Gaius Publius: Hillary, TPP, the World of Money, and the Center for American Progress

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By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, Americablog, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. This piece first appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.

I’ll put the bottom line first. There is no way that Hillary Clinton is not a strong supporter of TPP and Fast Track. Read on for why.

There has been a lot written lately, including here, about the Democratic Party split between progressives and “progressives” — the former of whom have most of the people on their side, and the latter of whom have most of the money. Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Alan Grayson and others are firmly in the progressive camp, what’s being called the “Warren wing” of the party.

Most Democratic Party officials and electeds, however, are in the latter camp, which many call the “Wall Street wing,” though huge swaths of American (and foreign) moneyed interests, not just those on Wall Street, are supporters and controllers of that wing. To take just one moneyed interest — Big Oil — consider that:

The “Wall Street wing” of the Democratic Party is really the Money wing and represents Money wherever it is found. Though some dispute the claim, it seems to me the split between the Warren wing and the Money wing is huge, a chasm, and shows little sign of healing at the moment. It may heal later, artificially and for a time, around a Clinton candidacy, but that time isn’t now.

Hillary Clinton and the Money Wing

I think it’s fair to say, regardless of how you view Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate, that her biggest hurdle on the Democratic side is her perceived connection to Big Money, and lots of it. Her family grew rich by cultivating people with money; her foundation grew fat by cultivating people (and nations) with money; and her donor list has historically included holders of big money, especially Wall Street holders (though Obama seems to have out-raised her on Wall Street in 2008).

She may be able to shed these concerns — there is much time left, too much in fact, until the Democratic primary elections. But she may not need to shed them; for example, the specter of “Republicans in the White House!” may be too much for even the most progressive of voters. We’ll have to see how this plays out. Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that the tag “friend of money” is one of the vulnerabilities Ms. Clinton may have to overcome.

Center for American Progress and the World of Big Money

One of the most important — and “centrist” (code for “corporate-friendly”) — think tanks in the Democratic Party ecosystem is the Center for American Progress, or CAP. They do some good work, and their associated Web group, ThinkProgress, does excellent work. But when it comes time to put their “money” where Money’s mouth is — for example, to support cuts to Social Security and Medicare — CAP is on the anti-progressive side, and reliably so.

CAP is strongly connected to the Clinton ecosystem as well as the party ecosystem. CAP was founded by John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff. He’s now chair of the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign. The current president of CAP is Neera Tanden, who worked for the Obama and Clinton administrations, and also on the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign. With $40 million in 2013 revenue, CAP and those associated with it stand at or near the center of the center of mainstream Democratic politics.

CAP is also extremely secretive about where its money comes from. Here’s the always excellent Ken Silverstein, writing in The Nation in 2013 (my emphasis):

Nowadays, many Washington think tanks effectively serve as unregistered lobbyists for corporate donors, and companies strategically contribute to them just as they hire a PR or lobby shop or make campaign donations. And unlike lobbyists and elected officials, think tanks are not subject to financial disclosure requirements, so they reveal their donors only if they choose to. That makes it impossible for the public and lawmakers to know if a think tank is putting out an impartial study or one that’s been shaped by a donor’s political agenda. “If you’re a lobbyist, whatever you say is heavily discounted,” says Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University and an expert on political ethics. “If a think tank is saying it, it obviously sounds a lot better. Maybe think tanks aren’t aware of how useful that makes them to private interests. On the other hand, maybe it’s part of their revenue model.


CAP has emerged as perhaps the most influential of all think tanks during the Obama era, and there’s been a rapidly revolving door between it and the administration. CAP is also among the most secretive of all think tanks concerning its donors. Most major think tanks prepare an annual report containing at least some financial and donor information and make it available on their websites. According to CAP spokeswoman Andrea Purse, the center doesn’t even publish one.

Purse told me that CAP “follows all financial disclosure requirements with regard to donors…. We don’t use corporate funds to pay for research or reports.” But she flatly refused to discuss specific donors or to provide an on-the-record explanation for why CAP won’t disclose them.

After growing rapidly in its first few years, tax records show, CAP’s total assets fell in 2006 for the first time, from $23.6 million to $20.4 million. Assets started growing again in 2007 when CAP founded the Business Alliance, a membership rewards program for corporate contributors, and then exploded when Obama was elected in 2008. According to its most recent nonprofit tax filing, CAP’s total assets now top $44 million, and its Action Fund treasury holds $6 million more.

A confidential CAP donor pitch I obtained describes the Business Alliance as “a channel for engagement with the corporate community” that provides “the opportunity to…collaborate on common interests.” It offers three membership levels, with the perks to top donors ($100,000 and up) including private meetings with CAP experts and executives, round-table discussions with “Hill and national leaders,” and briefings on CAP reports “relevant to your unique interests.”

Regardless of what you think of CAP and what it accomplishes, there’s no question that CAP inhabits, is part of, the world of Big Money, just as Wall Street is part of that world, Ford Foundation is part of that world, and everything touched by the Kochs, such as PBS. Welcome to the One Percent and their interests.

CAP’s  Donor List

Since the Silverstein article came out, CAP released its donor list:

The liberal think tank Center for American Progress on Friday revealed that it’s funded by some of the country’s largest and most powerful corporations, trade associations and lobbying firms.

Major donors to the group and its affiliate social welfare nonprofit Center for American Progress Action Fund include major retailers, energy interests, health care companies and other corporate actors who spend millions on lobbying and influence peddling in the nation’s capital, according to a list posted on the center’s website.

The group — which is a fundraising powerhouse that takes in about $40 million a year — released its donor list as founder and chairman John Podesta heads into the Obama White House to serve as a senior adviser.

Those corporations and trade associations represent a cross section of corporate America and include Walmart, Goldman Sachs, Google, defense giant Northrop Grumman, T-Mobile, Toyota, Visa, GE, among others. CAP did not disclose the donation amounts.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, or AHIP — a major player in the health care debate contributed to the group, as did Hollywood’s advocacy arm, the Motion Picture Association of America. Other corporate donors include Microsoft, PepsiCo, Samsung, CVS Caremark, Comcast NBCUniversal and many others.

The firm also has a number of major K Street lobbying firms on the corporate donor list including Akin Gump, the Glover Park Group, Livingston Group and the Downey McGrath Group. All represent dozens of corporate and nonprofit clients.

Do you think maybe CAP supports TPP? (Can it afford not to?)

CAP Strongly Supports TPP

From the CAP main website, a piece written in 2012:

Japan’s Inclusion Makes the Trans-Pacific Partnership a Big Opportunity

New Agreement Could Lead to Better Trade Between U.S. and Japan

… The prospect of Japan joining the TPP is indeed promising for the United States. U.S. goods trade with current TPP economies constitutes 5.3 percent of total U.S. goods trade. Japan’s inclusion would double this to 10.6 percent.

And while Japan is already a leading destination for U.S. exports, the United States has a $62.6 billion goods trade deficit with it. The TPP could help bring down that deficit by reducing trade barriers and opening the Japanese market up to more exports from the United States and other countries. …

There’s even a nice picture of a woman riding a bike past Sony corporate headquarters, with kind words for each.

How Does Hillary Clinton Not Support TPP and Fast Track?

The Center for American Progress sits squarely in the world of money, the world that Obama and his push for TPP seem determined to serve. Hillary Clinton sits squarely in both the world of money and the world of CAP infrastructure. How does she not support TPP? When asked about TPP, all she can say is this:

Clinton punts on trade

Hillary Clinton said Tuesday she will wait until negotiations are completed to take a position on the sweeping Asia-Pacific trade deal being negotiated by the Obama administration.

“So, I have said I want to judge the final agreement,” she said during a campaign stop in Cedar Falls, Iowa. “I have been for trade agreements. I have been against trade agreements.”

Pressure on Clinton to take a position on trade has been coming from both sides, with liberal groups urging her to stand against the trade deal.But doing so would be difficult for Clinton, who backed the deal as a member of President Obama’s administration.

When asked about the TPP issue, campaign chief John Podesta, the same man mentioned above, former CAP chair, reportedly quipped, “Can you make it go away?”

This is not the behavior of a TPP opponent. Given all the information here (and there’s plenty more elsewhere), there is no way Hillary Clinton is not a strong supporter of TPP and Fast Track.

Clinton’s full answer on TPP. Note the mention of “national security” near the end. Obama’s Pentagon chief has come out in favor of TPP on “security” grounds.

About those wishy-washy answers, though, I give her points for this — I do believe she’s trying hard not to lie, a virtue in a candidate, and not a common one.


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  1. hidflect

    I posted this before about Harry Truman;
    When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, “You don’t want me. You want the office of the president, and that doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it’s not for sale.”

      1. A frog

        Post presidendy ala Reagan Bush 1 and 2 and Clinton it certaily is. That is what Truman was talking about.

  2. Butch In Waukegan

    “About those wishy-washy answers, though, I give her points for this — I do believe she’s trying hard not to lie, a virtue in a candidate . . .” — Gaius Publius

    “When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.” — Yevgeny Yevtushenko

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          I would love to think Hillary will be defeated, by good sense, by superior arguments, by an unfriendly media, by Sanders winning the nomination, by a fair and objective process of nomination and subsequent campaign (Ha!) etc. But I expect Hillary will win and I think it is because too many people are simply still too comfortable, even if things are “getting worse”, in their lives to question the establishment projection of reality in any way that would inspire them to risk going outside of it.

          In the great depression, it was almost impossible (and I stress almost) not to be aware of the suffering and monstrous unfairness of what was going on. For one, the elite were caught by surprise, and for another, they simply didn’t have the setup, the infrastructure of class and social insulation, perfected to the degree they do today.

          I agree with “never give up” and keep fighting the good fight, but also with face the odds. As to HIllary being in favor of the TPP and all/any future evil cousins, uncles, aunts, etc. of these noxious assaults on Democracy, and particularly of Fast Track, was there ever any doubt?

    1. Gaius Publius

      Thanks, Butch. To reply to all in this thread, I was perhaps being too subtle. I do give Clinton credit for not outright lying on TPP (which I fully expected her to do by now — but only as my way of making an ironic comment on Obama, who I believe outright lied in 2008. Outright. The link in that sentence was one of my “ironic clicks” (you have to click to see the ironic comment); again, too subtle.

      The explaining link is this:

      “Did Obama deliberately lie in 2008 about his Social Security plans?”

      The answer to that question is, “Obviously yes,” as the text makes clear.

      For me, BTW, the fact that Clinton is, as it seems, refusing to lie is a huge tell. She knows she wants these wealth-serving deals very badly. On the “left” they all see servicing the needs of the “global masters” as inevitable (ignoring their own well-paid role in the game), and they are proud that their generous contribution is to “foam the landing” for us Littles, by offering offsets, like the inadequate TAA, or education, or green stamps, or something.


      1. Brindle

        …”by offering offsets”. Yes, what are the offsets for the loss of sovereignty?, the offsets for the cost of a college education now out of reach for most Americans?. It’s hard not to loathe the ultra-monied liberals.
        Thanks for article, GP.

  3. Skyburn

    “…including just quitting carbon in a World War II–style conversion and being done with it. ”

    What does that mean? Passing a law banning or rationing fossil fuels?

    1. Gaius Publius

      > What does that mean? Passing a law banning or rationing fossil fuels?

      Yes to all three. When people are panicked, everyone, including right-wing voters, and especially them, will be begging daddy (government) to save them. Imagine a Haiyan-style hurricane that wipes out Miami, and with it, Florida property values and new high-end development forever. What happens then?

      When there’s a critical mass of people in deep deep trouble (think Great Depression), the cry will be for government to “Just fix it, dammit.” What does “fix it” mean? You can answer that yourself. If you’re an FDR president with FDR’s mandate for change, and the country was going nuts for you to “fix it as much as you can as fast as you can” — what’s your best option?

      Now think of WWII. More here, and here (scroll to the end) and look for “Easter Island solution.”

      It’s not like we haven’t acted this way before. The “free market” didn’t decide how many battleships to build, or how many tanks. Thanks for asking. Good question, and a good opportunity for me to clarify.


    2. hunkerdown

      If that’s what it takes. If the .01% would volunteer themselves to be rendered down at E=mc² efficiencies, maybe we wouldn’t have to.

    3. Terry Carch

      It means Obama, Clinton and others are just”PASSING THE BUCK AND LYING THEIR TEETHE OUT”!

  4. James Levy

    I’m going to make an assumption that many will protest: some of the elites that run this country are not only not actively hostile to the rank and file of Americans, they would like to see their fellow citizens doing well. Not a majority, mind you–I’d guess a majority are simply indifferent–but some appreciable number. So what is the answer to the question, “how do we make things better for those average Americans?” among our elite? Growth, profits, and jobs. The rising tide will lift all boats. What we can see is that given these measuring rods, they will always come down on the side of big business, because that’s where the growth, jobs, and profits come from. Given their predilections and measuring tools, whatever they might want to see happen, they will always push for pro-business solutions to every problem.

    How might we challenge that? How might we convince a section of the elite (which we need to defect if we are going to get anywhere) that there is a win-win situation out there for themselves and the majority of their fellow citizens? I posit we need new tools to measure what a healthy economy and a happy work force looks like. We’ve got to break the iron grip of the corporate-driven notion that all good things come from giving business its head. How we do that is what I’d like to see people discuss below.

    1. Demeter

      There are people so mentally ill and socially deformed that they see anyone else’s success as a flaming measure of their own failure.

      They won’t change their minds: other people must be crushed into dust, or the Ill and Deformed are destroyed, by their internal standards.

      The days when ethical people, who bought into the quaint American notions of Opportunity and Rule of Law, could rise through the economy are OVER and done with. The majority of the Elite are not indifferent to their lower-status neighbors, they are actively hostile. I’d say the odds of finding exceptions are reduced to the populist branch of the Democratic Party: Warren, Sanders, Whitehouse, Grayson, and a few more. You won’t find them in industry, you won’t find them in state legislatures, you won’t find them in charitable organizations.

      You will find them in the lower 47%. The people who have nothing left to lose.

    2. Disturbed Voter

      Pro-business? Of course … the giant crony businesses aren’t pro-business, they are pro-looting. It is small business, which is being strangled, that makes most of the new jobs … and have not been doing so since 2008. All the “right sizing” and “off shoring” and “unionism as a reaction” and “mergers” come from the giants, and they are a net-negative for employment direction (down not up).

      Pro-government? Of course … the corruption there isn’t pro-business, they are pro-looting. It is statesmanship to regard the public as your boss and its overall welfare as your responsibility … but we aren’t producing statesmen, we are producing grifters who are destroying the rule of law necessary for those small businesses … and destroying their operating finances in favor of derivative speculation.

    3. Susan Truxes

      That’s pretty much the question – it is a question of survival for the big corporations. They got too big and now they don’t know what to do with themselves. It’s like Stiglitz once said (my interpretation) that capitalism is too successful. It competes to the death. And creates monopolies and massive market dysfunction. Not to be too facetious here – those poor corporations!- but lots of things could be done to get good will back on the road. We citizens could pass legislation creating a safety net for them if they will just quit killing each other and the rest of us. So they know their future is secure. And they can downsize without committing suicide. The New Corporate Security Fund. (Or did we do that already?) Sort of like Social Security only glitzier. And another good idea would be the promotion of biker gangs for corporate execs – call them Gods Angels. They can go on road trips and see first hand all the damage they have caused and apologize.

      1. Oregoncharles

        The evils inherent in the corporate form (and I do think it’s evil, a gigantic mistake) could be ameliorated simply by keeping them small, something that is also demanded by fundamental market theory. Evidently market processes, especially combined with capitalism, do not maintain that requirement.

        To be effective, measures must be automatic. Anti-trust isn’t cutting it and never did. My own proposal (I’d be open to other ideas) is a drastically progressive corporate income tax – one that is actually levied. It would start fairly nominal, to give new and small businesses an advantage, and increase slowly to a point where it starts increasing very rapidly, enough to force companies to subdivide – which could be very profitable. A “hockey stick” curve – hyperbolic, if memory serves.

        This would take advantage of the artificiality of corporations: they can and do subdivide, unlike people or (healthy) families. A companion law would forbid mergers or acquisitions of ANY business, barring bankruptcy. There is no public interest in companies being bigger – it only sabotages the market and concentrates power. All concentrations of power are dangerous, and corporations are not subject to democratic control. I’d apply the same rule even to co-ops; they, too, can become too big.

        Ideally, this would be combined with measures to foster co-operative businesses, either customer or worker owned and controlled. An economy dominated by co-ops would look very different.

    4. Jim

      The old Democratic party New Deal coalition had united well-paid industrial workers with farmers and minorities and has now completely disappeared. For a short period of time after World War II, approximately 1945 to the early 1970s, major corporations in the US had created a somewhat messy and uneasy alliance with their respective work forces. But this older alliance (corporate managerial staff and their own workers) then began to shift to a new alliance of corporate managerial staff and investors resulting in an apparent marriage of Big Corporate CEOs and the often more powerful investor segments, for their respective mutual benefit.

      Today the power of the Democratic party pivots on a coalition of the urban poor and the banker/ high-tech rich. Progessive ideology ( used by both the more moderate Clinton money/Wall Street wing and the slightly more left Warren/Sanders wing) is created by primarily post-graduate educated individuals in the media-entertainment-government-foundation-university sectors of our society.

      Small grass-roots business, the declining middle class and de-skilled blue collar sectors are searching for political formations which might champion their interests. A left populism, independent of progressive thinking, which understands that small business and large corporations have conflicting interests, which understands that a healthy society consists of the ownership of the means of production which is as widely distributed as possible rather than monopolized by either a small corporate elite or the State, and which understands that wide ownership of productive property and capitalism are not easy bedfellows– just might be trains of thought which offer a way forward.

    5. hunkerdown

      Assuming that, to what extent does the unwillingness of “honest” elites to favor exit over loyalty serve to enable, encourage and even reproduce the depredations of the “bad” elites?

      We don’t need to convince elites there is a win-win situation. That’s pathetic and deferent, and therefore unhealthy. We need to convince them that we will be taking them down with us by any means necessary, and having said that, what are THEY doing about OUR boat?

    6. jrs

      I sometimes suspect that some of the elite may mean well but be so hopelessly out of touch with what life is like for anyone of more modest means (and maybe sometimes lie to themselves and rationalize at well) that they don’t even KNOW what WELL even means anymore, that even though they may not be evil, that even such “meaning well” would mean doing harm in actual fact just due to sheer and utter out of touchness with anything. That’s more an argument against having elites than anything. Oh wait we were supposed to convert them. I don’t know.

  5. DakotabornKansan

    Harry Truman’s favorite prayer, as recorded in his diary on August 15, 1950:

    “The prayer on this page has been said by me–by Harry S. Truman–from high school days, as a window washer, bottle duster, floor scrubber in an Independence, Mo., drugstore, as a timekeeper on a railroad contract gang, as an employee of a newspaper, as a bank clerk, as a farmer riding a gang plow behind four horses and mules, as a fraternity official learning to say nothing at all if good could not be said of a man, as public official judging the weaknesses and shortcomings of constituents, and as President of the United States of America.”

    Oh! Almighty and Everlasting God, Creator of Heaven, Earth and the Universe :

    Help me to be, to think, to act what is right, because it is right; make me truthful, honest and honorable in all things; make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor and without thought of reward to me. Give me the ability to be charitable, forgiving and patient with my fellowmen – help me to understand their motives and their shortcomings — even as Thou understandest mine!

    Amen, Amen, Amen

  6. paulmeli

    “…they will always come down on the side of big business, because that’s where the growth, jobs, and profits come from.”

    No, not really. If you look at current GDP, which is about $17T, Investment accounts for $2.8T and Federal Government Expenditures $3.9T of the top line spending that drives Consumption.

    Government spending drives Investment, because without it there would be no ‘money on the table’ for business to win, or at least very little of it.

    Government spending, through deficits, ‘stocks the pond’, while Investment drains it through profit-taking, retained earnings and accumulated wealth.

    Growth, jobs and profits come from government Investment.

  7. MisterBuster

    TPP and Fast Track transfer additional power to the Office of the President. TPP and Fast Track also further erode the power of Congress by this transfer. This is similar to the (relatively) new power of the President to conduct war without the approval of Congress. The power of the Presidency increases and the power of Congress decreases.

    Clinton has every intention of becoming President. She wants this power without accountability or the influence or oversight of Congress.

    So of course she is in favor of TPP and Fast Track. It’s the next step towards the imperial Presidency and all she has to do is smile and wave.

  8. susan the other

    Hillary is disingenuous. But she didn’t start out that way. Politics created her. She and Bill came along just when corporations were going all supply side and they couldn’t have seen the future that soon. Not in the early 90s. It would be nice if there were an acceptable way for politicians whose former decisions have proven to be disastrous to just come clean. Maybe that’s a fatal flaw in democracies. Since decisions are made by large constituencies, nobody ever gets what they want and nobody ever takes responsibility for bad turns. Liz Warren is coming pretty close.

    1. mn

      Not sure about that. Early 90s wasn’t that the start of the China Free Trade Zones and wasn’t Walmart one of if not the first to push manufacturing overseas. Then of course he and his team pushed Nafta.

  9. willf

    Hillary Clinton said Tuesday she will wait until negotiations are completed to take a position on the sweeping Asia-Pacific trade deal being negotiated by the Obama administration.

    Perhaps Democratic party voters should wait until the elections are completed before taking a position on supporting her campaign.

  10. nat scientist

    Matt Taibbi relates the Government Sachs’ vampire squid as relentlessly sticking its blood funnel into anything that looks like Money, whereas the Global Clinton Insertion does the same thing for anything that looks like Power.

  11. mn

    I wonder if this is the reason she kept control of her emails. Many State Dept emails that were leaked back when showed them pushing Monsanto (other type businesses) on countries with laws banning them. We are doomed.

  12. JTMcPhee

    Do I have this right? As it assembles in my little brain, it looks like a baseball metaphor is in order: the Blessed Elite is up, they’ve loaded the bases, the bat iis corked, the umps are bought, Shoeless Joe has the squad organized the stands have been packed with hired shills, coach has given the sign swing for the fences, and the People’s Team had Bernie Sanders, on the mound, or is that Chuy? A home run at TPPTPATTIPTISA Park, and it’s lights out and game over for us little mopes, listening on our cute iDevices to the feverish cheer leading from the announcers all unaware that it’s game over for them, too, if the pitcher can’t put three past the Incumbent Candidate. And somehow it has all Become Legal, because too many of us don’t know what the source of law is and how to withdraw our consent.

    Of course, the stadium is only seven feet above higher high water, but the team owners already have been given a new site and the residents thereabouts will be taxed to pay for it…

    Go for it, Hill or the clown car dude in the on deck circle! Swing for the right field fence! They’ve been building the team and jiggering the rules and loving their antitrust immunity for decades now… This is the money moment… Not that there aren’t more moments lined up, of course.

  13. Veri

    Nice expose. However, there is this…

    This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.
    -Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2012

    There are other fine examples out there, such as her statements in Davos, 1998, regarding NAFTA. She is a Davos Woman. Which begs the question, “Why does the media pretend that Hillary Clinton is non-committal when it comes to The TPP”?

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