The Clintons’ finances are way too complex for the average person. That’s a problem.
The Associated Press reported late Monday that Bill Clinton has a limited liability corporation — called WJC, LLC — that serves as a “pass through” entity designed to “channel payments to the former president.”
If you have no idea what the heck the sentence above means, you are not alone. And therein lies the problem for Hillary Clinton as she seeks to sell herself as the voice of everyday Americans in her bid for the White House in 2016.
Here’s why: Remember in early 2012 when Mitt Romney released his taxes? Sure, we all knew he was rich — and the returns affirmed it, showing that he made $42 million in 2010 and 2011. But, that wasn’t the big issue for Romney. It was the exoticness of his finances that proved problematic. He had a Swiss bank account, investments in the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg and hadn’t made any wages in those two years. I wrote this about Romney back then:
The simple fact is that there is nothing more dangerous in politics than “otherness.” (John Kerry’s windsurfing, Michael Dukakis in the tank, John McCain’s inability to remember how many houses he owned, George H.W. Bush and the grocery scanner.) People voting for president want to feel like their leader “gets” them; the vote for president is a far more personal vote than the vote for a House or Senate candidate, for example.
Romney already struggles with connecting to people. His rivals — in the primary and if he becomes the Republican nominee — will do everything they can to paint him as exotic, other, different.
That’s pretty much what happened. President Obama’s campaign used the exoticness of Romney’s wealth — and how/where it was stored and maintained — to paint a picture of the Republican nominee as an out-of-touch plutocrat. (Romney helped make the case against him with the 47 percent comments.)
Hillary Clinton’s defenders will reject the comparison, insisting that Romney made his money through business practices that often preyed on the average person and backed policies that looked out for the wealthiest Americans first and foremost. Clinton, they argue, has made a career of consistently fighting for average Americans and her wealth is derived from paid speeches — not from, in the words of Rick Perry in the 2012 GOP primary, “vulture capitalism.”
But, whether or not she is Romney 2.0, the reality is that the amount of money coming into the Clinton coffers ($25 million from speaking fees alone since the start of 2014) coupled with this WJC, LLC — not to mention the regularly revised donor policies of the Clinton Foundation — badly complicates her pitch that she is able to understand regular folks.
Selling Hillary Clinton as in touch with “everyday Americans” was always going to be next to impossible. And revelations like this one about a “pass through” company to handle money being paid to her husband prove why. No family with a former president and a future presidential nominee in it are “regular” — in their life experiences, resumes or personal finances. No family with an income in the tens of millions of dollars and a setup like the one Bill Clinton has at WJC, LLC, are just like the rest of us. They just aren’t.
The more that idea gets reinforced to the casual voter — and stories like WJC, LLC, do that — the harder it will be for Hillary Clinton to shake the image that what she says publicly doesn’t jibe with how she and her husband conduct their own business.