The Democratic debate on Thursday night got heated quickly, and the tensions between the two candidates focused entirely on policy.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) hit former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for accepting large speaking fees from Goldman Sachs and said donations that politicians accept from banks influence their handling of financial issues. Clinton has argued that she has delivered a lot of speeches to a lot of people, and that campaign donations do not necessarily influence her positions or votes on issues.
But Sanders said early in the debate hosted in Durham, NH that the link is more clear.
“Let’s talk about why in the 1990s Wall Street got deregulated,” he said. “Did it have anything to do with the fact that Wall Street provided — spent billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions? Well, some people might think that had some influence.”
Sanders also pointed to high prescription drug prices and the Republican candidates’ denial of climate science, saying both are products of “the huge amount of campaign contributions and lobbying” directed at lawmakers by the pharmaceutical and fossil fuels industries.
“There is a reason why these people are putting huge amounts of money into our political system,” he said.
But Clinton, who has faced heightened scrutiny in recent days over her connections to Wall Street, was ready to fire back.
“I don’t think you can find any person in political life today who has been subjected to more attacks and had more money spent against her by special interests, among whom you have named a few, than I,” she said. She then quickly shifted the scrutiny on Sanders, saying that while he may not have been the one with ties to the financial sector, his record isn’t spotless when it comes to the issue.
“While we’re talking about votes, you’re the one who voted to deregulate swaps and derivatives in 2000, which contributed to the overleveraging of Lehman Brothers, which was one of the culprits that brought down the economy,” she said. “I’m not impugning your motive because you voted to deregulate swaps and derivatives. People make mistakes and I’m certainly not saying you did it for any financial advantage. What we’ve got to do as Democrats is to be united to actually solve these problems.”