Less than a week into her campaign, and it appears Team Clinton is already laying out the astroturf. That coffee house stop Clinton made yesterday was allegedly staged (via Daily Mail):
Her Tuesday morning visit to a coffee shop in LeClaire, Iowa was staged from beginning to end, according to Austin Bird, one of the men pictured sitting at the table with Mrs. Clinton.
Bird told Daily Mail Online that campaign staffer Troy Price called and asked him and two other young people to meet him Tuesday morning at a restaurant in Davenport, a nearby city.
Price then drove them to the coffee house to meet Clinton after vetting them for about a half-hour.
The three got the lion's share of Mrs. Clinton's time and participated in what breathless news reports described as a 'roundtable'– the first of many in her brief Iowa campaign swing.
Bird himself is a frequent participant in Iowa Democratic Party events. He interned with President Obama's 2012 presidential re-election campaign, and was tapped to chauffeur Vice President Joe Biden in October 2014 when he visited Davenport.
'What happened is, we were just asked to be there by Troy,' Bird said Wednesday in a phone interview.
'We were asked to come to a meeting with Troy, the three of us, at the Village Inn.'
The other two, he confirmed, were University of Iowa College Democrats president Carter Bell and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland employee Sara Sedlacek.
'It was supposed to be a strategy meeting,' Bird recalled, 'to get our thoughts about issues. But then all of a sudden he says, "Hey, we have Secretary Clinton coming in, would you like to go meet her?"'
'And then we got in a car – Troy's car – and we went up to the coffee house, and we sat at a table and then Hillary just came up and talked with us.'
Bird said 'we all were called.'
'I mean, Troy asked us all to do – to go to a meeting with him. And we didn't really know what it was about. I mean, he did. He knew.'
Right now, some on the left are wondering what is the overall message of the Clinton campaign other than “we’re the only ones running in 2016, and no better else is better.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has no clue where Hillary stands on the important issues; the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus cited the lack of substance thus far.
Yet, besides alleged astroturf being planted at coffee houses, let’s look at policy; Hillary Clinton is going through a rather extensive transformation.
On gay marriage, the former secretary of state said this last summer (via TPM) [emphasis mine]:
Last summer, Hillary Clinton gave a tense interview to NPR where she was pressed on same-sex marriage. Her position then? Leave it up to the states.
"For me, marriage had always been a matter left to the states. And in many of the conversations that I and my colleagues and supporters had, I fully endorse the efforts by activists who work state-by-state and in fact that is what is working," Clinton told Terry Gross on June 12, 2014.
She added that soon after stepping down as secretary of state she announced in 2013 she "was fully in support of gay marriage and that it is now continuing to proceed state-by-state." The interview didn't sit well with gay rights activists who strongly oppose the idea of letting states ban same-sex marriage.
Ten months later, Clinton is officially running for president, and appears to have shifted her view toward a full embrace of marriage equality. Her new position? Marriage should be a constitutional right for same-sex couples.
"Hillary Clinton supports marriage equality and hopes the Supreme Court will come down on the side of same-sex couples being guaranteed that constitutional right," Adrienne Elrod, a spokesperson for the Clinton campaign, said in a statement Wednesday.
Yet, let’s go further back in time to 2000, where she said, “Marriage has got historic, religious, and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman.”
On the economy, Hillary said that American creation of small businesses and start ups are down, and that we’re ranked “46th in the world in how hard it is to start a new business.” That’s a rather different assessment than the one she gave in July of 2014: “It’s taken years of painstaking work and strong leadership from President Obama to get our economy growing again. But it is growing and there are reasons to be optimistic about our future.”
On campaign finance reform, an issue that apparently drove one mailman to fly a gyrocopter onto the Capitol grounds, Hillary seems to make this a talking point with Iowa voters, promising to remove dark money influences from politics. Yet, America Rising, who’s been vetting the former first lady for months in anticipation of her 2016 candidacy, captured John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, meeting with wealthy liberal donors in San Francisco at Democracy Alliance’s conference yesterday; the same day Hillary said, “We need to fix our dysfunctional political system, and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment.”
Alex Pappas at the Daily Caller wrote, “The Washington Post recently reported that Democracy Alliance is made up of ‘a cadre of wealthy liberal donors’ who aim ‘to pour tens of millions of dollars into rebuilding the left’s political might in the states.’”
I don’t think this campaign finance bit will play out well. For starters, President Obama railed against the Citizens United decision at the 2010 State of the Union, but started his own super PAC, Priorities USA, during his 2012 re-election bid. By 2014, he has seemingly embraced them. Moreover, Priorities was making moves to support a potential Hillary bid back in 2013.
On income inequality, one doesn’t have to see that it increased during the Clinton presidency, which is one of the reasons why the progressive wing of the Democratic Party doesn’t embrace Clintonomics; a reason why she might be running towards the Obama record since Bill Clinton’s policies are not in keeping with the current party base.
This one is just too easy. Clinton was getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars per speech–some on middle class hardship–and she expects that people can view her as a champion of the people without any reservations or criticism of that narrative; it’s wishful thinking. She made more giving three speeches than most Americans make in their lifetimes. In fact, the Clintons’ income ranks as being in the “top 1 percent of the 1 percent.” That’s leaving out that she made the decision to run for president while vacationing in the late Oscar de la Renta’s beachfront estate in the Dominican Republic last December.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with being rich. We generally aren’t a people that get envious of one another’s success, but this middle/working class rhetoric is placed in the crosshairs since she said her family was “dead broke” upon leaving the White House. Everyone knows an ex-president’s earning potential foes through the stratosphere and with the Clintons–it has (via WSJ):
According to their 2012 income disclosed in government forms, the Clintons made at least $16.7 million in income that year, largely from Bill Clinton‘s speeches. That total is based on income disclosed in forms that provide income ranges, and the $16.7 million total uses the minimum amount from each stated range.
The nationwide level to make the top 1% of households in 2012 was $567,719, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. And the level for the top 0.1% was about $2.9 million, a bar the Clintons easily surpassed.
The Tax Policy Center data stop there, at the top 0.1% — or the top 10% of the top 1% of Americans.
Did the Clintons reach the top 1% of the top 1%, based on their 2012 income? A different measure offers a strong clue. The Tax Policy Center says that IRS data for 2011, the most recent numbers available, show 11,500 total tax returns with adjusted gross income over $10 million that year, out of 145 million total returns. So a $10 million adjusted gross income puts one in the top 0.007% of all tax returns, and the Clintons’ income was well above that — likely putting it into the top 1% of the 1%.
Some have argued that Hillary hasn’t been a woman of the people since she moved into the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion in the late 1970s. From governor’s mansion, she and Bill went to the White House for eight years, which were followed by Hillary becoming a U.S. Senator and later secretary of state. All with the perks and privileges of public officials.
On taxes, as we all file today, let’s not forget that then-Sen. Clinton didn’t disclose around $24 million Bill made in her 2004 and 2006 Senate financial statements. Also, while the Clinton’s have supported death taxes, it seems they made a decision that could shield them from paying that bill. Keep that in mind the next time you hear her say, “the rich aren’t paying their fair share”(via Bloomberg):
Bill and Hillary Clinton have long supported an estate tax to prevent the U.S. from being dominated by inherited wealth. That doesn’t mean they want to pay it.
To reduce the tax pinch, the Clintons are using financial planning strategies befitting the top 1 percent of U.S. households in wealth. These moves, common among multimillionaires, will help shield some of their estate from the tax that now tops out at 40 percent of assets upon death.
The Clintons created residence trusts in 2010 and shifted ownership of their New York house into them in 2011, according to federal financial disclosures and local property records.
Among the tax advantages of such trusts is that any appreciation in the house’s value can happen outside their taxable estate. The move could save the Clintons hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes, said David Scott Sloan, a partner at Holland & Knight LLP in Boston.
She has done 180s on some of the major tenets of the Democratic platform–income inequality, gay marriage, campaign finance–and still can’t seem to get things right with the press. She wants to talk about income inequality, but is guilty of implementing measures aimed at reducing her share of the tax burden. Moreover, she can’t tout policies that worked during Bill’s presidency since that could cause dissention in the party base. She went from anti-gay marriage, to letting the states decide, to gay marriage is a constitutional right in the lead up to her second national campaign for the White House that looks nothing short of calculated. As for campaign finance, here are a few friendly reminders: Americans generally spend more on yogurt and ice cream than they do giving to elections, and Democrats had the fundraising advantage during the 2012 election. Money in politics isn’t the problem. It’s the size and scope of government, but that's a debate for another time.
Admittedly, a 180-degree turn on campaign finance will probably have the most innocuous effect on Clinton concerning attacks on her authenticity. Nevertheless, Hillary has done things–and continues to do some of them–that undermine her credibility with voters, and gives Republicans an insane amount of campaign ammunition.
Last note: That's some high engagement with the media, Madame Secretary
After Clinton's event, several reporters shout questions about same-sex marriage position, emails, etc. Clinton doesn't respond.— Emily Schultheis (@emilyrs) April 15, 2015
Clinton to press: "Hi everybody. How are you? Nice to see you."— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) April 15, 2015
Also, good Lord: