On Oct. 29, 2013, Hillary Clinton joined Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, for a discussion at its Builders and Innovators Summit, at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain resort, near Tucson. During the discussion — one of more than 50 appearances for which Clinton received $225,000 since leaving the State Department — she lamented that the public’s wariness of Wall Street had made it difficult for top people in finance to move into government. For one thing, in order to avoid conflicts of interest, they often faced demands to relinquish financial holdings. “There is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives. You know, the divestment of assets, the stripping of all kinds of positions, the sale of stocks — it just becomes very onerous and unnecessary,” she said, according to a transcript released last month by WikiLeaks.
That is not the kind of thing that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, likes to hear. Warren supports Clinton, and has been one of her most effective advocates during the current campaign, but she has also made it clear that, if Clinton is elected, she will closely monitor the people she names to key posts. On Sept. 21, in a speech at the Center for American Progress, a left-of-center think tank based in Washington, Warren said, “Personnel is policy. When we talk about personnel, we don’t mean advisers who just pay lip service to Hillary’s bold agenda, coupled with a sigh, a knowing glance, and the twiddling of thumbs until it’s time for the next swing through the revolving door — serving government, then going back to the very same industries they regulate. We don’t mean Citigroup or Morgan Stanley or BlackRock getting to choose who runs the economy in this country so that they can capture our government.”
People with experience in business or finance are a necessity in Washington, but the specter of a privileged executive elite circulating in and out of government and the private sector — especially Wall Street — has shadowed the American political system for more than half a century. The financial industry still favors the Republican Party, but, since the 1990s, it has become more closely affiliated with the Democrats, and that has provoked a resurgent left, led by Warren and by Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont.