Which presidential candidate, if elected, is most likely to be "tough on Wall Street?"
While many people, former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich included, think Bernie Sanders' proposals to rein in Wall Street are much better than Hillary Clinton's, the answer to this question really hinges on credibility. To see why Sanders has it and Clinton doesn't, a look at some new campaign finance data is instructive.
The Center for Responsive Politics collects data on donations campaigns receive from individuals who work in the "Securities & Investment" industry, which is shown below. While the organization recognizes that "not every contribution is made with the donor's economic or professional interests in mind[, there is] a correlation between individuals' contributions and their employers' political interests." In addition, the "donors [they] know about, and especially those who contribute at the maximum levels, are more commonly top executives in their companies, not lower-level employees."
As the chart shows, Clinton actually leads all Republican candidates in contributions from this industry. She has received over 40 times more money than Sanders has from individuals associated with Wall Street.
Candidates receive considerably more financial support from Super PACs than from individual donations, but Clinton ranks among the Republicans in this category, too. Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio outpace her (Bush by a considerable margin), but Clinton's $20.3 million in Super PAC money is exactly $20.3 million more than Sanders has received. While it's not clear how much of any candidate's Super PAC money comes from Wall Street, and while I suspect that Clinton Super PAC donors George Soros and S. Donald Sussman are more amenable to basic regulations than their fellow billionaire hedge fund managers who donate to Republicans, it seems plausible that, if Hillary Clinton becomes President, Wall Street might expect a few favors. And that's before even discussing the lavish speaking fees she receives from the industry and its donations to the Clinton foundation.
I find it especially hard to understand the belief that Clinton will be "tough on Wall Street" in the context of what she touted during the debate:
I represented Wall Street, as a senator from New York, and I went to Wall Street in December of 2007 -- before the big crash that we had -- and I basically said, "cut it out! Quit foreclosing on homes! Quit engaging in these kinds of speculative behaviors."
I don't know about you, but I don't typically think representing a group of rich people and giving them a nonbinding but stern talking to qualifies as particularly tough. History backs me up on this one - Clinton's Wall Street lecture doesn't seem to have worked out so well.
I've captured some highlights of the campaign finance data in the meme below. If you're not worried about the influence of money in politics or are an affluent donor yourself, Hillary Clinton might be an acceptable Democratic nominee. But if you want a politician more beholden to the people than to a wealthy few, Bernie Sanders is probably the better choice.
Note: This post has been adapted from earlier posts on 34justice.