Peter Cavanaugh

Taking The Cannoli

“Someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this gift.” - Don Corleone, “The Godfather” (1972).

Those words ricocheted through my mind last Thursday night during the first “one on one” debate between Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders prior to New Hampshire primary voting Tuesday.

Hillary was challenging Sanders to provide a specific example proving she was being “paid off” to provide certain services in return for campaign contributions. The subject had come earlier when Anderson Cooper of CNN asked Mrs. Clinton about a payment of $675,000 she received from Goldman Sachs for three speaking engagements. When Cooper questioned the amount, Hillary breezily replied, “Well, that’s what they offered.” Oh.

This is the same Goldman Sachs that agreed just last month to pay a civil settlement of up to $5 billion with federal prosecutors in order to take care of claims arising from the marketing and selling of faulty mortgage securities to investors. Believe it or not, this was a good deal.

Goldman’s Chairman and CEO, Lloyd C. Blankfein, went on record stating, “We are pleased to have reached agreement in principle to resolve these matters.” You bet.

In 2014, Bank of America paid over $16.6 billion in a similar deal with governmental agencies, even as JP Morgan was good for another $13 billion in “we’re sorry” money the prior year.

Here’s what Chairman/CEO Blankfein said on CNBC last Wednesday about Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president. “It has the potential to be a dangerous moment.” I hope so.

For thousands of careers destroyed, trillions of dollars lost and countless lives ruined in 2008’s Wall Street debacle, hardly a single soul has spent a second in the slammer or faced serious criminal charges. Madoff went down big, but had gotten away with his outrageous Ponzi game for decades.

For the third quarter of 2015, Goldman Sachs reported a profit of $1.3 billion. During one 16-month period after leaving the White House, Bill and Hillary Clinton together received 25 million in fees and professional stipends.

Hillary’s main defense when pressed on campaign contributions is that “everybody does it. Even Barack Obama.” And she’s right. The average member of Congress spends half of his or her time soliciting funds for the next election cycle. That’s half their time -- all the time.

I was particularly struck near the very end of Thursday’s debate when moderator Chuck Todd asked both participants how they would prioritize issues, specifically citing immigration reform, gun control and climate change.

Senator Sanders emphatically stated that every subject itemized was functionally secondary to an overriding and unavoidable truth -- nothing meaningful can ever be accomplished, “So long as big money interests control the United States Congress.”

This is not a wild, radical, off-the-wall, “revolutionary” idea. It’s a plain, simple, challenging call to duty.

Here we go.

Only two candidates competing for our nation’s highest office are turning down big money -- Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders hasn’t been begging for bucks because he’s raised over $53.6 million in the last four months alone from 1.3 million separate contributors who have each donated an average grand total of $27 apiece. And Donald Trump hasn’t had to grovel for money by the shovel because “The Donald” is big money.

A new national Quinnipiac poll released late Friday shows Senator Sanders, who was 20 points behind Secretary Clinton just a month ago, now trailing Hillary 44% to 42% - a statistical tie.

Shazam. Hear the excitement? See the crowds? Feel “The Bern?”

The lady and gentleman have started their engines. Here’s a real race.