WASHINGTON – Her intent was to mar the voting record of her rival. But Hillary Clinton also cast aspersions on the presidential record of her husband in testy exchanges with Bernie Sanders over Wall Street regulation.
A look at some of the claims in Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate and how they compare with the facts:
CLINTON: “I’m the only one on this stage who did not vote to deregulate swaps and derivatives, as Sen. Sanders did … and that contributed to the collapse of Lehman Brothers and started the cascade.”
THE FACTS: The legislation in question was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Hillary Clinton was in no position to vote for — or against — it because she was not in the Senate at the time. It’s true that Sanders voted for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which deregulated many financial instruments that were later blamed for intensifying the 2008 financial crisis.
He voted for an initial, more limited version of the bill, and then later voted for a larger spending package needed to keep the government running that also included an expanded version of the deregulation bill.
Once it passed Congress, Bill Clinton signed it. Hillary Clinton, who became a senator in 2001, is always quick to credit her husband’s economic management, but in this exchange she essentially, if inadvertently, pinned part of the responsibility for the meltdown on the stroke of his pen.
She said the deregulation contributed to Lehman’s collapse and said that, along with a few big failures in the insurance and mortgage industries, “actually caused the Great Recession.”
SANDERS: “When this campaign began, I said that we got to end the starvation minimum wage of $7.25, raise it to $15. Secretary Clinton said let’s raise it to $12. There’s a difference.”
CLINTON: “I have said from the very beginning that I supported the fight for $15.”
THE FACTS: It depends on what the meaning of “minimum” is. Clinton has said she supports legislation that calls for a $12-an-hour wage floor, and would encourage some cities and states to push it as high as $15. The graduated scale is a response to concerns that some localities would not be able to support a $15 minimum without suffering a loss of jobs.
CLINTON: “I stood up against the behaviours of the banks when I was a senator. I called them out on their mortgage behaviour.”
SANDERS: “Oh my goodness, they must have been really crushed by this.”
THE FACTS: Sanders had reason to be sarcastic about Clinton’s claim. She has repeatedly cited a speech she gave to the financial industry in December 2007 as proof that she gave Wall Street a dressing-down for its behaviour as the sector slipped into crisis. In reality, she delivered a much more mixed message.
In a video of the speech obtained by ProPublica, she thanked her “wonderful donors” in the audience, said banks were not the main villains in the emerging crisis, “not by a long shot,” and praised Wall Street for its contribution to the economy. At the same time, she said Wall Street had a hand in worsening the crisis and called for voluntary steps on foreclosures and subprime mortgages.
SANDERS: After Clinton, responding to his call for her to release texts of paid speeches to financial interests, challenged him to do the same: “I will do it. I am going to release all of the transcripts of the speeches that I gave on Wall Street behind closed doors. Not for $225,000, not for $2,000, not for two cents. There were no speeches.”
THE FACTS: There were speeches to private groups, universities and trade organizations, but Sanders is barred by ethics rules from accepting payment for them. In 2013 and 2014 he made three appearances for which the sponsors donated $1,867.42 to charity, as the rules allow, according to his financial disclosure forms.
He has accepted travel expenses to attend conferences or to make speeches, including a paid trip to Miami to attend the NASDAQ Leadership Summit in 2004. In his disclosure form, Sanders described the event as “dialogue and meeting between business leaders from the NASDAQ-listed community and government officials.”
SANDERS: “It turns out that both Verizon and General Electric, in a given year, pay nothing in federal income tax despite making billions in profits.”
THE FACTS: In some years, yes. But altogether, they’ve been paying corporate income tax over the past 15 years, while cutting their tax bills far below the 35 per cent corporate rate, according to one analysis.
The analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice, a left-of-centrethink-tank that looked into the two companies’ annual reports, found that Verizon has paid an average tax rate of 12.4 per cent over the last 15 years, while paying no taxes for five of those years. General Electric paid an average of only 5.2 per cent over the past 15 years, the analysis found — and no taxes over the last decade.
The CEOs from both companies assert they do pay their fair share. Verizon’s CEO, Lowell McAdam, says the company paid 35 per cent of its income in taxes in 2015, an assertion the think-tank disputes. GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, in an April 6 column in The Washington Post, said the company pays “billions” in federal, state and local taxes, but was not more specific.
CLINTON: Asked whether she had been blaming Vermont and Sanders, one of its senators, for New York’s gun violence, replied, “No, of course not. Of course not.”
THE FACTS: It sure sounded like she was blaming just three days earlier, when she told a New York campaign audience that guns used in crimes there mostly come from outside the state, and “the highest per-capita number of those guns that end up committing crime in New York come from Vermont.”
That charge relied on a tortured interpretation of federal gun-tracking data. Of 7,686 guns used in New York crimes in 2014 that were traced, 55 came from Vermont, ranking it 15th on the list of gun sources. But because Vermont has the nation’s second-smallest population, it becomes the largest source on a per-person basis.
SANDERS: “We cannot continue to sustain the loss of millions of decent-paying jobs that we have seen over the last 20, 30 years, based on trade agreements, of which Secretary Clinton has voted for almost every one of those. That has got to change.”
THE FACTS: Few economists would blame the loss of “decent-paying jobs” — presumably in manufacturing — over the past three decades exclusively on U.S. trade agreements. Competition from low-wage countries can siphon off U.S. jobs even if there isn’t a trade agreement between the two nations. And automation has also been a big factor: U.S. factories are able to produce many more goods per worker than in the past.
Research shows trade with China has cost about 2 million manufacturing jobs, but that accounts for only about one-third of the total manufacturing job losses in the decade after China joined the World Trade Organization.
Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.
EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at political claims that take shortcuts with the facts or don’t tell the full story