Seen by liberal critics as a close ally of the global elite, she
will have to appeal to middle class voters after facing criticism
this summer that she is out of touch.
Clinton drew the ire of progressives and Republicans alike in June
by saying she was "dead broke" after leaving the White House as
first lady in 2001. And to her populist critics, nowhere is the
tension between her status as an emblem of the elite and the need to
connect to voters more apparent than in New York, where this week's
meeting takes place.
It is a city where she appears with high-profile billionaires, but
also a city led by progressive hero Mayor Bill de Blasio, her
one-time campaign manager.
"If you look at her track record from the past, it is out of step
with the current Democratic Party. Not on social issues, but
definitely on economic issues, so we're going to be watching very
carefully," said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of liberal
group Democracy For America.
"There's no question the de Blasio wing of the party is ascendant,"
Chamberlain added, calling Clinton a leader of Democrats' "Wall
Street wing" and saying her appearances with financiers are
Clinton represented New York as a U.S. senator, and both her 2016
campaign and that year's Democratic convention could be based here.
This week's annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative boasts
celebrities like actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon alongside
business titans like Alibaba's Jack Ma and Goldman Sachs' Lloyd
Blankfein. President Barack Obama will speak on Tuesday, at a hotel
where early on Monday screens occasionally flashed thanks to sponsor
Blackstone, the private equity giant.
Hillary Clinton's appearances with financial executives worry
progressives who favor stringent bank regulations. But Clinton
allies swat away such criticism by noting this week's event is based
on philanthropy, and point to the foundation's work.
The initiative, part of the broader Clinton Foundation, brings
together leaders to pledge to work on important global problems.
Former President Bill Clinton created the foundation although now
Hillary and daughter Chelsea also help lead it.
"CGI has helped improve the lives of over 430 million people in more
than 180 countries and has worked to secure $103 billion to spur
innovative solutions to make the world a better place," said
Adrienne Elrod of pro-Clinton group Correct The Record.
[to top of second column]
LIBERAL GROUPS WARY
But liberal groups say they are keeping a wary eye on the summit.
"As business and political leaders converge in New York this
weekend, the political atmosphere is set. An economic populist tide
is sweeping the country," said Laura Friedenbach of the Progressive
Change Campaign Committee, which heavily supports Massachusetts
Senator Elizabeth Warren.
But Clinton's recent speeches have hit a noticeably populist note,
and she appeared with labor leaders in New York soon after returning
to politically influential Iowa in mid-September.
And supporters of the former secretary of state point to preliminary
polls that show Clinton with a considerable lead over potential
liberal challengers in the Democratic primary field, including
A September CNN/ORC poll of Iowa Democrats showed Clinton with a 39
percent lead over Vice President Joe Biden, her closest competitor.
Peter Buttenwieser, a long-time Democratic donor, philanthropist,
and Clinton supporter whose mother's family founded Lehman Brothers,
said fears of a liberal backlash against Clinton were overblown.
"Most progressive candidates, including many who are running for the
Senate this time, meet with business people, and there's nothing
wrong with the vast majority of people who run good, successful
businesses," he said.
(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti; Editing by Caren Bohan and
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