Hillary Clinton said Thursday that she does not regret giving short speeches to Wall Street firms in exchange for millions of dollars in compensation.
“Anybody who thinks they can buy me doesn’t know me,” a defensive Clinton said in an interview with the Des Moines Register when asked about criticism she’s received from progressives in her party and from her main opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, for her lucrative speaking gigs.
A dozen financial firms, including Morgan Stanley, Deutsch Bank and Goldman Sachs, have paid the former secretary of state $2.9 million for speaking gigs since 2013, when Clinton left the State Department. Goldman Sachs alone paid her $675,000 for three separate speeches. Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, have been paid $125 million for speeches since leaving the White House.
As The New York Times noted earlier this week in an article on Clinton’s speech income, her $225,000 usual fee for one speech — which generally lasts for less than an hour — is roughly five times larger than the annual median income in Iowa, the site of next month’s first party caucuses.
Asked Thursday if she regrets taking the speech money, Clinton responded: “No, I don’t. I don’t.”
“What they were interested in were my views on what was going on in the world,” she said of the firms who hired her. “And whether you’re in health care, or you sell automobiles, or you’re in banking — there’s a lot of interest in getting advice and views about what you think is happening in the world.”
Sanders ramped up his attacks on Clinton during last week’s Democratic debate for her relationship with Wall Street, citing not just the speech fees but also campaign contributions she’s received from firms in the financial industry.
“I don’t take money from big banks. I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs,” Sanders said during the debate when asked about his position on financial reform.
“Secretary Clinton, you’ve received over $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in one year,” he continued, asking later: “Can you really reform Wall Street when they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions and when they are providing speaker fees to individuals?” (RELATED: Bernie Sanders Hits Hillary On Wall Street Speaking Fees)
He’s offered similar criticism on the campaign trail.
“I just don’t buy the argument,” Clinton said during her interview with the Register. “I get it. It makes a good sound bite and I hear him say it all the time.”
She went on to cite President Obama who, despite receiving more Wall Street donations during the 2008 presidential cycle than any other candidate, has fought against the financial industry.
She also criticized Sanders for voting in 2000, when he was in the House, against regulations on swaps and derivatives. The failure to regulate those exacerbated the 2008 recession, she argued.