- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Despite facing off against billionaire businessman Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton may be the candidate whose ties to Wall Street become a real problem, and a clear majority of voters now say the former first lady should release transcripts of her high-priced private speeches to top financial firms.

A poll by the media company Morning Consult released Wednesday found that nearly two-thirds of voters think Mrs. Clinton should make public those speeches, including three she delivered at Goldman Sachs after leaving the State Department. Mrs. Clinton was paid $625,000 for those speeches, and her refusal to make their content public seems to play into the broader idea that she is dishonest and has something to hide, analysts say.

The former secretary of state has brushed off calls to release the transcripts despite heavy pressure from her presidential primary rival, Sen. Bernard Sanders. Mr. Sanders’ attacks seem to have resonated with a near majority in her party: 47 percent of Democratic voters say Mrs. Clinton should release the transcripts, the survey found.

Political analysts say the Goldman Sachs speeches are likely to remain an issue in Mrs. Clinton’s general election fight against Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

The speeches, they say, are perhaps the greatest example of Mrs. Clinton’s ties to Wall Street. Those ties have left many progressives skeptical of the candidate and have fueled the notion that she is beholden to the political and financial establishment.

Over the coming months, attempts to paint Mr. Trump as an elitist are likely to fail unless Mrs. Clinton effectively deals with her own Wall Street connections, said veteran Democratic Party political consultant Hank Sheinkopf.

“Wall Street is a problem because it further notes her ties to [the] elite and reminds voters she needs to capture of the 2008 crash,” he said Wednesday. “Trump is the outsider positioning himself as the insurgent. Secretary Clinton’s economic plan has to trump Trump and make Trump the elitist.”

Mrs. Clinton has said she will release the transcripts only when all other presidential candidates do the same.

Mr. Sanders, who has built his insurgent campaign on an anti-Wall Street platform, has mocked his opponent’s position and said he has made no such speeches at any point in his political career.

“As some of you know, she has given a number of speeches behind closed doors to Wall Street. She has been paid $225,000 per speech,” he said at a campaign rally in Michigan this year, just one instance in which he hammered Mrs. Clinton on the issue. “I kind of think if you’re going to be paid $225,000 for a speech, it must be a fantastic speech which you would want to share with the American people. $225,000 is an extraordinary speech. A Shakespearean speech.”

Mrs. Clinton has been questioned repeatedly on the issue but has refused to budge.

“I can only repeat what is the fact: that I spoke to a lot of different groups with a lot of different constituents about issues that had to do with world affairs,” she said at a debate with Mr. Sanders.

Analysts say the transcripts in and of themselves likely wouldn’t do major damage to Mrs. Clinton’s electoral chances, but as part of a larger narrative, they could cause real trouble. Mrs. Clinton also is facing a longtime backlash over her use of a private email server while secretary of state — a violation of State Department rules.

The Morning Consult survey found that 78 percent of Republicans, 50 percent of independents and a quarter of Democrats say the email scandal is a “major problem” for Mrs. Clinton.

Political observers argue that the transcripts are merely one piece of a bigger challenge.

“It does, along with the emails and Wall Street in general, play a role in determining [voters’] views about her on the attributes of honesty and trust. This in part explains why the general election matchups have the Trump-Clinton race as close as it is at the moment. It will continue to be a problem,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Pennsylvania’s Franklin and Marshall College. “It’s a drip, drip scenario for her that hurts, but [it’s] not clear that they will ultimately matter, especially to Democrats. But Trump will use them, no doubt.”

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