A pair of popular Democratic Party senators took shots at former president Barack Obama‘s $400,000 speaking fee for a future Wall Street event, a rate that equaled his yearly presidential salary. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders shared their opinions about the fee with the media, although other Democrats and liberals have taken similar speaking engagements in times past.
After some time away from the spotlight, Obama has resurfaced much to the delight of his supporters. But like the adoration from the public has become a norm, so has criticism from his own party. When news that Obama would be accepting $400,000 to speak at Cantor Fitzgerald’s healthcare conference later this year, liberals bristled at the idea. Cantor Fitzgerald is a New York financial firm that deals in equity and trading.
In speaking with SiriusXM’s Alter Family Politics show, Sen. Warren of Massachusetts didn’t mince words in answering Andy Cohen‘s inquiry about the fee.
“I was troubled by that,” said Warren, writes Yahoo News. “One of the things I talk about in the book [the recently-published This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class] is the influence of money. I describe it as a snake that slithers through Washington. And that it shows up in so many different ways here in Washington.”
While Warren’s point that Wall Street’s influence on politics is troublesome, Obama is not in a position to run for office nor has made it known he has any aims to lobby to sitting politicians on behalf of the finance world.
Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis spoke with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, also levied his criticism. “I think it’s unfortunate. President Obama is now a private citizen and he can do anything he wants to but I think it’s unfortunate,” said Sanders, while adding the word “unfortunate” a third time in his reply to Dennis. Sen. Sanders also compared Obama’s speaking engagement to that of former Goldman Sachs president and COO Gary Cohn‘s position with President Donald Trump as the Chief Financial Adviser.
The Democratic Party and liberals, in general, have turned a critical eye towards Wall Street. Yet the practice of former government leaders and officials using their expertise to earn money in the speaking arena is not new. Former president Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have all taken high-paying speaker fees in varying intervals.
Also in place are lobbying bans that Obama himself instituted while in office that would hinder former employees to address government officials on behalf of Wall Street and other special interests.
To be sure, senators Warren and Sanders have long-standing issues with Wall Street’s political influence and have said in previous times they felt Obama took it easy on financial institutions while shunning middle-class concerns.
Obama has yet to respond to the criticism.
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SOURCE: Yahoo News