Politics & Policy

Hit by Sanders over Wall Street Ties, Clinton Invokes 9/11 Attacks

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton stand on the stage prior to a presidential debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, November 14, 2015. (Alex Wong/Getty)

Hillary Clinton had a bizarre response to opponent Bernie Sanders’s charge that she’s bought and paid for by Wall Street billionaires, explaining during Saturday night’s debate that her popularity with big bank financiers is due to her work rebuilding lower Manhattan after 9/11.

After tiptoeing around Clinton’s campaign finances for months, Sanders finally slammed the millions of dollars in contributions she’s received from powerful financial institutions.

“Why, over her political career, has Wall Street been a major campaign contributor to Hillary Clinton?” the Vermont senator asked. “Maybe they’re dumb, and they don’t know what they’re going to get. But I don’t think so.”

“There has never been a candidate — never — who has received huge amounts of money from oil, from coal, from Wall Street, from the military-industrial complex, not one candidate is like, ‘Oh, these campaign contributions have not influenced me, I’m going to be independent,’” Sanders said. “Why do they make millions of dollars of campaign contributions? They expect to get something. Everybody knows that.”

‘I’m not asking Wall Street for money. I WILL break up these banks.Bernie Sanders

Sanders — who has refused donations from large corporations and super PACs — said Clinton’s Wall Street support explains why she’s unwilling to carve up the largest banks or reinstate the limits imposed by Glass-Steagall. “I’m not asking Wall Street for money,” he said. “I WILL break up these banks.”

Accusing Sanders of “impugn[ing her] integrity,” Clinton tried to defend herself. “I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11,” she said, referring to her time in the U.S. Senate. “When we were attacked, where were we attacked? We were attacked on downtown Manhattan, where Wall Street is.

“I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild,” she explained. “That was good for New York, it was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists that had attacked our country.”

Though the crowd at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, cheered her response, many watching on television saw her response as a strange non sequitur. “I’ve never seen a candidate invoke 9/11 to justify millions of Wall Street donations until now,” wrote one audience member on Twitter, asking how the attacks had anything to do with her taking campaign donations from financiers.

#share#Confronted with that tweet by a CBS moderator, Clinton tried again to explain. “I worked closely with New Yorkers after 9/11 for my entire first term to rebuild,” she said. “And so yes, I did know people. I had a lot of folks give me donations from all kinds of backgrounds.”

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