Kirsten Nooo

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The Democratic presidential primary field is very crowded this cycle, which is bad in most ways—for example, it makes me want to die—but good in the sense that it means Democrats have a lot of candidates to choose from. This means you can cast quite a critical eye on candidates.

It’s like if you were at a restaurant and you only had two options for an entree, your choice would boil down to “which one is overall better,” and if one of those choices is really bad, you’re stuck with the less bad one. If you have many choices, you can interrogate the details a little more and discount options with big negative qualities. You know, like if the steak took a lot of money from Wall Street, you could say, “I don’t fancy a steak beholden to the financial industry, I’ll go with the chicken or the fish instead.”

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Where did I get that silly metaphor? From this CNBC story about one of the six thousand likely Democratic candidates for president, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who is reportedly calling up Wall Street executives for cash for her 2020 run:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, is reaching out to Wall Street executives to gauge potential support if she were to run for president in 2020, CNBC has learned.

Gillibrand has personally been working the phones and calling senior executives at Wall Street firms in recent weeks to see whether they would back her campaign if she jumps into the race, according to two senior business leaders who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A Democratic nominee who begs Wall Street for money would be going down a nightmarish road that we’ve traveled before. Hillary Clinton was attacked by Bernie Sanders and then Donald Trump (ridiculously, since he’s a billionaire and has happily handed out breaks to Wall Street throughout his term) for taking Wall Street money, for which her answer was essentially that she represented New York WHICH IS WHERE 9/11 HAPPENED BY THE WAY!!!

Indeed, we have already seen a pundit bring up the very knowing and clever “what do you expect, she represents New York” line:

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I do not give a shit where she’s from. I don’t want a Democratic presidential nominee who takes money from Wall Street, period. I especially don’t want one who wants to win the primary that way, taking Wall Street money to defeat people to her left. The fact that New York senators routinely take money from Wall Street may not be “shocking” to smug pundits, but it should nevertheless be dismaying.

This news is a potential attack ad, for example, for someone who would be Gillibrand’s opponent if she ran, Elizabeth Warren: Wall Street has generally hated her. Or, of course, Bernie Sanders, who wants to break up the big banks. Whoever the Democratic nominee is, they should make Wall Street shit its $2,000 pants.

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But as it stands, the party is still dominated by politicians, lobbyists, and consultants who are cozy with Wall Street and who take its money. The Democratic Party infrastructure is flush with Wall Street cash, from the DNC to the party’s major think tanks. Indeed, Gillibrand has taken more than $1 million from people in the securities and investment industries since 2013, and 60 percent of donations to her PAC have come from business (as opposed to 28 percent “ideological” and 11 percent from labor), according to Open Secrets.

With all that said, it’s early. Gillibrand still has the option to say she won’t take big donations from Wall Street (or fossil fuel companies, health insurers, and big pharma). Her spokesperson told CNBC that if Gillibrand runs, “she will run a campaign that takes no corporate PAC money and is powered by grassroots donations.” (The no corporate PAC money pledge is a little thin, as we’ve documented before—big donors can still give to super PACs that then spend millions on supporting candidates.)

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The Democratic party needs a clean break from corporate money and influence if it’s ever going to govern well, win back the trust of voters, or truly represent the working class. It can’t afford to nominate someone whose first call is to Wall Street executives for cash.

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About the author

Libby Watson

Splinter politics writer. libby.watson@splinternews.com