Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted at Thursday night's Democratic debate that campaign contributions and speaking fees from Wall Street and other major corporate sectors have not influenced her politically, challenging Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to name a single way in which they had.
"Let's talk about why in the 1990s Wall Street got deregulated," Sanders responded. "Did it have anything to do with the fact that Wall Street spent billions on lobbying and campaign contributions? Well, some people might think, yeah, that had some influence."
But Clinton had set a high bar, asking for a specific way in which specific contributions influenced her.
Sanders could have brought up Blair Effron after Clinton herself slammed what are known as corporate "inversions," specifically citing the company Johnson Controls, which pulled off an egregious example of a move done to reduce a company's U.S. tax bill. Effron is a founding partner of Centerview Partners, an investment firm that played a major role in the Johnson inversion.
Effron has raised at least $100,000 for Clinton's campaign, and it has been widely reported that he hopes to win a job in the Treasury Department. He has been referred to in print as one of the very few people Clinton listens to when it comes to economic policy.
Clinton's claim that campaign money has never influenced her raises two possible scenarios, both of them odd: Either Effron opposes inversions but pushes them anyway in the private sector, and advises Clinton against them -- or Effron supports inversions, and Clinton ignores the input of one of her top advisers on a key issue.
There is, of course, a third possibility: Effron is just fine with inversions, and is able to articulately defend them in conversations with Hillary Clinton, conversations that he is able to have because he is such a high-dollar donor. Clinton, to be sure, can still make up her own mind, but opponents of inversions have reason to worry, knowing that one of her key advisers is such a leading player on the opposite side.
Johnson Controls, meanwhile, has given at least $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation.
Effron is an advisory council member of “The Hamilton Project," which has been called “Clinton's economic team in waiting.” The Hamilton Project was founded by Robert Rubin, who was President Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary, famously an alum of Goldman Sachs and the prime driver of deregulation during the 1990s, and still a major influence on the party today. He now works with Effron at his boutique firm Centerview Partners.
“If you’re going to be involved in policy issues, you have to be very current on what’s going on the economy,” Rubin told the New York Times. “Obviously, Centerview provides a terrific window. It’s a symbiotic relationship and so it seemed to make sense.”
The same Times article added: "Blair W. Effron, a co-founder of Centerview and a former banker at UBS, has become a strong force in Democratic political circles in Manhattan."
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