February 8, 2016

Clinton’s Speech Transcripts Are All About Trust

Last week, Secretary Clinton faced tough questions from debate moderators and her primary opponent Bernie Sanders over paid speeches she delivered to special interest groups. The weekend provided no relief for Clinton, as the national media continued to ask questions about whether Clinton could be bought – a notion endorsed by liberal darling Elizabeth Warren over an early 2000s bankruptcy bill.

At the heart of the controversy is trust—will Clinton release transcripts of speeches she’s given behind closed doors so voters can be sure she delivered the same message to those who hold power and influence as she does to so-called “everyday Americans?” After initially saying she would “look into” releasing them, Clinton defiantly said she only would after “everybody who’s ever given a speech to any private group under any circumstances release” theirs. “We’ll all release them at the same time,” Clinton sarcastically added.

Since 2001, when the Clinton’s left the White House, they have earned more than $153 million from 729 paid speeches, per an analysis by CNN. That comes to an average of more than $200,000 per speech.

We also know that, in addition to demands for lemon wedges, crudité, and specifically-shaped pillows, Clinton insisted her speeches be transcribed by a stenographer:

“The sponsor will transcribe Speaker’s remarks as they are being delivered, which should be solely for the Speaker’s records,” according to her contract with the University of Buffalo, which paid her $275,000.

Identical words appear in contracts between the Harry Walker Agency, which represents Clinton, and the University of Connecticut, which paid her $250,000; the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, which paid her $225,000, and the University of California at Los Angeles, which paid her $300,000.

So if there’s nothing to hide from these speeches, as Clinton has repeatedly said, why not release the transcripts? The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza surmises that Clinton greeted these special interest groups warmly, perhaps even going so far as to say “You guys get a bad rap but …”

In the hands of Sanders and his campaign team and supporters, that sort of thing could wind up being problematic for Clinton as she attempts, already clumsily, to cast herself as a true progressive fighter for the 99 percent against the 1 percent. It might even prove fatal to those attempts.

And thus we land at the heart of the problem for Clinton – trust. The general voter does not believe or trust Clinton to be honest, least of all where money and power are involved.