Clinton's Econ Speech Overtaken by Email News

Clinton's Econ Speech Overtaken by Email News
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NEW YORK—Hillary Clinton tried to move the ball forward on her economic plan by detailing ideas to change Wall Street’s culture and curb its excesses, but her campaign message was overshadowed by the candidate herself.

As Clinton prepared to take on “quarterly capitalism” during a speech at New York University’s business school on Friday—her nod to the wing of the Democratic Party that wants to rein in Wall Street, without fully embracing its rhetoric—the controversy surrounding her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state bubbled anew. 

The New York Times reported Friday that federal investigators have discovered four emails containing classified information on the private server Clinton used as secretary of state.

Clinton acknowledged the elephant in the room at the outset, saying she has complied with the law and renewed a commitment to appear before Congress.

“Maybe the heat is getting to everybody,” Clinton said, a reference to the complicated unraveling of events, including the news that the classified email discovery could lead to a Justice Department criminal probe.

The House Select Committee on Benghazi has spent more than a year investigating the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Central to the panel’s probe is an examination of Clinton’s emails relating to the U.S. response to the attack. The Republican chairman of 12-member panel, which is bitterly divided along party lines, says he can’t get to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi without seeing all of Clinton’s emails, and has hinted she has not made public all of her emails.

 “We all have a responsibility to get this right. I have released 55,000 pages of e-mails. I have said repeatedly that I will answer questions before the House committee,” Clinton said. “We are all accountable to the American people to get the facts right, and I will do my part, but I am also going to stay focused on the issues, particularly the big issues that really matter to American families.” 

The renewed controversy comes as polls this week showed Clinton falling behind three Republican rivals in key swing states, along with drops in the public’s trust of her.

Clinton’s speech was the second in a series of her economic plan, which she discussed in broad terms last week in Manhattan. Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, has been threading the needle between the anti-Wall Street base being championed by rivals Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley and the party’s business-aligned faction. Clinton, eyeing the general election, has taken steps to acknowledge the party’s resentment of financial institutions, but has not railed against them the way her competitors have.

Instead, Clinton has identified ways to challenge corporate culture and make changes that benefit the middle class. One of the areas she has identified is getting companies to invest in long-term growth instead of singularly focusing on short-term gains.

“American business needs to break free from the tyranny of today's earning report, so they can do what they do best -- innovate, invest, and build tomorrow's prosperity,” Clinton said. “It's time to start measuring value in terms of years, or the next decade, not just the next quarter." 

One part of Clinton’s prescription for changing Wall Street behavior is changing the tax code by increasing taxes on capital gains, or the profit made from the stock sales, and shifting to a six-year scale instead of one year. Clinton also proposed small businesses tax breaks for long-term investments.

Over the next few months, Clinton said she would identify other ways to eliminate loopholes “that rig our tax code for those at the top,” using language embraced by the party’s progressive wing. 

Clinton also suggested looking at ways to regulate CEO compensation. “There is something wrong when corporate boards allow exorbitant pay packages that are not based on credible assessments of executive performance, or a company's long-term interests,” she said. “It would be good for our economy and our country if we get back to compensating all employees when productivity and profits increase, not just those at the top.”

Clinton also backed New York’s proposal to increase the state minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 an hour. But she stopped short of embracing Sander’s call for a federal wage increase to $15 an hour—double the current rate.

“The national minimum wage is a floor, and it needs to be raised,” she said. “But let's also remember that the cost of living in Manhattan is different than in Little Rock and many other places, so New York or Los Angeles or Seattle are right to go higher.” 

Similar to her speech last week, Clinton did not identify her Democratic rivals by name, but did call out Republicans. 

“Today, we face a choice between the future and the past. The Republicans running for president seem totally unconcerned about the problem of quarterly capitalism,” she said. “They'd wipe out the new rules on Wall Street imposed after the crisis, and of course, they'd further strip worker rights and weaken bargaining power.”

Republicans criticized Clinton’s proposal as one that would raises taxes on American families while having little impact on Wall Street trading practices. “Whether it’s getting to the truth about potential criminal activity involving her secret email server or the substance of her proposed tax increases, Hillary Clinton only offers more smoke and mirrors,” said RNC spokesman Michael Short. 

Progressives weren’t thrilled with Clinton’s proposals either, but for different reasons. "If Secretary Clinton wants to earn the enthusiastic support of grassroots progressives, that means standing up, staking out genuinely bold positions on income inequality, and aggressively taking on the powerful, greed-driven institutions that have dominated the Democratic Party and held back the prosperity of the American people for far too long,” said Charles Chamberlain, the executive director of the progressive group Democracy for America. “And today's speech hits those notes in some ways, but fails to do so in others." 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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