America. Her chief strategist, Mark Penn, not only polls for America's biggest companies but also runs one of the world's premier PR agencies. A bevy of current and former Hillary advisers, including her communications guru, Howard Wolfson, are linked to a prominent lobbying and PR firm -- the Glover Park Group -- that has cozied up to the pharmaceutical industry and Rupert Murdoch. Her fundraiser in chief, Terry McAuliffe, has the priciest Rolodex in Washington, luring high-rolling contributors to Clinton's campaign. Her husband, since leaving the presidency, has made millions giving speeches and counsel to investment banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. They house, in addition to other Wall Street firms, the Clintons' closest economic advisers, such as Bob Rubin and Roger Altman, whose DC brain trust, the Hamilton Project, is Clinton's economic team in waiting. Even the liberal in her camp, former deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes, has lobbied for the telecom and healthcare industries, including a for-profit nursing home association indicted in Texas for improperly funneling money to disgraced former House majority leader Tom DeLay.
"She's got a deeper bench of big money and corporate supporters than her competitors," says Eli Attie, a former speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore. Not only is Hillary more reliant on large donations and corporate money than her Democratic rivals, but advisers in her inner circle are closely affiliated with unionbusters, GOP operatives, conservative media and other Democratic Party antagonists.
It's not exactly an advertisement for the working-class hero, or a picture her campaign freely displays. Her lengthy support for the Iraq War is Clinton's biggest liability in Democratic primary circles. But her ties to corporate America say as much, if not more, about what she values and cast doubt on her ability and willingness to fight for the progressive policies she claims to champion. She is "running to help and restore the great middle class in our country," Wolfson says. So was Bill in 1992. He was for "putting people first." Then he entered the White House and pushed for NAFTA, signed welfare reform, consolidated the airwaves through the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (leading to Clear Channel's takeover) and cleared the mergers of mega-banks. Would the First Lady do any different?
Ever since the defeat of healthcare reform, Hillary has been a committed incrementalist, describing herself as a creature of the "moderate, sensible center" whom business admires and rewards. During her six years in the Senate, she's rarely been out front on difficult economic issues. Given her proximity to money and power, it's not hard to figure out why she keeps controversial figures close to her -- even if their work becomes a liability for her campaign.
After the 1994 election, Democrats had just lost both houses of Congress, and President Clinton was floundering in the polls. At the urging of his wife, he turned to Dick Morris, a friend from their time in Arkansas. Morris brought in two pollsters from New York, Doug Schoen and his partner, Mark Penn, a portly, combative workaholic. Morris decided what to poll and Penn polled it. They immediately pushed Clinton to the right, enacting the now-infamous strategy of "triangulation," which co-opted Republican policies like welfare reform and tax cuts and emphasized small-bore issues that supposedly cut across the ideological divide. "They were the ones who said, 'Make the '96 election about nothing except V-chips and school uniforms,'" says a former adviser to Bill. When Morris got caught with a call girl, Penn became the most important adviser in Clinton's second term. "In a White House where polling is virtually a religion," the Washington Post reported in 1996, "Penn is the high priest."
Penn, who had previously worked in the business world for companies like Texaco and Eli Lilly, brought his corporate ideology to the White House. After moving to Washington he aggressively expanded his polling firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland (PSB). It was said that Penn was the only person who could get Bill Clinton and Bill Gates on the same line. Penn's largest client was Microsoft, and he saw no contradiction between working for both the plaintiff and the defense in what was at the time the country's largest antitrust case. A variety of controversial clients enlisted PSB. The firm defended Procter & Gamble's Olestra from charges that the food additive caused anal leakage, blamed Texaco's bankruptcy on greedy jurors and market-tested genetically modified foods for Monsanto. PSB introduced to consulting the concept of "inoculation": shielding corporations from scandal through clever advertising and marketing.
In 2000 Penn became the chief architect of Hillary's Senate victory in New York, persuading her, in a rerun of '96, to eschew big themes and relentlessly focus on poll-tested pothole politics, such as suburban transit lines and dairy farming upstate. Following that election, Penn became a very rich man -- and an even more valued commodity in the business world (Hillary paid him $1 million for her re-election campaign in '06 and $277,000 in the first quarter of this year). The massive PR empire WPP Group acquired Penn's polling firm for an undisclosed sum in 2001 and four years later named him worldwide CEO of one of its most prized properties, the PR firm Burson-Marsteller (B-M).
A key player in the decision to hire Penn was Howard Paster, President Clinton's chief lobbyist to Capitol Hill and an influential presence inside WPP. "Clients of stature come to Mark constantly for counsel," says Paster, who informally advises Hillary, explaining the hire. The press release announcing Penn's promotion noted his work "developing and implementing deregulation informational programs for the electric utilities industry and in the financial services sector." The release blithely ignored how utility deregulation contributed to the California electricity crisis manipulated by Enron and the blackout of 2003, which darkened much of the Northeast and upper Midwest.
Burson-Marsteller is hardly a natural fit for a prominent Democrat. The firm has represented everyone from the Argentine military junta to Union Carbide after the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India, in which thousands were killed when toxic fumes were released by one of its plants, to Royal Dutch Shell, which has been accused of colluding with the Nigerian government in committing major human rights violations. B-M pioneered the use of pseudo-grassroots front groups, known as "astroturfing," to wage stealth corporate attacks against environmental and consumer groups. It set up the National Smokers Alliance on behalf of Philip Morris to fight tobacco regulation in the early 1990s. Its current clients include major players in the finance, pharmaceutical and energy industries. In 2006, with Penn at the helm, the company gave 57 percent of its campaign contributions to Republican candidates.
A host of prominent Republicans fall under Penn's purview. B-M's Washington lobbying arm, BKSH & Associates, is run by Charlie Black, a leading GOP operative who maintains close ties to the White House, including Karl Rove, and was a partner with Lee Atwater, the consultant who crafted the Willie Horton smear campaign for George H.W. Bush in 1988. In recent years Black's clients have included the likes of Iraq's Ahmad Chalabi, the darling of the neocon right in the run-up to the war; Lockheed Martin; and Occidental Petroleum. In 2005 he landed a contract with the Lincoln Group, the disgraced PR firm that covertly placed US military propaganda in Iraqi news outlets.
Black is only one cannon in B-M's Republican arsenal. Its "grassroots" lobbying branch, Direct Impact -- which specializes in corporate-funded astroturfing -- is run by Dennis Whitfield, a former Reagan Cabinet official, and Dave DenHerder, the political director of the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign in Ohio. That's not all. B-M recently partnered with lobbyist Ed Gillespie, the former head of the Republican National Committee, in creating the new ad firm 360Advantage, run by two admen for the Bush/Cheney campaigns. Its first project was a campaign against "liberal bias" in the media for the neoconservative Weekly Standard magazine.
As expected with such a lineup, B-M has a highly confrontational relationship with organized labor. "Companies cannot be caught unprepared by Organized Labor's coordinated campaigns," read the "Labor Relations" section of its website, describing that branch of the company (the section was altered after The American Prospect quoted it in March).
Back in 2003, two large unions, UNITE (which later merged with the hotel and restaurant union, HERE) and the Teamsters, launched a major drive to organize 32,000 garment workers and truck drivers at Cintas, the country's largest and most profitable uniform and laundry supply company (it posted $3.4 billion in sales and $327 million in profits last year). Its longtime CEO, Richard Farmer, was a mega-fundraising "Pioneer" for George W. Bush. Cintas was sued for overcharging consumers and denying workers overtime pay -- it settled both cases out of court -- and was ordered by a California superior court to give employees $1.4 million for not paying them a living wage.
It has also maintained unsafe working conditions (an employee in Tulsa died recently when caught in a 300-degree dryer) and, according to union officials, has used any means necessary to block the organizing drive. According to worker complaints documented by the unions, management fired employees on false grounds, vowed to close plants and screened antiunion videos. A plant manager in Vista, California, threatened to "kick driver-employees with his steel-toed boots," according to a complaint UNITE HERE filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). To put a soft face on its harsh tactics, Cintas hired Wade Gates, a top employee in B-M's Dallas office, as its chief spokesman. Gates coined Cintas's shrewd response to labor: "the right to say yes, the freedom to say no," which has been repeated endlessly in the press. In a speech at USC Law School last year, he outlined Cintas's strategy, calling for an "aggressive defense against union tactics." Says Ahmer Qadeer, an organizer for UNITE HERE, "It's the Burson influence that's made Cintas much, much slicker than they were."
The unions have won two NLRB rulings against Cintas, but for four years the company has continued to resist the organizing campaign. Penn disclaimed any responsibility for B-M's activities before his arrival at the firm, and he told The Nation he has "never personally participated in any antiunion activity," even though B-M's antilabor arm is still operating under his tenure. (Penn added a personal note: "My father was for many years a union organizer in the poultry workers union.")
In 2004 Hillary Clinton asked for an investigation into whether Cintas had received preferential regulatory treatment from the Environmental Protection Agency in return for giving large political donations to President Bush. Union officials say she's been supportive of their organizing drive. She's a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would let workers form unions if a majority sign cards authorizing representation, thus avoiding coercion and intimidation during union election campaigns (Cintas bitterly opposes the EFCA). She told the International Association of Firefighters recently, "I believe that it is absolutely essential to the way America works that people be given the right to organize and bargain collectively."
Hillary apparently sees no contradiction between her advocacy and the antiunion work of her chief strategist's company. "Clearly not," says spokesman Wolfson. "I don't think it reflects on her at all. Mark's work away from the campaign is Mark's work, and his campaign work is separate from that."
Penn recently told the Washington Post , in a largely flattering profile, that he'd been "cleared of all client responsibilities, except for Microsoft, for the duration of the campaign." Microsoft is a strange exception, given that it was the corporate entity the Clinton Administration challenged most directly. Moreover, Penn has no plans to take a formal leave from B-M. (Because B-M is a subsidiary of the WPP Group, a British company, it doesn't have to report its CEO's salary or ownership stake in the company.) George W. Bush forced Karl Rove to sell his direct-mail business in 1999, but don't expect a similar move from Hillary. Her campaign pays Penn's polling firm, which is part of B-M. "Senator Clinton is no different, frankly, from Mark's other clients," Howard Paster says. "Burson-Marsteller is a lot bigger firm than Senator Clinton. There's a whole 'nother life we live."
Yet occasionally the work of Penn's company spills onto Hillary's political terrain. Penn's polling firm has worked with the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition -- a PR front group for the nuclear power industry -- which purports to show "strong support among Americans for nuclear energy." Coincidentally, one of B-M's big projects is the Indian Point nuclear power plant, twenty-four miles north of Manhattan, dubbed by environmentalists "Chernobyl on the Hudson." The plant received the lowest safety rating from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2000, and after 9/11 there were widespread calls from environmentalists, consumer groups and elected officials to shut it down. It has had nine unplanned shutdowns since 2005.
With the help of B-M, Indian Point's owner, Entergy Corporation, struck back with a multipronged ad campaign. Its post-9/11 slogan, "Safe, secure, vital," emphasized security, warning that if Indian Point were closed New York could face a California-style energy crisis. In 2003, after Westchester County legislators passed resolutions condemning Indian Point, B-M set up a classic astroturf group on Entergy's behalf, the Campaign for Affordable Energy, Environmental and Economic Justice, which targeted Democratic incumbents in low-income sections of Westchester who supported closing the plant. If Indian Point were shuttered, the bilingual campaign informed residents, electricity bills would increase, power to public transportation would be jeopardized and dirty power plants would go up in low-income and minority neighborhoods.
At the same time, B-M unveiled another organization also bankrolled by Entergy that promoted Indian Point. Following the '06 elections, Entergy unveiled a new slogan, "Right for New York," citing Indian Point as an asset in the fight against global warming. Hillary has called for an "independent safety assessment" but has declined to join Governor Eliot Spitzer and twelve members of Congress in urging that the plant be shut down. Entergy, founded in Arkansas, was a major supporter of Bill Clinton in the 1990s and contributed generously to Hillary in 2000 and 2006.
It's difficult to tell where Penn's corporate life ends and his political one begins. Most Democratic consultants do some business work -- it's the easiest way to pay the bills. Yet nobody wears as many hats -- and advises as many corporations -- as Penn. "Penn and Schoen have displayed a thirst for corporate work, often in conflict with the policy agendas of their political clients, that has long set the bar among Democratic pollsters," wrote Democratic pollster Mark Blumenthal on his blog recently.
Furthermore, few Democratic consultants so consistently and publicly advocate an ideology that perfectly complements their corporate clients. Every election cycle Penn discovers a new group of swing voters -- "soccer moms," "wired workers," "office park dads" -- who happen to be the key to the election and believe the same thing: "Outdated appeals to class grievances and attacks upon corporate perfidy only alienate new constituencies and ring increasingly hollow," Penn has written. Through his longtime association with the Democratic Leadership Council, Penn has been pushing pro-corporate centrism for years. Many of the same companies that underwrite the DLC, such as Eli Lilly, AT&T, Texaco and Microsoft, also happen to be clients of Penn's.
Penn's views often clash with the work of other Democratic pollsters. Half a dozen former PSB staffers say Penn has stretched to get the answers he wanted, including manipulating data, phrasing misleading questions and shifting the demographics of those polled, whether it was for the Clinton campaign in 1996 or a corporate client like Procter & Gamble. For example, Penn was insistent that Clinton's poll numbers in '96 match his poll numbers in '92, say two staffers who worked at PSB during the campaign. If Clinton was underperforming, Penn would artificially add more Democratic-aligned groups to the survey sample to make Bill look better. "He was a great showman, and he'd paint you a nice picture," says one former staffer who worked with Penn in the late '90s. "But the way he got you the data -- it was cooked." Staffers who left started a PSB survivors message board documenting what they perceived as personally abusive and unethical behavior in the workplace.
When presented with these allegations, Penn said, "Polling in '96 was 100 percent accurate, to the point," adding, "no staffer you could have talked to ever attended any meeting with any of the clients." He insists that "all weightings and question wording turned out to be accurate." Former partner Doug Schoen adds, "No data was ever manipulated. ... There was never any discussion of the polling from 1992 during 1996." In response to the complaints on the message board, Penn dismissed "a nearly decade-old anonymous site with inaccurate material from an unhappy few."
Clients have usually been uninterested in Penn's methodology because they liked his results. But not always. Al Gore fired Penn as his pollster before the 2000 Democratic primaries, in part because he wanted to move in a more populist direction and in part because he didn't trust him. Penn "would write polls to get the result he felt was important," Tony Coelho, Gore's campaign chair, told Rolling Stone . Recently two poll interviewees accused the Denver-based field office of Penn's firm, PSA Interviewing, of conducting misleading telephone polls in California and New Hampshire. The interviewers read to respondents statements like "John Edwards chose not to run for another Senate term because he didn't think he could win, abandoning the fight in Congress against the administration," and "Barack Obama failed to vote in favor of abortion rights nine times as a state senator."
Hillary, by contrast, is presented as someone who "was born into a middle-class home where she learned the value of hard work and frugality." At the end of the script the poll asks, "Based on what you've heard, who would you choose as the Democratic candidate for President: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards or Barack Obama?" In response to these accusations, Penn said the charges were false and that "this firm conducts standard political and market research polls ... and does not do push polling." He would not confirm or deny that the questions above came from PSA.
These days Penn's few political clients lean to the right. He worked on Joe Lieberman's ill-fated presidential run and the Venezuelan recall referendum in 2004 and Italian billionaire Silvio Berlusconi's unsuccessful re-election campaign last year.
Yet despite his outsized role in the corporate world, his company's close ties to GOP operatives and questions about his polling techniques, Penn remains a leading figure in Hillary's campaign, pitching the inevitability of her nomination to donors and party bigwigs. According to the New York Times , "[Hillary] Clinton responds to Penn's points with exclamations like, Oh, Mark, what a smart thing to say!" His presence means that triangulation is alive and well inside the campaign and that despite her populist forays, Hillary won't stray far from the center or think too big. "Penn has a lot of influence on her, no doubt about it," says New York political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who worked with Penn in '96. "He's not going to let her drift too far left."
White House in Exile
Penn's not the only major player in Hillary's corporate orbit. There's also the Glover Park Group, a fast-rising lobbying and PR firm known as the "White House in Exile" because it's packed with former Clintonites. Its roster includes former Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart and deputy chief of staff Joel Johnson. From Hillary's orbit come Peter Kauffman, her former press secretary, and Gigi Georges, her New York director. Campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle used to work there, and until recently so did Howard Wolfson.
Wolfson, a pugnacious operative who's said he admires Karl Rove's skills, took a leave of absence in March (unlike Penn), though he still has a stake in the firm. Partners at Glover Park downplay connections to Hill and Bill, but the association -- along with the Democratic takeover of Congress -- has been good for business. Glover Park was Washington's fastest-growing private company in 2005. The day before the 2006 election it got a huge infusion of private-equity cash from a firm in Chicago, Svoboda, Collins. Business has doubled since then. No one at Glover Park is now officially part of the Clinton campaign, yet there are plenty of unofficial relationships. Johnson, for example, is giving to and raising money for Hillary. The firm still lobbies her office, as it presumably would a Clinton II White House.
Glover Park's clients have included standard liberal groups like the United Federation of Teachers and the ACLU. Yet the Clinton ties have also helped the firm make an alliance with Rupert Murdoch. Hillary started cozying up to Murdoch after her 2000 Senate victory, in a calculated attempt to defang his conservative media empire, News Corp. In 2004 the billionaire required a favor of his own: Nielsen was preparing to change the way it measured viewership in US TV markets, a plan that Murdoch's Fox network feared would cost it millions in ad revenue. So Murdoch called on Glover Park. Wolfson secured a $200,000 contract and unveiled a PR blitz under the guise of a supposedly independent minority front group called Don't Count Us Out. The group played on fears of voter disenfranchisement, arguing that minorities would be undercounted in the new system. Don't Count Us Out ran more than 100 ads in two days, and Nielsen was deluged with hate mail. Letters of support came in from politicians, including Senator Clinton, who warned, "Nielsen would be remiss in pushing forward with its rollout plan." The campaign eventually fizzled when influential supporters, including Jesse Jackson, realized that Glover Park's claims were bogus and viewers were simply moving from broadcast channels like Fox to cable. Yet Murdoch kept Glover Park on retainer and held a $60,000 fundraiser for Clinton last July. News Corp. executive Peter Chernin is hosting a top-dollar shindig for her in LA in late May. Asked what she thought of Murdoch, Clinton spokesman Phillippe Reines told The New Yorker , "Senator Clinton respects him and thinks he's smart and effective."
News Corp. wasn't an exception for Glover Park. It's used similar tactics on behalf of another frequent Democratic bÃªte noire -- the pharmaceutical industry. As with Penn, it's been difficult to tell where business ends and politics begins. In the run-up to passage of the Medicare Modernization Act in 2003, Johnson (who partnered with disgraced former Tom DeLay staffers and associates of Jack Abramoff at his previous lobbying job) lobbied for the industry's chief arm, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
Last summer, as the law came under scrutiny from both liberals and conservatives, he wrote a memo to Hill staffers arguing that "early polls call into question the political value in strongly attacking the weakness in the Medicare prescription drug plan." Johnson failed to note that he was on the industry's payroll, as were other firms whose work he cited. After the election Glover Park inked deals with drugmakers Amgen and Pfizer to block a proposal to lower drug prices under Medicare and help the latter slash 10,000 workers this year and close five manufacturing sites.
Glover Park has also been trying to get liberals to support a program called Medicare Advantage. According to the federally run Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, this privately run plan overcharges the government by 12 percent compared with traditional Medicare. And it paves the way for privatization. As a result, Congressmen like Pete Stark and Charlie Rangel want to redirect some of the money toward children's healthcare. That proposal has drawn fierce resistance from America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), which has recruited Glover Park and another Democratic firm, the Dewey Square Group, to argue that cutting benefits to Medicare Advantage would disproportionately hurt low-income and minority enrollees (note a pattern?), a claim the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calls "distorted" and "based on misleading use of data."
Nevertheless, former Hillary spokesman Peter Kauffman has asked community groups in New York to join a Medicare Advantage minority advisory committee, which now includes former big-city mayors and the NAACP. And Glover Park put out polling, in conjunction with a GOP firm and AHIP, that shows "record high satisfaction" among enrollees, according to Johnson. Hillary was supportive of the Medicare Advantage program during the debate over Medicare but voted against the final bill. She hasn't commented on whether she favors preserving the current system.
Murdoch and PhRMA aren't the only odd couples to enlist the Clintonites. There's also the government of Dubai, which has paid Bill handsomely for speeches and strategic advice. Around the time of the furor over the proposed management of US ports by Dubai Ports World, Glover Park launched a lobbying drive to broker the sale of two US military plants to the government-owned Dubai International Capital. The two New York senators led opposition to the ports deal but didn't raise objections to the plant takeover. According to Newsday, the $100,000 contract was routed through the LA law firm of Raj Tanden, brother of Hillary's top domestic policy adviser, Neera Tanden.
Glover Park has also fronted for Verizon to kill "net neutrality" and allow telecom companies to charge more for certain Internet content, for the insurance industry on asbestos claims, for Ernst & Young on immunity from shareholder lawsuits and for the Swift banking coalition's collaboration with the Bush Administration on "antiterror" financial records.
Partners at Glover Park say business is business -- if their work puts them at odds with fellow Democrats, so be it. "On some days you're working on the other side of an issue from a Democratic Congressman," says Johnson. "The next day you're helping them raise money." It's a world Hillary knows well.
The Compromised Candidate
It's hard to see how her advisers' corporate work doesn't reflect poorly on Clinton's progressive claims or create a liability for her with Democratic voters. There's no evidence that she has taken a position specifically to benefit one of her advisers' clients or a top supporter. More likely, the ties to corporate America, along with the bruises of past defeats, have limited what she believes is possible and will fight to achieve. "If you surround yourself by people who live off of big corporations, that's going to affect the advice they give you and your own worldview," says a former Clinton adviser.
Clinton has a consistently liberal Senate voting record, earning near-perfect scores from Americans for Democratic Action. She's fought to get New York its fair share of federal money after 9/11 and has advocated for long-neglected, though politically safe, issues like children's health and veterans care. Yet voting records capture only so much. Since the healthcare reform disaster of 1993-94, she has rarely stuck her neck out on contentious issues. "She votes the issues that come up, rather than take the leadership role," says Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. "We tried to do too much, too fast twelve years ago," Clinton told the Federation of American Hospitals last year, "and I still have the scars to show for it." She's now the number-one Congressional recipient of donations from the healthcare industry.
Clinton's rarely been the threat to the business community that many on the right typically allege. She's often partnered with Republicans like Newt Gingrich and Bill Frist. In 2002 she backed a harsh position on welfare reform reauthorization that put her at odds even with conservative Republicans like Orrin Hatch. She persuaded her husband to veto the bankruptcy bill in 1997, voted for a similar version in 2001 and missed the vote in 2005, when Bill was in the hospital. She advocated weakening the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, telling Feingold to "live in the real world." Unlike Edwards and Obama, she accepts campaign contributions from lobbyists and corporate PACs. "Ask them why they don't take money from lobbyists," Wolfson retorts. "We're proud of our support."
The conservative caricature that Hillary is to the left of her husband is a myth. She, like Bill, talks a good game. She's aggressively courted organized labor and distanced herself from policies like NAFTA. She privately tells public-interest groups and liberal commentators that she's on their side. At the same time, she's premised her presidential campaign on a restoration of the Clinton era, frequently invoking "Bill and I" on the stump as a way of claiming credit for the perceived successes of the 1990s. She's expressed no qualms about her closest advisers' forays into the corporate world. Courting elements of the Democratic base while signaling to the corporate right that she won't shake up the system is a tricky juggling act. Even the First Lady of triangulation may not be able to pull it off.
Ari Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation and a Ralph Shikes Fellow at the Public Concern Foundation. He's currently based in D.C.