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Clinton insists donors don’t influence policy

WASHINGTON – Too often, the Democratic primary campaign for the presidential nomination leaves us where it began months ago: Yesterday.

The debate in Milwaukee Thursday night featured a stooped, white-haired man in his mid-70s, branded as a Ben & Jerry’s soft “socialist,” and a former senator from New York who is always looking over her shoulder.

Hillary Rodham Clinton tied herself ever more closely to President Obama, whom she said received more money from Wall Street than any other Democratic presidential candidate in 2008.

But Obama, she continued, took on Wall Street anyway with new restrictive regulations and laws. Thus, in the most direct way, Clinton embraced the notion, increasingly popular with politicians of both parties, that taking big money has zero influence on policy.

Only time will tell whether the goal of becoming wealthy in Washington politics, which nearly everybody seeks here, will become Clinton’s new normal.

That is, corporations give you millions only because they like you.

Is this what Obama meant when he opposed the 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC ruling that has unleashed hundreds of millions in corrupting, secret, corporate contributions in federal and state elections?

Accordingly, the Democratic National Committee on Friday reversed its ban on gifts from federal lobbyists and political action committees. It had been imposed by Obama at the outset of his presidency. Anything old is new again.

In her debate with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton even boasted that a super PAC that supported Obama now wants to support her.

Is this what the president wants as part of his legacy – big, shadowy gifts from the financial sector, and super PACs?

In her speech conceding to Sanders her loss in New Hampshire, Clinton vowed she would take on Wall Street and the big corporations.

However, according to the blog International Business Times, Clinton had already scheduled “a series of fundraisers with officials from Wall Street, the food industry, the fossil fuel sector and other industries aiming to shape (federal) policies of the next president.”

Clinton is scheduled to appear at fundraisers sponsored by Black Rock, “a Wall Street colossus,” according to the IBT. After that she is slated to “attend a Chicago fund-raiser at the home of Valor Equity Partners Founder Antonio Gracias,” which has invested in drug, automobile and energy companies that are closely regulated by the federal government, the IBT said.

The Clinton campaign declined to respond to a request from this column on Thursday for comment on the IBT charges.

With the South Carolina Democratic primary coming up on Feb. 27, Clinton’s aim is to closely wed her campaign to Obama himself and to the state’s black voters who comprise almost 60 percent of the Democratic vote.

Obama ultimately will have the final say over whether his attorney general, Loretta Lynch, names a special prosecutor to look into charges stemming from Clinton’s use of a private server instead of one that she could have used as secretary of state. Two Republican senators, Charles Grassley of Iowa and the aggressively partisan John Cornyn of Texas, have called for a special prosecutor.

The bet here is that none will be named unless it can be proved Clinton actively sought to share classified information with outsiders, which is very unlikely.

In the meantime, Sanders and Clinton are groping for legitimacy with black voters. He has recruited Harry Belafonte’s support. She was endorsed by another icon of the 1960s, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who took an unjustified slam at Sanders for not supporting civil rights. Sanders did.

It will only get rougher from here.